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Ion Runner [Cancelled – GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC]

Ion Runner is a cancelled racing / on-rail shooter game that was in development around 20022003 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.

In the end with no more funds to keep the studio alive, Attention to Detail had to close down for liquidation:

“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!

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L42 (Blue Planet) [GameCube, PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

L42 is a cancelled cyberpunk mission-based driving game that was in development around 1999 – 2000 by Blue Planet Software (the same company that today act as the exclusive agent for The Tetris Company) for “next gen consoles”: GameCube, Playstation 2 and Xbox. We can speculate it would somehow play as a sci-fi version of Driver, set a cyberpunk “open world”.

From the few images preserved in the gallery below it looks like L42 was still in its early concept phase, as these looks more like target renders than real-time prototype screens. While the game was officially shown in their old website, we cannot find any other detail or announcement about it online: it seems it was soon cancelled and forgotten by everyone. 

As L42 would feature art design by popular American designer and concept artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Tron, Short Circuit), it’s strange Blue Planet did not promote their concept in any way, but we can assume they were still pitching it to different publishers before it was finally canned. In the end, the company is more profitable just focusing on their Tetris license.

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Ghostman (Widescreen Games) [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

The Ghostman is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Kawaii Studio and Widescreen Games (mostly known for Dead to Rights II) around 2004 / 2005, planned to be released for PS2 and Xbox. The project was officially announced by Widescreen on their website, but was soon forgotten by everyone and vanished along with the team when they closed down in 2009 for bankruptcy.

The Ghostman was going to be similar to other ghost-based games, such as Murdered: Soul Suspect and Geist, using your “ghost powers” to resolve puzzles and combat your enemies. As we can read from the official fact-sheet:

“Winter in London. Nicolai Liptsky is killed by a strange mafia and becomes… a ghost. But he refuses to disappear unless he can save his family.

He discovers his new powers like possessing briefly abandoned bodies or moving objects by telekinesis. Now he travels back and forth between the world of the dead and the world of the livings.

 Half of the time you will be a ghost (able to fly, to move objects with psychic force but invisible to the living people).

The other half you will briefly come back to life by reincarnating yourself in many different bodies! Of course you will get the skills of the bodies you use.

Key features

> Explore a fascinating universe: the ghost world.

> Use your ghost powers like telekinesis, flying or pass through some walls

> Come back to life and take control of different characters (“Body jacking”)

> Choose the best strategy to live your adventure. Dead or alive: it’s your choice!”

A few screenshots and a trailer for Ghostman are preserved below, to remember its existence.

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G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra [PS2, Xbox, GameCube – Cancelled]

G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra is a cancelled action game that was planned by Radical Entertainment (mostly known for their The Simpsons: Road Rage, The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Crash of the Titans, Prototype series) and Hasbro around 2002, to be developed for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube. As you probably assume it was meant to be a tie-in for the popular G.I. Joe franchise, conceived when Hasbro published a new G.I. Joe vs. Cobra toy line around the same time. While the game was never officially announced, in 2018 a former developer shared a few details and some photos from their design document:

“One day I’ll be able to discuss how in 2002, Hasbro and Radical Entertainment secretly concocted a mission-based G.I. Joe video game. Dubbed G.I. Joe: Operation Ultra, the game broke down into sixteen separate missions of 4 acts each. Developed for 6th generation consoles (XBox, PS2, and GameCube), Hasbro went quite far in the design process – to the extent where they assigned mapping for the consoles’ controllers.”

As far as we know, Radical Entertainment did not fully start development on the game and the project was canned before any prototype was made.

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XGirl [Xbox – Cancelled]

XGirl is a cancelled “girlfriend simulation” game that was in development by Angel Studios (the modern Rockstar San Diego) around 2000, planned to be published by Microsoft as a launch game for their original Xbox. You can imagine it somehow like Seaman or Hey You, Pikachu! but with a “girlfriend” as the main character to interact with. As far as we know XGirl did not use voice-commands and it was more like a traditional pet / life simulation, such as the Creatures or Tamagotchi series.

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While the project was never officially announced, details about its existence were found online on resumes of former Angel Studios / Rockstar San Diego developers.

Carlos Pedroza, who worked as Lead Artist at Angel Studios, listed the game on his website. Michael Limber, who worked as Chief Creative Officer at Angel Studios, wrote on his old website:

“Interactive test application for Microsoft for the launch of the XBox. Kind of an interactive girlfriend project, XGirl had natural engaging facial animations and reacted to various controller inputs.”

We tried many times to get in contact with former Angel Studios developers to preserve more information about XGirl, unfortunately we never got any reply. In Japan Microsoft did release a somewhat similar game to xGirl on the original Xbox, titled “[email protected] Natural Ultimate Digital Experiment”, developed by Red Entertainment.

We can assume the concept behind a “virtual girlfriend” could have been too controversial for the american market in 2001, so Microsoft and Angel Studios canned the project. Angel Studios was then bought by Take-two in 2003 and renamed Rockstar San Diego. They then moved on to work on such popular titles as Red Dead Revolver, Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto V