Around 2003 – 2005 Z-Axis (AKA Underground Development) was working on a new Iron Man video game tie-in for Activision, using the Marvel license. The project was planned to be released for Playstation 2 and Xbox, but in the end it was never completed and quietly vanished, forgotten by everyone.
As we can read on IGN, Z-Axis was hiring new devs for Iron Man around November 2003:
“Z-Axis, the hard-working folks who brought gamers Dave Mirra’s BMX Freestyle and Aggressive Inline (and if you go a little farther back, Fox Sports College Hoops and Thrasher: Skate and Destroy), is now officially working on two new games for Activision based on the Iron Man and X-Men Marvel licenses.
Activision has not officially announced either of these two titles, but we have learned that both are definitely action games. The X-Men game is all new, and should not be confused with the Raven-developed X-Men: Legends.”
In the end only Z-Axis’s “X-Men: The Official Game” game was released in 2006. We can assume the team had some issues in developing two Marvel games at the same time and Activision decided to cancel Iron Man. Some screenshots from an early Iron Man prototype are saved below, to remember the existence of this lost game.
In the game Larry would visit San Areolas Islands to seduce women and resolve simple puzzles. Some more details were shared online by a former HVS developer:
“Cancelled at about 70% complete, this adventure game (like its predecessor) would have certainly pushed the boundaries of both story, design and taste. The focus of this UI was the match the game’s island feel, with warm sunset skies for the main menu and bright, colorful blues and reef colors for the in-game experience. We used classic postcards as inspiration for how we wanted the user to feel while in the menus, while still injecting a bit of Larry’s sexual references within the design work itself. We had the UI about 80% finalized when the game was sadly cancelled, so what you see here was pretty much final.”
As far as we know Vivendi Universal canned the game, possibly to cut costs during a difficult time. Because of this High Voltage Software had to lay off some of their staff, as reported by Gamasutra and GameIndustry in January 2006:
“Chicago-based independent developer High Voltage has officially announced that the company has “right sized” its operations from 156 full time employees to 120, following a recent project cancellation.”
“The layoffs are believed to have occurred last Friday, January 13th, and according to a source within the company, the cancelled project was one being undertaken for Vivendi Universal Games – which has published several of High Voltage’s recent titles.”
Some images from the game are preserved in the gallery below, to remember this lost project.
“Tremors is based on the successful Tremors movie franchise, created by Universal Pictures and Stampede Entertainment. The game is a third person action adventure set in the desert around the town of Gold Rock, where Graboids – gigantic landsharks threatens mankind as we know it.
Players will experience an immersive storyline, filled with surprises and challenges in combination with high-octane action. The game is scheduled for release during the fall of 2003.”
“A few years have passed since the first wave of monsters shook the grounds of Nevada. Burt Gummer has kept himself busy investigating Graboid activity and repelled the threats when needed, but business is going slow.
Strange disappearances are investigated by Gold Rocks sheriff, who makes a horrifying discovery – the Graboids are back. The investigations leads to a recently built plant and research center outside the town. The mystery unfolds and turns out to be more of a “normal bug-problem”.
At the same time, unknown of the two heroes above the ground, a heroine fights the source of the monsters from heart of the top-secret underground facility. Tremors is a game of monsters threatening mankind, corporate cover-ups, betrayal and three heroes that simply refuse to surrender against any threat.”
Based on the Tremors cult series of movies and the upcoming SciFi Channel TV-show.
Three characters – three agendas that ties into one, immersive story. Play as Burt Gummer from the movies.
Fight the Graboids, Shriekers and Assblasters – for a start. You’re up against evolving monsters.
State-of-the art enemy AI that plans and thinks. Monsters reacts after your actions.
Blow the monsters to pieces of goo with a wide range of weapons; revolvers, rifles, SMG’s and the classic Barrett .50.
Fluent and extensive movement with the help from +500 motion captured movements.
Powered by the RSSTech – one of the most powerful rendering systems ever.
In 2003 fansite UK Tremors posted an interview with Rock Solid Studios about their game:
“UK: 1, So how long have you been working on the game? is there anything to see yet?.
CS: We are still quite early in development, many details are still confidential. Including planning and design, we have worked on this game since April/May 2002. Even though we cannot show anything officially yet, we are playing the game internally and there are both Graboids and Shriekers in the game at this point.
UK: 2, Will the game be based on any of the films or just the upcoming TV series?
CS: The game is an independent story, but with tie-ins to the TV series and the movies.
UK:3, Is there any details of the game that you can let us in on? E.g. storyline, structure, gameplay, multiplayer etc
CS: The game is a single-player action-adventure in line with the Resident Evil series of games, but cross-overs to games such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. As players are partly dealing with monsters hunting on heat or vibrations, there will be different ways to move around in the environment.
UK: 4, Is it still set to be released on all the major gaming systems? Do you have any kind of release date set at the moment?
CS: Still to be determined.
UK: 5, you must have seen the films a lot of times by now. Has Stampede/Universal supplied you with much information and help?
CS: They have been much helpful.
UK: 6, For our readers, will this be a game they will be playing into the small hours?
CS: Definitely. As there are many different ways of defeating the monsters, players will come back to try different solutions to various problems.”
In the end Rock Solid Studios closed down for bankruptcy before releasing any game and was later reboot as Avalanche Studios, finally finding success with the first Just Cause. As we can read on Wikipedia:
“During that period, another Stockholm-based video game development studio, Starbreeze Studios, announced that they would acquire Rock Solid. The agreement between the two companies was ultimately broken by Starbreeze, and the acquisition was stopped. In addition, Universal decided to cancel Tremors: The Game, which led Rock Solid to declare bankruptcy. With the failure and collapse of Rock Solid, Sundberg and Blomberg became unemployed and in debt. They eventually decided to start over in 2003, establishing Avalanche Studios with six other employees.”
A few 3D models from this lost game are preserved in the gallery below, to remember its existence.
Burnt Out Cop is a cancelled action game that was in development by Infinite Lives and HotGen Studios around 2002 – 2003, planned to be published by Sega for Playstation 2 (and the original Xbox). Infinite Lives spent a few months developing a playable demo and creating an extensive Game Design Document (that was later shared online on their official website). HotGen Studios was impressed by their work and offered them more funding and resources, while the game was proposed to Sega for publishing. Unfortunately internal issues between HotGen and Infinite Lives caused the latter to lose the IP and in the end the game was canned.
More details about Burnt Out Cop can still be found in the original Design Doc:
“Unorthodox methods and unnecessary force alienate this street-wise cop from his precinct. This adrenaline-fuelled, arcade style, third-person shooter is predominately viewed from a top-down position. The gameplay is heavily based on classic arcade games combining the art of Street Fighter with the frenetic frenzy of Smash TV and Powerstone. Rather than using standard rendered 3D models, the game employs a hand drawn look giving it an unconventional comic book edge. Exaggerated movement and animation, as opposed to life-like motion capture, emphasise the speed and power of the characters. In contrast to Burnt Out Cop’s fast gameplay and slick image, its action is often humorous. Taking a tongue-in -cheek approach, it features many cop movie clichés, including larger than life characters and recognisable locations and set pieces. The cop’s manoeuvres are heavily based on those found in many John Woo films (for example, Hard Boiled and Mission: Impossible II) combined with the slapstick nature of Jackie Chan fight sequences. A fictional Hong Kong environment containing eighties undertones provides the backdrop for the explosive showdowns.”
Advanced gunplay: Floor bad guys and catch their guns out of the air or grab an opponent and use him as a human shield.
Rapid Targeting: Aim and shoot at the press of a button. Hold two guns and simultaneously target multiple opponents.
Extensive Weapon Range: Contains plenty of slapstick action: use traditional ballistic weapons mixed with everything you can get your hands on, including frying pans, chickens and prosthetic limbs.
Humour: A true crowd pleasing game featuring a witty send-up of classic cop movies and other games.
Self-Improvement: On his path to redemption his mental state and physical abilities are regained and improved.
“Guns play a key role in the game, both in terms of how they are acquired and how they are used. Another important feature is the relative lack of ammunition available. Unlike games where this would result in more cautious and frugal play Burnt Out Cop creates a mad scramble for any guns left by dead guys. When shot, their gun would fly from their hand or skid across the floor, allowing the cop to quickly collect it or catch it out of the air – just like the movies.”
Check the footage below to see how the game would have been played, if only completed.
Ion Runner is a cancelled racing / on-rail shooter game that was in development around 2002 – 2003 by Attention to Detail, the team mostly known for such titles as Rollcage, Lego Racers 2 and Drome Racers. The project was planned to be released for GameCube, Playstation 2, Xbox and PC, but unfortunately the team did not find a publisher interested in supporting it.
Some details about this lost game was shared online by former developers, who started working on Ion Runner after the cancellation of Lego Racer 4:
“A more ambitious project, Lego Racers 4, was canned after substantial development effort. This was technically interesting as the design called for streaming of the entire game world from DVD, allowing much larger and more intricate play area than earlier Lego games, or most console titles at the time. The team involved went on to work on Ion Runner […]
Two complete levels of Ion Runner were programmed and demonstrated to many publishers, but there was no time to sign a deal before venture capitalists 3I pulled the plug on the company in August 2003.
Since then the demos have been seen by many in the industry who were surprised that the project was never finished – but the price, calculated to refloat the group as well as to cover the development costs, meant any deal on this new IP was hard to arrange.”
It seems the game initially started as a classic 3D racing – on rail shooter, in which players would drive their overbike through different levels while shooting down enemies. After a while the team toyed with a more open adventure-alike gameplay, possibly with HUB world to explore, NPCs to talk to and other action-adventure mechanics. As far as we know, not much was done on this version before the cancellation.
“UK developer ATD (Attention to Detail) went into liquidation last Thursday, it has been revealed. While most of the country’s attention was directed at the ECTS trade show approximately 50 staff was laid off after a failure to sign the developer’s Ion Runner title.”
If you know someone who worked on the game and may have saved footage or more screenshots, please let us know!