Why is there not a Jack Reacher game? It has been firmly established that the top-heavy, world-weary hero of Lee Child’s bone-crunching bestsellers (26 novels and counting) would be the perfect video game avatar. As an ex-military policeman, Reacher combines razor-sharp investigative savvy and comprehensive weapons training with the sort of down-and-dirty brawling skills required to break up bar fights among demob-happy jarheads in far-flung postings.
Reacher has very little baggage – either emotional or actual, preferring to criss-cross the USA with little more than a travel toothbrush – yet trouble seems to follow him around. He is constantly butting heads with gangs of hoods, lowlifes and/or mercenaries yet triumphs through sheer force of will. Parachute him into any GTA and Reacher would do just fine.
He has already bounced from page to screen, from those two Tom Cruise movies (first, good; second, awful) to the recently launched Prime Video series starring the imposing Alan Ritchson, a rugged JCB digger made flesh. Real Reacher-heads will also be aware of the officially Child-sanctioned album Just the Clothes on my Back by Naked Blue, which explores Reacher’s self-reliant worldview via bluesy rock. This is clearly a guy with cross-media potential. So why no game?
To make a generalisation almost as enormous as our hero’s biceps it probably boils down to economics. The majority of Child’s millions of book fans likely do not identify as gamers. Burning through the pages of their annual Reacher is their closest equivalent to a multi-hour Xbox binge. They get that intense, compelling rush of violence and sweet, sweet justice without worrying about the correct QTE input to spartan-kick some aggro punk in the solar plexus.
But even if the market conditions might not support a fully-fledged Reacher game it is still fun to imagine one. Some gaming moments that have made me feel like the big lad have occurred in Ryu Ga Gotoku’s Yakuza series, where the hassle of being jumped by a street gang of Kamurocho hoods is almost always offset by the illicit pleasure of methodically wrecking them with disproportionate force. A proper Reacher game developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku might lean more toward Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, their cruder but more wildly OTT bash-em-up featuring another almost comically top-heavy yet amusingly aloof slugger at its centre.
There is another key dimension to Reacher’s appeal, though: his lifelong military brain assessing every back alley or motel parking lot confrontation before it even starts. These are the pages where Child’s usually cantering prose ratchets down into slo-mo as Reacher analyses every potential attack and considers his various trachea-ruining replies. So far, the screen adaptations have not really explored this strategic interiority – beyond Reacher calmly predicting the outcome during pre-fight stand-offs – but on the page it can be akin to the pleasure of watching a polished magic trick. He divines the future, and then it comes to pass in bone-crunching fashion: abracadabra! Some macabre cadavers!
Turn-based combat games like John Wick Hex and Fights in Tight Spaces have simulated something like that tactical tug-of-war. It occurs to me that their stylised but relatively bare-bones style might even appeal to the distinctly non-flashy Reacher. Maybe that is the key to making a game happen. Book fans admire Reacher and idly fantasise about being able to do what he does.
So in the 27th novel – No Plan B, co-written by Lee and his brother Andrew Child, due October – simply insert an early chapter where Reacher acquires a Nintendo Switch Lite and somehow manages not to crush it into powder with his enormous hands when trying it out. This is a dude who spends a lot of time on Greyhound buses so it tracks (sort of). Trust me: once Reacher starts gaming, everyone else will follow.
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