Around 2002 Namco wanted to reboot their Xevious series of shoot ‘em up, by creating a new 3D Xevious for Playstation 2. The team hired for this mission was Project Aces, the same people behind Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies and the following Ace Combat games. You can imagine this would have been the perfect team to develop a new Xevious, thanks to their great 3D engine and experience with Ace Combat.
Unfortunately it seems Namco considered this Xevious remake to be less profitable than a new Ace Combat. After creating an early prototype using Ace Combat 4 engine and a few Xevious 3D models, Project Aces was moved to develop Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War.
DeVargas is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Capcom Production Studio 8 for Playstation 2. The team is mostly known for their work on the Maximo series, Final Fight Revenge and Final Fight: Streetwise, but they also worked on some fascinating lost projects.
Studio 8 was full of talented devs and artists: after publishing Maximo 2 they started working on 3 interesting pitches: Maximo 3, DeVargas and Final Fight: Seven Sons (the unreleased FF planned before Final Fight: Streetwise). While for Maximo 3 and Final Fight: Seven Sons some footage and concept art were already preserved, DeVargas remained unseen until Trent Kaniuga (former Studio 8 artist) shared one image on Twitter:
We were able to gather some details about this canned project in 2015, while we were doing research for our book. Maximo 3 and DeVargas were in development using a similar code, so their early prototypes shared a few assets and models. While Maximo had a broader audience thanks to its character design, DeVargas was conceived as a more mature project, with a more realistic art-style.
The game setting was somehow similar to Assassin’s Creed. The main protagonist was a prisoner on ship and in the prototype you woke up in shackles. Your main objective was to escape using stealth: the boat interior was dark and the men on it had lanterns, so you could sneak up behind them and choke them with his chains.
This was just an early idea for the first level, but after it the game would open up, being more about exploration and melee combat. DeVargas was worked on for just 3 – 4 months before Keiji Inafune decided to cancel it.
In the end, only Final Fight: Streetwise was greenlighted by Capcom, but when released it failed to achieve mainstream success and it bombed in sales. Capcom decided to not invest in their California team anymore and sadly Production Studio 8 was closed down in 2006.
At the moment only a single concept art remains to preserve the existence of DeVargas, but you can keep an eye on Trent Kaniuga’s Twitter profile and Youtube Channel to see if he could find more in the future.
“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!