Copyright 2002

[ February 22nd 2002 ]

The makers of the Oscar-nominated Lord of the Rings have announced plans to turn a controversial computer game by a small Scottish company into a Hollywood film. New Line Cinema, one of the biggest names in the US movie industry, wants to adapt State of Emergency, made by Vis Entertainment, for the big screen.

The game, which goes on sale in the UK today, has already angered anti-violence campaigners with its graphic depiction of street riots. The big-budget film will be produced by Warren Zide and Craig Perry, the team behind the American Pie films. "To be able to create an action movie that appeals to young audiences based on a highly successful video game is something we've been looking for, and State of Emergency is a perfect fit," Mr Zide said.

The film would have a budget of $ 30-50 million (GBP 21-35 million), he added, and a big-name star, possibly the professional wrestler the Rock. It is expected to have a restricted certificate, similar to an 18 in the UK. Mr Zide told The Scotsman: "This is a major movie for us and we are hoping for a big Friday night release."

The film's plot will follow that of the game, which is based on the player taking the role of a "freedom operative", fighting the influence of an all -powerful corporation. The action includes street riots, where the player is rewarded for killing as many people as possible in the shortest length of time. Players can pick up items such as metal bins and park benches, as well as rocket launchers and machine guns, to kill "corporate enforcers", who look like riot police, and destroy property.

The State of Emergency game has already been given an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification to prevent children getting their hands on the product. However, it is not yet known if the film will contain equally violent images. Chris van der Kuyl, president of Vis, based in Dunfermline, Fife, said the film adaptation would be worth millions of pounds to the company, if successful. He said: "State of Emergency is the biggest product we have ever made, and it's too early to say how much the film will be worth to us, but obviously we are very optimistic." Vis will be involved at every stage of the film's creation, which will go into pre-production straight away.

The game has already received rave reviews from the computer industry. Play magazine described it as "an important milestone in the evolution of gaming", and it was the highest selling pre-release product on Amazon. com last week. But a spokesman for Mediawatch-UK, formerly known as the National Viewers and Listeners Association, condemned the game for rewarding players for murdering innocent bystanders. "It is very unhelpful that the game has so much violence. It will add to the culture of violence we already suffer," he said.

A spokesman for Vis declined to comment on State Of Emergency's graphic content and referred all questions to the US firm Rockstar Games, which is publishing the game. The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

State of Emergency is the latest in a line of games to be made into films. Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Super Mario Brothers, which starred Bob Hoskins in the lead role, have all made the transition from the games console to the cinema screen.

The computer games business is one of the fastest-growing industries in the UK. In 2001, the market was worth GBP 1.6 billion, a rise of 36 per cent on the previous year. The best-selling titles sell millions of copies around the world.

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