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Rogue Warrior : Black Razor (Zombie Studios) [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Rogue Warrior is a First-Person Shooter published by Bethesda Softworks and developed by Core Design (also known as Rebellion UK Derby, a subsidiary of Rebellion Developments), released on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in 2009. The game take place in 1986 during the Cold War, in which Richard Marcinko, a Navy SEAL, is sent on a mission into North Korea to disrupt ballistic missile launchers.

But before being released as such, the game was known as Rogue Warrior : Black Razor and was totally different from the final product following a rather disastrous development. Initially made by Zombie Studios, from 2005 to 2007, this title, planned by the time for a release around 2007-2008, already on PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, took the form of a squad-based tactical First-Person Shooter/Third-Person Shooter, somewhat similar to the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon franchise, set in present day North Korea, in which we played a team of four Navy SEALs, led by Richard Marcinko, attempting to infiltrate a submarine facility to get intelligence data on the country’s nuclear capabilities. Then, as a war between north and south is about to occur, escaping and navigating through enemy territory.

Using the Unreal Engine 3 (instead, in the end, Rebellion’s proprietary engine Asura), the team insisted a lot on the various possibilities of gameplay, whether it was the non-linearity of the level design, allowing to be able to play stealth or more run and gun, or to accomplish the different objectives in any order, as well as an emphasis on the online mode, whether doing the campaign in coop or the multiplayer mode allowing you to create different combinations of maps. Following its announcement in the end of the 2006 year, numerous media had the opportunity to see the game run. Thus, Gamespot wrote:

(…) The design team at Zombie felt that the “rails” approach favored in those games (so called because you’re basically restricted to a single path) doesn’t really capture the essence of SEAL combat. SEALs are the Navy’s elite commando units, and they’re usually dispatched in small teams to operate behind enemy lines and to capture this element of SEAL warfare Rogue Warrior will have fairly large levels for a first-person shooter. The idea is that you’ll be able to approach tactical situations in the manner that you determine.

For instance, in the example that we were shown, Marcinko’s SEAL team approached a North Korean ship-breaking yard. In this situation, there were three paths that the team could follow, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. One path might be more direct, but it also increases the odds of detection, while a safer option might offer a more roundabout path that takes longer to navigate. The idea is that you can tailor your tactics to fit your situation. The levels are big, but not gigantic, designed for tactical flexibility.

During your adventures behind enemy lines, you’ll encounter a wide variety of environments and foes. In the beginning, you’ll battle North Korean conscripts, but as you progress closer and closer to the front lines of the battlefield, you’ll encounter elite North Korean Special Forces, basically the equivalent of the SEAL team. These enemies promise to be intelligent. For instance, the bad guys will actually talk to each other on the radio, and that means if you neutralize a guard and his buddies start asking for him over the radio, you’re in trouble because they’re going to investigate why he disappeared.

The game is also going to be fairly flexible in how you play it. You can switch between first- or third-person views, depending on your preference. And you can also play the game as a team tactics game, where you give simple, context-sensitive commands to your teammates (for example, you can tell one to sneak up on a guard and knife him), or you can play it as more of a run-and-gun-style action game, where your teammates just follow you wherever you go. The really cool thing about the team mechanics is that the campaign supports cooperative gameplay, whereby other players can jump in and take over any of the other three slots in your team. And if anyone drops out, the AI will take over, so you don’t miss a beat.

As cool as this new cooperative mode sounds, the new tiling system for the competitive multiplayer is even more interesting. The developers explained that one of the problems with online action games is that the levels never change. Rogue Warrior addresses this by separating the map into three sections that can be mixed and matched to create hundreds of different maps. Up to 24 players, each side can select a map tile that it wants for its side of the map, while the middle tile is determined by the server. So if one side likes to snipe, it can choose a tile with long fields of fire for its section, but the other side can counter this by choosing a built-up tile for its section, thus negating the sniper’s fields of fire. The middle section is a bit of the wild card, as the server can randomly select it. Put it together, and you never know quite how each map will play out.

And CVG, for its part, told us:

“We wanted to do some different things in the tactical shooter space than what’s already being done. We wanted to do something more openended and less constrained,” explains Pete Hines as a vivid level swells onto the monitor, revealing a North Korean ship-breaker’s yard teeming with detail and enemy patrols.

It’s one of the campaign’s earliest levels, a recreation of the start of Richard and his team’s marathon undercover journey to get back across the border to safety after they’ve been stranded in North Korea at the start of the North/South conflict.

“We wanted to base the game on a licence that would give the game a sense of authenticity, so the things that you see are as realistic as possible,” explains Hines as Zombie producer Mark Long pans around the level. On the screen, Marcinko’s digital twin and three Spec Ops sidekicks stand knee-deep in water that looks so convincing, I’m already stripped off to my pants and inflating my arm bands: an urge quickly suppressed when Long lets off a burst from his silenced MP4 into the water. The bullets kick up spray and steam rises from the superheated silencer. “We’re also working with Richard to make sure that the weapons and equipment look and feel authentic,” continues Hines as Long leads his team out of the water towards a North Korean truck parked nearby.

In a further attempt to make Rogue Warrior look and feel as authentic as possible, Zombie are not only carefully recreating Marcinko’s exploits, but are also taking pains to ensure that the freeform battlefield you inhabit reacts as realistically as possible.

Whereas many shooters still utilise a simple vehicle damage model, Rogue Warrior’s regional approach to inflicting damage is set to infuse the game with a genuine sense of believability.

“We’ve created a destructible system that’s really interactive,” enthuses Long. “If you shoot a truck’s gas tank, it’s going to explode. If you shoot the bumper it won’t really do any damage. But if you shoot the engine enough, it’ll set alight and the fire will spread, eventually reaching the gas tank.”

Eager to prove his point, he lets off a flurry of bullets, which hammer into the truck’s front bumper causing it to shake until it falls to the ground with a clang. Moving his sights to the engine, Long lets rip again, this time igniting a small flame that licks hungrily at the truck, slowly devouring it until it reaches the petrol tank. Seconds later, the truck is blown into a thousand molten shards.

Visuals aside, perhaps Rogue Warrior’s most impressive attribute is its attempt to meld run-and-gun gameplay with open-ended squad-based combat, theoretically allowing you to approach each level as aggressively or as stealthily (or indeed, as tactically) as your cold heart desires.

“We wanted to go with something that was a departure from the genre’s current nondescript, over-stylised direction,” explains Long as he moves his team towards a cluster of nearby North Korean patrolmen with a single mouse click.

With the option to command each individual team member (each of which has the same set of abilities that you have), or to issue orders to your entire team, Rogue Warrior’s gameplay is looking flexible, clearly leaning towards the more open-ended approach adopted by the likes of Splinter Cell: Double Agent than more conventional, linear shooters.

But there’s little time for contemplation right now as Long’s eager to showcase both of these playing styles. First, he chooses a tactical, stealthy approach to the conundrum of taking out the guards. Leaving the rest of his squad behind cover, he slowly flanks a lone guard before slashing his throat.

Next he cycles through his collection of booby traps – remote, time and pressure bombs -and plants one on his victim’s uniformed corpse. The dead man’s radio crackles briefly as one of his fellow guards checks in on his status, but the enquiry is met by silence.

Alerted by their comrade’s lack of response, three nearby guards rush to check on him, kneeling low in apparent concern as they search for a pulse. Big mistake. Grasping the remote detonator switch, Long takes out all three men with a single press of a button without having to fire a single shot.

“This is a system that we’re calling ‘Lure Behaviour’,” beams Long. “Guards communicate with each other via radio and they’re going to be checking on each other so they’ll know if something bad has happened to someone on patrol. You can also place a booby trap on an alarm in order to take out any enemies that try to activate it.”

With the presentation coming to a close, it’s clear that Long is determined to go out with a bang by showcasing the game’s all-out action features. Selecting one of the many routes through the level, he leads his team towards a group of gargantuan rusting hulls, surrounded by pockets of enemies.

“There are a lot of different routes that you and your team can take through the levels,” says Long as he waits for a pair of North Korean soldiers to pass his hiding place. “The Artificial Intelligence is integral to this setup. It’s designed to react to you and your team regardless of where you are on the map. The A.I.’s communicate to each other, call for alarms and reinforcements, see you and hear you. Sometimes they’ll fight you, sometimes flank you, other times they might flee and regroup.”

As the ship-breaker’s yard is engulfed in a hail of lead, Long sends two of his men to flank the enemy soldiers, who instantly seek out cover. Short bursts of gunfire are exchanged, as each side preserves its limited supply of ammo. Enemies duck out from their hiding places, before diving back, but they’re soon overpowered with a few wellplaced grenades and a cunning flanking manoeuvre that they never see coming.

“We’re trying to give you a tactical shooter with tons of potential to play the way you want to play and we’re going to throw tons of curve-balls at you along the way,” says Long as the end of level cut-scene kicks in. In it, Marcinko and his team are left contemplating their predicament as the sheer extent of their task is revealed – the camera panning for miles over the North Korean countryside, over countless battlefields, all the way to the South Korean border and safety.

However, after its presentation, Rogue Warrior : Black Razor felt into obscurity and was briefly mentionned in the beginning of 2007. In 2008, Pete Hines told FiringSquad that the game was still in development without much more information, and on Spring 2009, Big Download wrote:

Big Download contacted Bethesda Softworks’ PR head Pete Hines who told us that a status report on Rogue Warrior will be made “in the next month or so.”

Currently up in the air is whether or not the game’s originally announced developer Zombie Studios is still working on the game

Few days later, Bethesda revealed the new version of the project, simply known as Rogue Warrior, with Rebellion Developments (Core Design, in fact) in charge. While interrogating by Shacknews about what happened during all those years, Pete Hines simply answered:

“Suffice it to say, we were not happy with what the direction of that project was. (…) We felt it needed a change in scope and a change in focus. And we felt that that was the focus that it needed. That the sort of squad-based, tactical–in a sense I guess it was turning into a bit of a Navy SEAL game, and it was less of a Richard Marcinko game.”

Without really knowing what was the development time for this new version, it should be noted that Core Design had just released Shellshock 2: Blood Trails in February 2009, less than 10 months before the release of Rogue Warrior. Unsurprisingly, Rogue Warrior was met with extremely negative reviews by the press, appeared to be one of the worst game ever made for the Xbox 360/Playstation 3 generation and was the last game of Core Design, which will close permanently on March 17, 2010.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the first game based on Richard Marcinko’s exploits to be created. Around 1998-1999, Yosemite Entertainment had also a similar game, named Navy SEALs, which was cancelled with the closure of the studio.

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The Boondock Saints : The Video Game [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

The Boondock Saints : The Video Game (sometimes referred as Boondock Saints : The Game) is a cancelled action cooperative shooter game developed by Critical Mass Interactive in 2012, for PC and Xbox 360, with a potential Playstation 3 version. It was based on the movies of the same name.

The game was first mentionned in February 2012 when cast members from the movies told to Joystiq that they would make a gaming announcement at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival 2012:

Joystiq has learned that cast members from the 1999 cult classic film The Boondock Saints will be making some manner of gaming announcement during the ScreenBurn Arcade portion of next month’s SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, TX. Now, whether that announcement is actually Boondock Saints related is anyone’s guess, but that seems like the logical conclusion.

Two days later, the project was officially announced by its developer, as we can read on Gamespot:

The Boondock Saints are making a comeback. Speaking to G4TV, Critical Mass Interactive president and CEO Matt Scibilia revealed that the studio is at work on a “full-on co-op shooter” based on the film for the Xbox 360 and PC.

A PlayStation 3 version of the game is possible, but not confirmed, according to the report.

Scibilia told the site that he wants Boondock Saints: The Game to ship to retail, but conceded that it is too early to tell, and the game may end up being released episodically through digital channels.

As for the story the game will tell, Scibilia said the developer is keen on “staying true to the content” of the film, but is also looking at “expanding the story.”

“The Boondock Saints characters are so strong. The banter, the relationships between Rocco and the brothers, the Catholicism, that will all be featured in the game,” Scibilia said.

Boondock Saints: The Game will be discussed by Critical Mass Interactive and the film’s actors at a South by Southwest (SXSW) panel on March 11, before a bigger reveal at the E3 2012, which runs June 5-7.

Following this, a short teaser was shown at the SXSW.

However, it was the last time that we heard of The Boondock Saints : The Video Game, as it was never showed at E3 2012 and totally disappeared after that. We can speculate that something went wrong during its development or that Critical Mass Interactive didn’t secure a publisher. It is currently hard to know if the game even reached a playable state.

It wasn’t the only cancelled game made by Critical Mass Interactive. In their beginning, the studio had planned to make a First-Person Shooter based on the comic-books franchise Sword of Dracula, dropped due to lack of publishers interested in the project. The company took the decision to focus on outsourcing during nearly an entire decade before trying again with The Boondock Saints. According to Matt Scibilia’s LinkedIn profile, studio went bust in August 2014.

If you know someone who worked on The Boondock Saints : The Video Game and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know! 

Sabotage 1943/Sabotage (Velvet Assassin) [PC, PS2, XBOX – Cancelled/Prototype]

Velvet Assassin is a stealth game released in 2009 for PC and Xbox 360, developed by Replay Studios (formerly Team Toro) and published by SouthPeak Games. The title takes place during the Second World War, where player take control of Violette Summer, a British spy in the service of MI6, attempting to thwart the Nazi war effort, operating behind enemy lines. The game’s story was inspired by the real-life secret agent/saboteur Violette Szabo.

But before being released in this form, the game had two other versions, during a hectic development spanning approximately from 2002 until its release in 2009.

Sabotage 1943

In February 2003, German studio Team Toro revealed its very first game, Sabotage 1943, a First-Person Shooter whose scenario and background were identical to Velvet Assassin. It is then planned for a release during the Winter of 2003/2004 on PC, Playstation 2 and Xbox, and the press release revealed some information:

“France 1943. Behind the façade of stability a secret, desperate, and cruel war of liberation has already begun. As a spy, saboteur, and partisan of the French resistance movement, the Résistance, you will also get involved in this fight.

The omnipresent enemy keeps everything under control and reacts on every kind of resistance in a barbarous and brutal way. An open military confrontation would be a lost cause.

Therefore, another way has to be found to fight the enemy. You conspire against the Nazis, operate underground, and pretend to be a harmless civilian. This way you can deceive and infiltrate the Nazis to strike secretly. But don’t fall in the hands of the Gestapo that even plants spies in the resistance groups…”

Engine Specs

3D tactical first-person shooter with the newest technologies offers extremely realistic game visuals. Dynamic real-time light and shadow effects perfectly reflect the sinister atmosphere of the background story.

Particle system makes the explosions look extremely realistic. Environmental effects, such as dust, rain and leaves, create a dark and gloomy atmosphere.

Flexible camera control and exact details of the game world even allow the player to peek through keyholes.

Game Features

22 levels will lead you through the cruel story, which is based on true historical facts.

Scenarios in authentic French theaters of war in 1943/44, such as Paris occupied by German forces.

Seven different characters with various specific attributes

Complex enemy AI with numerous surprising behavior patterns

Various clothing and uniforms allow the player to operate secretly in military areas behind the enemy lines.

Player’s behavior has a direct effect on the relationship between the population and the Résistance (betrayal, assistance, etc.)

By skillfully sneaking up on the enemy, soldiers can be overwhelmed and forced at gunpoint to open doors and reveal vital information

When under fire, the player can fake death by using the “Playing Dead Mode” to deceive the enemy

Shortly after, the developer showed a first trailer, then, a video preview from Gamestar in April of the same year was published.

Sabotage

However, after these revelations, the game felt into total obscurity and was not mentionned by its developer until May 2006, just after completing Crashday for Moon Byte Studios. Unsurprisingly, after almost 2 and a half years of absence, the project had undergone a complete overhaul. Simply renamed Sabotage, the title did not change context or main character, but took the form of a Third-Person Shooter, planned exclusively on PC for 2007 and published by Anaconda, the label of DTP Entertainment. It was presented at the E3 and Game Convention 2006 shows, and it was again Gamestar that released a video preview in November of the same year, notably showing several phases of gunfights.

Early 2007 should have been the release window for Sabotage, but it wasn’t. The title would reappear briefly during the Game Convention 2007 for a release now planned in Autumn 2008, where we learned that Gamecock Media Group took over the publishing rights.

Finally, in March 2008, new changes occured for this project, now named Velvet Assassin with an Xbox 360 version in addition, it would see its main character partially redesigned, as well as its HUD. The gunfights phases that we could see in Gamestar’s preview seem to have been mostly dropped in favor of a more tactical and stealth-oriented gameplay.

Velvet Assassin would finally see the light in Spring 2009, after experiencing an additional delay and a final change of publisher with SouthPeak Games, following the acquisition of Gamecock Media Group. The game received mixed to average critical reviews and Replay Studios filed for bankruptcy in August 2009, only 3 months after its release.

During these 7 years of existence, Replay Studios seemed to have a lot of difficulty in the development of its titles. In addition to the chaotic one for Sabotage 1943, the company also had Survivor in production, a title announced in October 2004. Crashday, only available on PC since 2006, should have been released in 2005, also on Playstation 2 and Xbox. At some point, we could even read on the now-defunct Replay Studios website this:

“Sabotage 1943 is a tactical shooter game in WWII. As allied elite agent Jason Turner you perform dangerous, top-secret guerilla and sabotaging activities which officially don’t exist behind enemy lines.”

Sabotage 1943 video:

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Amon Ra (Widescreen Games) [PS2 – Prototype]

Amon Ra is a cancelled adventure game developed by Widescreen Games around 2003, exclusively for the Playstation 2.

As we can read on the personal website of Franck Sauer, Widescreen Games had decided to mandate him and Yann Robert to work on this demo, just after the closure of their own company, Appeal Studios, following the cancellation of Outcast 2: The Lost Paradise and Tintin, using assets and technology previously created for those projects:

“After Appeal (our previous studio) went bankrupt (see Outcast II and Tintin stories) Yann and I kept working together on some work for hire while thinking about exactly what to do next.

During that time, Olivier Masclef who had been producer on Outcast came to us with an adventure game concept called Amon Ra. His studio (Widescreen Games) was busy on another production and he asked us to build an early prototype on Playstation 2 based on this concept.

As we had acquired the technology from Outcast II we had something to start with to quickly build the prototype. Yann started cleaning and enhancing the various unfinished technologies that would later serve as the basis for our FreshEngine.

To help me quickly edit the map, I used some refurbished assets from the defunct Outcast II and built some new stuff on top of it. My friend Francois-Xavier Melard worked on the character.

This was a short work of a couple weeks and after this prototype, the project never went further into development.”

Technology

“Some very advanced technologies for the time can be seen in action here (some of which were already implemented in the Outcast II prototype), such as realtime tesselation and vector displacement (water), radiosity and light probes (lighting of the character dependant on the environment, with light bouncing), soft shadows, dynamically rendered billboard (small vegetation), and pixel-occluded lens flares.

One of the amazing thing was the incredible amount of triangles the Playstation 2 was capable of pumping. Around 300k in a single frame, with the prototype running at 60 frames per seconds (…)”

Very few information are currently available regarding Amon Ra as it’s development cycle was pretty short. By the look of videos and concept arts, it seems the game was set in a world based on the Egyptian Mythology.

If you know someone else who worked on Amon Ra and could help us preserve more screenshots, footage or details, please let us know!

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Ghetto Golf (IllFonic) [PC, PS3, Xbox 360 – Cancelled]

Ghetto Golf is a cancelled action/sport hybrid game in development at Illfonic Ltd from 2008 to 2010 for the download platforms of PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. In this game, the player took the role of Vonte, a young guy trying to make a name for himself in an underground golf sport while fighting cops and rival gangs in the mean streets of Oakland.

The game was showed at the Game Developers Conference 2009 and MTV Multiplayer was able to see some gameplay:

Chuck Brungardt described the first game he’s ever developed — the one he was showing publishers and MTV Multiplayer behind closed doors last month in San Francisco — as “Happy Gilmore” meets “Friday.”

That’s a novel pitch. But may we propose a different description?

Try “Grand Theft Auto” meets “Tiger Woods PGA.”

“Ghetto Golf” has its roots in Oakland California where Raphael Saadiq, former star of 1990s R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! used to play golf on the streets, improvising golf holes with whatever he could find.

Decades later, Saadiq has his own Denver-based video game company, Illfonic, co-founded by his studio engineer, Brungardt. Their first project is “Ghetto Golf,” a planned downloadable game featuring a scrappy young guy named Vonte in the Bay Area who has to find and complete tricky holes of golf that are set in the wilds of the city — and in the line of fire of gangsters, cops and enemy golfers.

“We thought this idea would be cool,” Brungardt said as he and Illfonic’s lead designer, Kedhrin Gonzalez, ran through a build of the game made from a mod of “Unreal Tournament 3” in a meeting room in San Francisco last month.

One of the playable scenes they showed involved the hero Vonte needing to use his exploding golf ball to blow up a car that someone was ghost-riding. The player could sheath Vonte’s machine gun, flick past his spiked golf ball and his rubber golf ball to try his explosive golf ball and aim it with a swing at the car.

(…) Brungardt estimated that players would spend about half an hour looking for each golf hole before getting the course layout, the par, tackling the challenge and sinking their shots. He described the flow as “Zelda“-like: explore the terrain and talk to other characters in order to find the dungeon/golf-hole.

At last, a game that asks its hero to knock trick shots through dumpsters, off of exploding gas stations — and woe to the disapproving hoodlums in the neighborhood who would interfere with this display of sport. They get machine-gunned.

Vonte’s success in this sport of underground golf brings him from the mean streets of not-Oakland to nicer neighborhoods where cops and hippies are obstructions. The climactic level, of course, will take place in a nice country club by which time our ghetto golfer will have arrived.

“Ghetto Golf” has myriad influences. The golf controls involve a thumbstick back-and-forth swing, the aiming or arced trajectories and other trappings of golf games. The shooting is third-person “Gears of War“-style combat. A fat caddy gives you some missions. Your golf cart can be tricked out. Throw a spoiler on it. Your guns can be upgraded, “like in ‘Resident Evil 4,'” Brungardt pointed out. Drugs — they’ll have to change this — can be taken to slow down time for precision aiming and invincibility.

“Ghetto Golf” exists now as an “Unreal Tournament 3″ mod. Illfonic wants a publisher to support its development into a standalone downloadable game for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam.”

After this presentation, the game nevertheless fell into obscurity and was briefly mentioned at the beginning of 2010 before being cancelled around 2011-2012 according to XBLAFans while interviewing Kedhrin Gonzalez:

“Little information has been released thus far regarding Illfonic’s marriage between a 9 iron and a TEC-9, though the developer’s website had previously listed Ghetto Golf targeting Xbox Live Arcade in 2012. When XBLAFans spoke with Illfonic Creative Director and Co-Founder Kedhrin Gonzalez last year we learned that the developer had placed the title on hold in order to focus on another XBLA project, arena-shooter Nexuiz.”

“We actually first started with another project, Ghetto Golf, but had to put it on the backburner,” Gonzalez stated. “Instead, we decided to take a trip down nostalgia lane with an Arena FPS game.”

Despite a potential attempt to relaunch the project on next-gen platforms, Ghetto Golf was definitively canceled due to a lack of publishers interested in the game.

Today, Illfonic specializes in the development of asymmetrical multiplayer games using a few well-known film licenses such as Friday the 13th, Predator and Ghostbusters.

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