DogTag is a cancelled shooter that was in development around 2005 by DiezelPower for PC, Xbox and Xbox 360, to be published by British company Digital Jesters. It was going to be a third-person squad based shooter, featuring cover mechanics and basic orders that could be given to teammates. It would encourage players to use the environment for defensive and offensive maneuvers, with blindfire, flanking and enemies that would counter tactics being used against them.
For the gaming press some of its elements drew comparisons to other cover-based shooters such as Kill.Switch and the then-upcoming Gears Of War, but DogTag had a slightly different gameplay style in mind. By mixing the fast action gameplay of traditional shooters and the slower, tactical combat of games like Full Spectrum Warrior, DiezelPower wanted to create a breed of game in which both these styles would come together. It would create a gritty, but arcade-like tactical shooter, in which players would have to think to defeat their opponents, but could also have fun in fast-paced shooting. Online co-op was also going to be a major feature.
The story would have certainly helped with that grittiness. Described as “controversial” by publisher Digital Jesters, the plot focuses on one of the civil wars that frequently ravage a large number of nations in Africa. After a United States-backed group is forced to retreat from the conflict, the U.S. sends in a battalion of Marines to replace them. For reasons unknown, however, the colonel of this battalion revolts and leads a mutiny against his own country. The U.S. once again send in a small elite force tasked to bring the colonel back for questioning. Hell breaks loose when they arrive in Africa, as they are immediately met with heavy resistance from the rebelling American forces, starting a long fight that would pit U.S. soldiers against each other, something rarely seen in a video game.
The most obvious inspiration for the storyline would probably be Apocalypse Now, but it is also eerily similar to another controversial title that would come out in 2012: Spec Ops – The Line (which also featured streamlined tactical combat and a story about a U.S. force led by a mutineering officer and the special ops team sent it to capture him, with the setting changed to an evacuated Dubai stricken by a catastrophic sandstorm). But if the storyline in DogTag was intended to be as psychological or as critical of violence as it was in Spec Ops: The Line, it is unknown.
DogTag was to be released in 2006, and would have been a next-gen title at that point in time. Initially, it would only be released on PC and Xbox, but an Xbox 360 port was planned later on with added content. However, it seems the game was not meant to be.
Towards the end of 2005 publisher Digital Jesters became the center of controversy when it faced several accusations of wrongdoing from many of their business partners. These accusations included lack of payment for games developed by external studios, price changing and selling of games in territories not covered by their contracts, and doing business under different names in what seemed like an attempt to escape financial troubles. Despite a substantial investment that Digital Jesters claimed had left them “110 percent financially secure”, KaosKontrol (the company that owned DiezelPower) petitioned the UK High Court to force Digital Jesters into liquidation, in what is known as a winding-up order. Legal action was also threatened against the key people in the company directly and many of their publishing deals were cancelled. The Digital Jesters website disappeared not long after that.
KaosKontrol claimed that it still owned the rights to DogTag, that its development was not affected and was ready to seek out another publishing deal for their game. However, nothing else was heard about it. With the team presumably unable to find another publisher and left in financial trouble (and possibly accumulating legal fees) they had to close down some time afterwards. DiezelPower themselves seem to have survived in some form and are still around to this day, with their two most recent games, Nation Red and Versus Squad, being available on Steam.
Article by António Pedro Pinto