One of the most popular spy movie franchises of all time has been the recent emergence of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne. All three movies have managed to succumb to the escalation of iconic status. So like any popular movie-based franchise, the video game world was more than adept to take on the task of replicating the stern-faced spy...only, they managed to replicate everything but the spy.
Vivendi Universal (probably best known now for having sided with one of the largest publishers in the world, Activision) took on the daunting task of publishing High Moon Studios' Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy. The game itself faired rather well with some critics, including our own Philip Cheung – who's review you can read here -- and the game even managed to garner some respect as a movie-to-game licensed product. However, there is one thing that everyone who has seen the game has noticed as an obvious omission to the cumulative experience of The Bourne Conspiracy, Matt Damon. No voice, no look, no Damon.
The rumor circulated that Matt Damon backed out because of the violence in the game (among another petty excuse), according to an MTV blog posting. Apparently, Mr. Matt also appears to have wanted the game to follow in the lines of an anti-hardcore gaming formula, which included likenesses to Borderbund's Myst. I'm sorry, but I almost can't believe that Matt Damon is that dense...it's almost inexcusable. Myst? Please. Has he even seen the Bourne trilogy movies? Nevertheless, Matty-boy wanted to respect his Mother and shun away from the violence that is the video game action medium. Though, it seems like he's being an oxymoron considering that all three Bourne films are very violent.
Now some of you might be asking why it would even be remotely important for the lead actor of the Bourne movies to be the lead thespian in the video game adaptation: It's important because it sells the story. Likenesses do sell games, despite their association with licensed-game stigmas. Games like Pirates of the Caribbean, 007: James Bond, and even Spider-Man have managed to use their Hollywood acting counterparts as a way to sell units, to promote the game's appeal and to generally try to stick close to the licensed property. Yet apparently, Damon's uncooperative attitude might stem from a pedestal-elevated ego that clouded the importance of his super-spy legacy, whether it is on film or in programming code.
The NPD numbers aren't out yet, which will certainly detail whether a decent Bourne game without Matt Damon's likeness will sell enough units to warrant a definitive sequel. But as a gamer (not a critic) I couldn't have cared less about the game the day it was announced and didn't include Matt Damon. You might say it's silly but it's sort of like playing an Incredible Hulk game without a green Hulk, or playing a game based on Speed Racer in which players drive an unlicensed Mach 5 because the designers didn't want the Mach 6 or its' likenesses appearing in the game. It doesn't mean the respective titles can't be good, it just means they're automatically going to suck a little bit more because of their lacking authenticity.
There is, however, an alternative take on this whole thing: Matt Damon, possibly, could only want his likeness in a first-rate game. Maybe he was too timid to tell the developers that they didn't have an absolute class-act, triple-A title on their hands. Maybe he only wanted to be represented in a game that could be put on-par with the likes of established, espionage classics such as Metal Gear: Solid or Syphon Filter. This scenario is not entirely unlikely, given that there's the emerging possibility of Matt Damon reconvening with the developers about using his likenesses in the Bourne video game sequel.
Seriously, though, what on Earth would make Mr. Damon think that a Bourne video game sequel (obviously using the same developmental platform as the first game) would be any less violent, or anymore Myst-like than the first game? Nothing. Unless he thought it would do his name and likeness, better public service than the first outing. Added to this, how much more anticipation would they build for the sequel if gamers (and Bourne fans) found out that the Hollywood actor was signing on to voice and lend his likeness to his 3D alter-ego? It would be a heck of a lot of anticipation, especially if the game was promoted as an actual game and not just a licensed property cash-in.
Still, this whole scenario involving a Damonless Bourne game just goes to show that actors are possibly more worried about their own self-appeasement rather than the industry at large. Damon complaining about "violence" in a Bourne game is almost equivalent to Kiefer Sutherland ranting about body-counts in 24: The Game.
Basically, Mr. Matt Damon is doing one of two things: Waiting for a better game to come up to his standards or he's just being prissy and sabotaging the Bourne game franchise with an unconventional and bigoted sense of pacifism. Either way, Bourne fans will just have to wait for the sequel...for both a better all-round game and the possibility of a playable Matt Damon.