April 21, 2006

Stars, Writer Join Play for Latest ‘X-Men’ Game

By John Gaudiosi

LOS ANGELES -- Activision's new "X-Men: The Official Game" is the latest example of the growing integration between Hollywood and games. It not only includes the likenesses and voices of several stars from the movie, it also brought in a screenwriter from "X-Men: The Last Stand" to make sure the game remained true to the Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel Studios film.

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Alan Cumming and Shawn Ashmore will reprise their film roles as Marvel's comic book mutants Logan/Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier, Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler and Bobby Drake/Iceman respectively.

"When you plan on producing a game that features characters that the fans have come to know well in film, one of the things you must address is having your audience perceive your characters as 'genuine,"' said Activision executive producer Scott Bandy. "One of the best ways to ensure this is to work with the same talent that has brought the character to life in the films."

The game, which will be released May 16, serves as a prequel to "X-Men: The Last Stand," which bows May 26. Zak Penn, one of the film's screenwriters, was brought in to co-write the videogame with scribe Chris Claremont, who is renowned from the franchise's comic book incarnation.

"My job was to sync up the film with the game," said Penn, who's an avid gamer. "The game's based on the comic universe, which is different than the film world. I was charged with bringing the game characters into the reality of the movie."

Having written dialogue for these actors for the past three films, Penn worked with Activision to create cut scenes -- non-interactive cinematic sequences that advance a video game - that remained true to the film universe. Penn previously worked on Activision's "Fantastic 4" videogame, which also blended film actors with Marvel comics.

Penn said that Activision's other "X-Men" game franchise, which is based solely on the Marvel comics, influenced the new film.

"We watched the 'X-Men Legends' games with second unit director Simon Crane to get ideas for the new movie," said Penn, who's one of a growing number of Hollywood writers that grew up gaming.

"Having these actors renew their movie characters in immerses gamers in the 'X-Men' movie universe," said Will Kassoy, Activision VP of global brand management. "Players will experience epic battles and uncover the events behind Nightcrawler's mysterious disappearance and the roles the X-Men and Brotherhood play in the upcoming film."

The new "X-Men" game allows players to harness Wolverine's combat rage, experience Nightcrawler's acrobatics and teleportation powers, and tear through the air on Iceman's ice slide. The game takes place between the events of "X2" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."

"X-Men: The Official Game" will be the first super hero game to incorporate next generation graphics. Activision is also working on "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance," a new current and next generation game that will feature super heroes like the X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, Elektra and Captain America. Next summer, Activision is expected to bring a new game tied into Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man 3" movie to gamers for current and next generation consoles.

Microsoft is working on a massively multiplayer online game based on the Marvel Comics, including the X-Men and Spider-man, for Xbox 360.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter