Comparing films to video games is often intended to be unfavourable, a way of calling out narrative or structural simplicity and, although there is certainly a level of cross-fertilisation between the two types of media this is largely one way traffic. Watch, say, the Omaha Beach level of Medal of Honour: Allied Assault and you could play it almost completely in sync with the opening combat scenes of Saving Private Ryan. The dialogue is essentially identical for the entire ride in. Similarly, key beats in other parts of the game, such as the sniper town or the attack on a isolated radar installation, are direct lifts from that film.
The original Call of Duty steals almost verbatim from the depiction of Stalingrad in Enemy at the Gates. Call of Duty is increasingly criticised for misplaced bombast but it has ever been thus, in the first games you are not fighting WW2, you are fighting Steven Spielberg’s wet dream of WW2. Perhaps we can only see the masturbatory nature of depictions of modern war because they are so fresh in the mind and suffer such sharp scrutiny.
There is obviously a statute of limitations on feeling bad about wars and once one is 100 years old, you can un-ironically reinstate Dulce Et Decorum Est.
Action cinema is beginning to borrow from games, though, and it is here we see the comparison made most often and most damningly. Die Hard 4 jumps from sequence to sequence, segmented by cut scenes in which Bruce Willis is passably rendered by advanced computer graphics. Those individual sequences are defined almost solely by location and atmospherics – this is the apartment level, this is the ice chamber level, this is Quick Time Event on the back of a jet. The boss battle, at the end, is something of a damp squib.
I don’t think there are many games as jumbled as Die Hard 4, which starts with its best and most on brand moment – a tense, claustrophobic fight in a tenement which McClane desperately improvises his out – and then fails to appropriately escalate. It’s a film that doesn’t build to any sort of crescendo, it’s just incident after incident. Games manufacture this well, they escalate slowly. The player becomes more powerful even as the odds become untenable.
Even so, to the casual observer of both types of media, it makes for an easy comparison. This comparison, I suspect, will be a bit more difficult.