Vin, if you're reading this: Quit your day job. Nothing against the movies, really. I actually enjoy the steroidal speed-racery of Fast & Furious. So do a bunch of other people, according to box-office receipts. But if you're going by critical successes alone, the video games you've starred in--and produced, no less--have scored higher.
Going back five years on Metacritic, Diesel's films earn an average of 40 percent. Over that same period, he has worked on three games--Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (it earned a 90), Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (82), and Wheelman (67). Here's the kicker: Those last two Diesel-powered games came out just within the last month.
How the Movie Should Have Been
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a classic Xbox (and PC) game back in 2004. I won't go too deep into it, but it was a tense thriller. The game was a first-person, sci-fi take on Escape from Alcatraz--and it really worked. Fast-forward to about a week ago, when I started playing its sequel, Assault on Dark Athena (PC, PS3, Xbox 360). In space, nobody can hear you slam your controller into the ground. Yes, the new take on Riddick can be tooth-grindingly frustrating at times, because the AI cheats and the change of pace from stealth action to run-and-gun free-for-all is a little abrupt. Forgiving that, it's still fun at its core, and the Pitch Black multiplayer mode pits you against the world. Use your wacky night vision to skulk around in the dark to take out everyone in the match.
But as far as value goes, Riddick is hard to beat--the new package offers two games on one disc. You also get the Criterion-equivalent of the original Xbox game, with remastered graphics and effects. Honestly, it still holds up five years later. So if you've never played the original game, you have no excuse.
Fast and Furious Gaming
Wheelman, on the other hand, isn't exactly Grand Theft Auto IV starring a gravelly voiced Vin Diesel. No, it's more like taking a beta version of Burnout Paradise and tacking a story onto it. You have fast cars that ignore the rules of physics. You have some seriously Velveeta-cheesy dialogue at times. In other words, think Fast & Furious. But I'm playing the heck out of it. As I'm banging around the streets of Barcelona, the car wars keep me playing. You see, your ride is an extension of your virtual Vin. You can enter bullet time and flip your car to skeet-shoot bad guys in s-l-o-w motion, slam other cars into railings, and carjack people in mid-air by jumping from car to car. Like any number of oddball movies I watch, Wheelman is a straight-up guilty pleasure. I'd give it a 75.
Media snobs and game industry haters would say that we players have lower standards. To them, I say, "Play BioShock." (Quickly followed by, "Please, then, explain the artistry of Paul Blart: Mall Cop." But that's a whole other argument for a whole other column.) Me? I think that there's a place for Diesel-y games. Many of the characters he plays pop snide one-liners between punches...and punching the gas pedal. Typical game fodder. Heck, plenty of good games are simply Sci-Fi Channel Original Movies where you're the star. Personally, I want games to continue getting deeper and perfect interactive conversations--but I digress. Again. (Yep, there's definitely a whole other column brewing.)
I'm inclined to think that Diesel agrees about gaming's potential. Just go to the Web site for his game production company, Tigon Studios, and you'll see that three new games are in development as we speak: a 1970s cop game, a fantasy RPG, and a real-time strategy game. No joke.
It also helps that Vin is a nerd. Years ago, he admitted on Conan O'Brien's show to playing Dungeons & Dragons ("Very few people know that I was rolling 20-sided dice and talking like a half-orc....Melkor, that's my Drow witch-hunter. Double-specialized witch-hunter." --2/3/04). And, while promoting his latest movie, Diesel grilled BBC talk-show host Jonathan Ross about his World of Warcraft skills. (Check out the video clip.) What I love is that around the 7-minute mark, Vin's jaw is agape, impressed by the fact that Ross' wife has a level-80 character.
Truth is, Vin, I really am looking forward to your next game. But the next movie....
Need even more nerdity? Follow Casual Friday columnist and PC World Senior Writer Darren Gladstone on Twitter (gizmogladstone) for game-swag giveaways, odd links, and time-wasting tips.