The guy in the red cape, Professor X’s favorite mutants and even the folks searching for biblical codes are all getting video games this summer. But there’s one Hollywood summer action hero who won’t be appearing on a PlayStation near you anytime soon: “Mission Impossible” ‘s Ethan Hunt.
There is no “Mission: Impossible III” home console game due this summer or even in the planning stages, relegating the only “M:i:III” gaming option to a cell phone one that launches May 5, the same day as the movie.
So why would “The Da Vinci Code” get a PS2 game and not “M:i:III”?
Answering that question is not a mission anyone has chosen to accept just yet. A representative for Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the movie, offered no official comment by press time beyond a confirmation that, indeed, no console game is in the works.
This marks the second straight year when a Paramount blockbuster-to-be is conspicuously skipping out on console gaming. Last year’s no-show was “War of the Worlds,” a sci-fi hit that would seemingly have fit a gaming market that featured another 2005 aliens vs. humans epic, “Destroy All Humans.”
The common link between both movies isn’t just the studio behind them, but their star: Tom Cruise. He has never appeared in a video game or even on the box art for a game, neither for 1987’s “Top Gun” NES game nor the 2006 game based on the same movie, not for the one “Mission: Impossible” game released since Cruise began starring in the movie series, and not in 2002’s “Minority Report.” In that game, Cruise’s character was made to look so unlike him that he was blond.
Famous people sometimes don’t lend their likenesses to video games for business or personal reasons, though they seldom publicly explain why. Al Pacino’s representatives have declined in the past to comment about why the actor wasn’t included in last year’s “The Godfather” game (he will appear in this year’s “Scarface,” however). Tom Hanks doesn’t appear in the forthcoming “Da Vinci Code” game, though, like Pacino’s Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” his actual character will appear in the game. When asked why gamers haven’t been able to ever play a game as Tom Cruise and if they can hope to control his likeness in the future, the actor’s agent declined to comment.
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But if 2K Games is willing to publish a “Da Vinci Code” game without Hanks’ face to render, why wouldn’t someone make a “M:i:III” without Cruise? That’s actually just what Atari did in 2004 with “Mission: Impossible: Operation Surma,” a game that was released during the six-year gap between “M:i:II” in 2000 and this year’s film. “Surma,” which starred an Ethan Hunt that did not look like Tom Cruise, self-destructed with critics and consumers.
That wasn’t the first “M:I” gaming mishap. A 1998 Nintendo 64 “Mission: Impossible” game was once touted as a more promising title than that console’s “GoldenEye” game. “GoldenEye” turned out to be one of the most successful video games of all time. “Mission: Impossible,” shipping more than a year late, was panned and sold poorly.
Both games were made by Atari, which no longer has the “Mission: Impossible” license, according to a spokesman for the company.
There is little doubt that the impossible missions of “Mission: Impossible” would make for a good video game, but Michael Pachter, an analyst who covers video games for Wedbush Morgan Securities, pointed out that movie titles still carry a hefty risk. “Royalty rates for movie titles are generally high,” he said. “It takes a great deal of confidence in the sales prospects to commit to the game. ‘Catwoman’ was a bust, ‘Batman’ a modest success. So it’s not clear that a ‘M:i:III’ game would sell well, especially if the main character was blond.”
Whatever the reason for companies to limit movie games from hitting consoles, it turns out that “M:i:III” isn’t alone. If it once seemed that every action movie might make it to a console, consider the summer’s “Miami Vice.” That game is also eschewing consoles (but will appear as a fully featured game on PSP). When asked why that game is coming out just for Sony’s handheld and not for its console, the game’s producer, Chuck Cuevas, said in an e-mailed statement: “When we considered the PSP’s capabilities (games, music, movies, etc.), it was a perfect fit for the ‘Miami Vice’ audience. We also saw value in focusing on a specific platform we knew would fit the gameplay well, rather than developing across multiple platforms.”
For “M:i:III,” the sole platform will be cell phones. The game is being created by Gameloft, a leading producer of mobile games that recently announced a deal with Paris Hilton (see “Wanna Get Paris Hilton On The Phone?” ). (Gameloft also created a “War of the Worlds” game last year.) The “M:i:III” game will feature Cruise’s name in its logo, but the pixelated Ethan Hunt scrunched onto cell phone screens isn’t designed to look like him. The game features nine levels of “M:I” style shooting, running and hacking action with, according to the game’s fact sheet, “story lines and surroundings that are inspired by the film.”
The mystery of the missing “M:i:III” console game may not be ready to be solved yet, but there are makeshift solutions for gamers jonesing for a Tom Cruise-based console experience:
The “M:i:III” production does list Xbox as a sponsor, and that’s because the high-definition trailer of the movie was initially released to Xbox 360s over Xbox Live. So “M:i:III” can appear on game consoles already, if only in movie form and as proof that it’s not impossible for console owners to see Tom Cruise on their screens.
See everything we’ve got on “Mission: Impossible III.”
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