Xbox 360

Syndicate Reboot (EA Black Box) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Around 2005 Canadian team EA Black Box was working on a Syndicate reboot (8 years before their 2012 reboot of the series), to be published for the 7th generation of consoles (Xbox 360, Playstation 3). While the original Syndicate was a real-time strategy game, this new project could have been a more linear action oriented third person shooter, a popular genre on console at the time.

Unfortunately EA never officially announced this new Syndicate, so details about the game are basically zero. What we know is this Syndicate reboot was cancelled not long after: the team tried to convert it into an even more fast-action shooter featuring a female protagonist, but in the end even this new incarnation was canned. Part of the same team later worked on Gunhead, another interesting, cancelled third person adventure featuring a gun-headed protagonist.

Black Box were moved to more profitable projects such as Need for Speed, NBA Street and Skate, before part of the team was laid-off by EA Canada in 2012, when the studio was renamed into Quicklime Games to focus on social gaming and free-to-play.

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Prototype 3 (Radical Entertainment) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

After releasing Prototype 2 in mid 2012, Radical Entertainment started working on the third chapter of their series, hopeful to quickly releasing it as one of their last games for the 7th generation of consoles or even better as a launch title for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

Unfortunately Prototype 2 did not sell as expected: the team was already in financial difficulties and their parent company decided to layoff part of their staff, cancelling plans for Prototype 3. As we can read on Kotaku:

“Although we made a substantial investment in the Prototype IP, it did not find a broad commercial audience. Radical is a very talented team of developers, however, we have explored various options for the studio, including a potential sale of the business, and have made a difficult conclusion through the consultation process that the only remaining option is a significant reduction in staff. As such, some employees will remain working for Radical Entertainment supporting other existing Activision Publishing projects, but the studio will cease development of its own games going forward.”

While Prototype 3 was never officially announced by Activision nor Radical Entertainment, fans of the IP are still asking for it. In June 2019 a few screenshots from an early development version of Prototype 3 were found online. We saved these images in the gallery below, to preserve what remains of this cancelled project.

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Evil Spell [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Evil Spell is a cancelled beat ‘em up / hack & slash that was in development by Dark Ride Studios for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The team was established in 2010 by ex Grin developers after their former company closed down. They wanted to create simple, low-budget projects to pitch to publishers to receive funds and support, then release them on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network.

In Evil Spel you would have been able to choose between 12 different characters, each one with their one combat style, weapons and skills. For example there was a medieval knight, some kind of WW1 soldier, an evil alchemist and a modern-age street-gangster.

As you can imagine the game was set in different time periods, so they could offer a good variety of levels, enemies and weapons. For example in the early prototype shown by the team at the Game’s Developers Conference 2011 we can see a medieval area mixed with a modern-day street.

In the end we can speculate Dark Ride Studios never found a publisher interested in their projects and were not able to complete Evil Spell. Only a few images and prototype footage are preserved below, to remember the existence of this lost game.

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Wrench (Ensemble Studios) [Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Wrench is a cancelled car-combat game that was in development by Ensemble Studios since the early ‘00s, and in its latest form it could have been published by Microsoft for their Xbox 360. It was developed as an internal demo and cancelled before being officially announced to the public, but bits and pieces of its history were shared online by former Ensemble devs such as Rich Geldreich:

“Unfortunately, mostly due to limited funding, our XNA demo didn’t see the light of day. This R&D and tech would later be used in a prototype at Ensemble named “Wrench”, then in a really cool internal demo Ensemble Studios got to show to Bill Gates in 2004 named “SevenDemo”. SevenDemo was a physics and graphics demo we put together in about 10 days to demonstrate what the still in development Xbox 360 console would be capable of doing. I was told he was very impressed. A few months after SevenDemo was shown, the Wrench prototype game was canceled (see below), so I rolled onto Age of Empires 3. Later, I used a lot of this tech in what would eventually morph into Halo Wars.”

“I first worked on the rendering and shader code of a prototype 3rd person car combat project named “Wrench” (also see here). After Wrench was canceled (this kind of game just didn’t match our strengths, honestly), I helped modernize and optimize Age of Empire 3’s graphics engine. (Age3 looked really good already, but Wrench had rendering and lighting tech that pushed the game even further.)”

“The team at Ensemble made this demo with the Wrench prototype code in approximately 7-10 days, where it was known inside Ensemble as “SevenDemo”:

“Video of the never before seen “Wrench” graphics/physics engine technology demo shown to Bill Gates by Ensemble Studios (Dallas, TX) in early 2004. We put this D3D9 shader model 3 demo together in roughly 7 days, but we had been working on the tech for around 18 months. The prototype AMD graphics cards we were using at the time became unstable at high clock frequencies, so we unfortunately had to show it at only 640×480 or 800×600 resolution with no AA. The real-time participating media effect used on the entire scene (pay attention to the light rays poking in from the front garage doors as they are riddled with bullet holes) consumed around 40% of our entire GPU budget. This effect is 100% dynamically computed by ray marching through dynamic 16-bit spotlight shadow maps, and was a very advanced effect for 2004. This demo shows light prepass rendering, HDR rendering, omni light shadows via dual paraboloid shadow maps, spotlight shadow maps, and dynamic light scattering effects on the omni/spot lights. Much of this engine code wound up shipping in Age of Empires 3 and Halo Wars.”

Also Richard wrote on Twitter:

“The Wrench gameplay prototype was a 3rd person outdoor car shooter. We had multiplayer working. The prototype was coming along, but I think Ensemble got pressured by Microsoft to pivot back to RTS game prototypes. This led to the “Phoenix” prototype, which then led to Halo Wars 1”

It’s interesting to notice that Phoenix was also the name of a cancelled RTS in development by Bungie for the first Xbox, but as far as we know it was not related to Ensemble Studio’s canned project. Unfortunately Ensemble Studios was closed by Microsoft in late 2008 after publishing Halo Wars. Some of their cancelled games were revealed in an article about the “last visit” at the studios by Gamasutra, with titles such as Agent, Bam! and their Halo MMO.

If you know someone who worked on Wrench and could help us to preserve more screenshots or videos from this lost game, please let us know! 

Tower (Grin) [Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Tower is a prototype for a cancelled team-based third person shooter for Xbox 360 and PS3, that was in development by Grin, the team mostly known for such games as Bionic Commando Rearmed, Wanted: Weapons of Fate and the cancelled Final Fantasy Fortress. With its arcadey graphic and gameplay, Grin probably desired to create a simple but fun online multiplayer experience, possibly to publish it digitally on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Store.

As you can imagine from its title, Tower offered multiple-floors arenas with an interesting gameplay mechanic: players would have been able to freely move around all surfaces of the towers, walking on walls and ceilings. This would have created many different approaches to combat, as you and your enemies could shoot and run around from multiple places.

Not much more is known about this lost game. In the end the project was halted (along with their other canned games: Streets of Rage Reboot, Strider, Wanted 2) because of Grin’s financial difficulties that eventually bankrupted the company. In the gallery below you can find some screenshots and footage from an early build, preserved to remember its existence.

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