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'Highlander' Is An Awful Movie That Could Be An Amazing Game

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'Highlander' Is An Awful Movie That Could Be An Amazing Game

I'm a child of the 1980s, but it took me until just the other night to watch one of that decade's most notable, so-called cult-classic movies. Highlander, released in 1986, tells the tale of immortals fighting to be the last of their kind, its action split between contemporary New York and 16th century Scotland - and it was not so long ago added to Netflix, hence me watching it for the first time in 2021. With the New York-born non-English-speaker Christopher Lambert playing the Scottish Highlander of the title, Connor MacLeod, and the Edinburgh-born Sean Connery as an Egyptian (alien?) who's over 2,000 years old, it's a campy fantasy romp that so many pals of mine have a big soft spot for. And I hated it.

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But wait, please. Before you all pile-on, and slide into my DMs with a how very dare you expressed in all manner of exceptionally explicit fashions, I didn't think it was a movie without some saving graces. Clancy Brown as The Kurgan, the nemesis of both Lambert and Connery's characters, is terrific fun, just the hammiest baddie imaginable yet also, somehow, unspeakably evil despite the actor quite clearly having a riot of a time in the role. The Scottish scenery is stunning, and in no way made me lament what travel opportunities we've all missed during periods of extended lockdown, lately.

Resident Evil is a series with its share of, well, immortal-wannabes at the very least. And when it comes to zombies, we all know that you kill the head, and the body will die. Watch our evolution of the franchise, below.

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There's also something so primordial, so compellingly elemental, about a battle to the last spread out over thousands of years. A race to finish last, with incredible risks at every turn in pursuit of a singular reward. There's really something in that - which is probably why the original film spawned a pair of direct sequels and a TV series that, itself, received two spin-off feature-lengths. There's also an anime movie, an animated series, and a novelization of the first picture that expands on its story and characters.

Highlander also received a video game adaptation, at the time of its mid-1980s release. Published by Ocean for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC, it's a one-on-one sword fighting affair that is supposed to evoke the life-or-death duels of the immortals - they can only die, you see, by being beheaded, so swords are very much their tools of the trade.

Highlander on the ZX Spectrum / Credit: Ocean Software, MobyGames.com
Highlander on the ZX Spectrum / Credit: Ocean Software, MobyGames.com
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Played solo, with the player cast as Lambert's character Connor, the game offered only three opponents: Connery's Ramirez, who's only a sparring partner in the movie but can be beheaded in the game; Fasil, who MacLeod fights in Madison Square Gardens but is only a bit-part presence in the film; and The Kurgan, the most feared of all immortals. It received some exceptionally poor reviews, and it has all the hallmarks of being a rushed movie tie-in.

However, my biggest takeaway from sitting through almost two hours of painfully poor dialogue, amatuer-looking choreography and Lambert's ever-fluctuating attempts at some semblance of a Scottish accent was that Highlander really needs another video game. Its time-splitting take of epic battles played out between incredible beings, with mettle tested by the clashing of steel, is perfect for playing through - and frankly, it can be as cheesy as it likes in any cutscenes if the action is up to par.

With a number of relatively recent games really nailing sword fighting, from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice via Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and onto Nioh and its sequel and the Soulcalibur series. I think there's a modern appetite for games where the combat is exacting, testing, real everything-or-nothing stuff, and the merest lapse in concentration can be fatally punished. Taking that kind of approach to facing off with an opponent - at least with the rare encounters of another immortal - could make for a really fantastic update on a game that failed to achieve much at all in 1986.

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And clearly I'm not the first person to have ever thought along these lines, because there was a Highlander-based game in production at Eidos Interactive, back in the mid- to late-'00s, set to be published by Square Enix for the Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3. Having been announced in 2005, its debut trailer was published in January 2008 - you can watch it above. The game was going to put the player in the shoes of a different MacLeod character, Owen, who would be able to use his own immortal body to complete a multitude of painful, otherwise-fatal actions, knowing that only losing his head would be the end of him. Connect an electrical circuit using your hands? No problem. Leaping from tall buildings without a care in the world? Bring it on.

Highlander: The Game - for that was its name - would have been set in a variety of locations, at different periods in time including Rome, where Owen would be a gladiator, and through to modern-era New York City. Its story was being written by David Abramowitz, who'd worked on the Highlander TV show; but after a period of silence regarding its development, the game was officially cancelled by Square Enix in May 2012.

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Highlander: The Game / Credit: Square Enix
Highlander: The Game / Credit: Square Enix

And yet, I'm still here saying: bring it back. What's more, a new Highlander game should have a fresh injection of televisual support behind it, as it's been widely reported that a reboot is in the works for the franchise, starring The Witcher's own Henry Cavill. I mean, you're getting Superman in to play an immortal - what could go wrong? This new Highlander TV show has John Wick director Chad Stahelski behind the camera, so intense action is, surely, guaranteed. If all goes well on the project, who wouldn't want a video game adaptation, or at least a semi-related Highlander game to complement the series? This money prints itself.

There's enough good in the very bad film that is 1986's Highlander for an amazing video game to be born. I'm convinced there is. Maybe it's a game that takes its cues from Lambert and Connery, or perhaps it aims for a more 21st century feel and aligns itself with whatever Cavill's version comes out like, offering but a respectful nod to the original. Either way: immortals battering each other over, and over, with that final, killer strike just there, so close, a split-second from landing true, is something I'm exceedingly into playing. Just never, ever, make me watch the movie again, please.

Featured Image Credit: Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, Square Enix

Topics: Xbox, Movies, PlayStation, Opinion, Netflix, Square Enix, Retro Gaming

Mike Diver
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