Please Make Me! I Am Legend: The Game
Last night, I went to a midnight showing for the newest Will Smith movie, I Am Legend. The story, as you may already know, surrounds Robert Neville, the lone survivor of a viral outbreak that turns a large portion of the populace into night-dwelling deadly creatures (essentially zombies). This forces him to spend his nights barricaded in his home, and spend his days searching for supplies and the elusive cure to the virus. To review the film in a word…”awesomeawesomegoseeitrightnow” (plus you can catch the new Dark Knight trailer in non-YouTube form). But as I left the theater, I got to thinking about one thing: man, that would make for an awesome game.
These days, the few zombie-based games out there have more to do with heavy action. Dead Rising, the upcoming Left 4 Dead, and even Resident Evil 4 have their scares, but most of the gameplay revolves around shooting every zombie in your path. I Am Legend could put the “survival” back into “survival horror,” since that is what a good portion of the movie focuses on.
I’d see a game based on the movie (or book) as kind of a “Silent Hill” meets “The Sims” type of gameplay. You could have New York City as an open world for you to explore during the daytime, to gather supplies, hunt deer, and search for more clues to a cure for the virus. When night rolls around though, you’ll need to hightail it back to your home before the monsters come out. This would be one of the few games where a constant time-limit would make sense and actually work with the story. Robert sets his watch each day to alert him to drop what he’s doing and take shelter, because the sun’s about to go down; so time would need to be factored into each outside excursion. If you don’t get back inside in time though, you’ll need to evade the zombies and rely on your guns to slow them down. You could also have your faithful sidekick, Sam, a German Shepherd, at your side to help you out. Get her to flush out some deer for you to shoot or sic her on some zombies on your tail, for example.
They’d have to expand on the story quite a bit to make it more interactive — particularly since the movie doesn’t have much action for the most part — but it could be as simple as throwing some obstacles in Robert’s path and covering some time gaps that the movie skips over. The movie picks up several years after he first begins to live on his own, so the opening level, for example, could show him just beginning to build up his nighttime hideout and settle into his new lifestyle. Or later, he could discover the location of a crucial ingredient he needs for the cure, but it’s inside a darkened building.
The story would move along by different encounters he has that reveal more about the behavior of the creatures as well as his growing paranoia. His mind could slowly begin to unravel from his constant isolation and have him imagining things that aren’t there. Constantly searching for other survivors could lead him to follow leads that get him nowhere and just put him in more danger. He could also come across old tapes or somesuch that reveal more about just what happened to the city and where the virus came from. This sort of thing could mimic the sheer sense of isolation that the movie presents so well.
It’s been awhile since a game really gave me the creeps, aside from the usual method of having a monster just jump out at you. Consequently, I Am Legend is one of the few movies to creep me out in recent memory as well. Few games these days really capture the psychological issues of a character, and those that try usually don’t manage to pair them up with good gameplay (see Manhunt 2, Kane and Lynch). I just hope someone out there makes a game with similar themes; if not “I Am Legend: The Game,” then at least something that focuses more on heavy survival, without resorting to a string of gunplay sequences.