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Rare’s Cancelled “Casual Monster Hunter” [Xbox 360]

In the ‘90s Rare was one of the favorite developers for Nintendo fans, publishing such cult classic titles as Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, GoldenEye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie. When the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2002 many things changed. In 2010 Scott Henson became the new Rare studio manager and for a few of years they mostly worked on Kinect Sports, Kinect pitches and Xbox Live Avatars for Xbox 360. Unfortunately many of their original ideas for new games never seen the light of day.

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In march 2010 Rare opened a new facility at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham, where they had many talented artists working on concept art for new “casual” games to pitch to Microsoft.

“The new studio will be structured in a different way to most, however, and work more along the film production model in which teams scale up and down regularly according to the needs of projects being created.

Among the duties to be undertaken in Fazeley will be testing for Natal products – something which requires more space than traditional Xbox 360 games – while the decision is also part of a bid to stem the relentless increase of development costs over the years.

The process, which is similar in some ways to outsourcing, is labelled “insourcing” by Betteridge, and he cites past successes such as Xbox Live Avatars and the Sky link-up design as projects that were completed in this way.”

Even Chris Seavor worked at the Fazeley Studios as a graphic artist before breaking away from Rare:

“They set up an off-shoot studio in Fazeley. It was where the graphics went. Quite a few people didn’t want to make the move because it’s the centre of Birmingham as opposed to Twycross, which is a bit of a wrench. But I thought, I’m all right, I’ll go for that. So I did that for nearly a year. And I went back to doing graphics again. “

One of Rare’s lost “casual” projects conceived at the Fazeley Studios was some kind of “The Wonderful 101” meets “Monster Hunter” multiplayer adventure, in which players could work together to hunt down huge bosses. You would use you own Avatar as the playable character, dressed-up as superheroes or fantasy knights depending on the settings of the mission. This would have been a “casual” game, but with many epic battles and interesting ideas to hunt down bosses, such as your friends blocking a huge robot while you would try to turn off the switch on its back.

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Only some concept art from this lost project is currently preserved on Unseen64, to remember its existence. As far as we know this was never implemented into a playable prototype and could only have been one of the many undeveloped pitches proposed by the Rare team during their “Casual Gaming Years”.

If you know someone who worked at Rare’s Fazeley Studios, please let us know. We’d love to save more memories about their cancelled ideas.

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WET 2: Double Feature [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360]

The first Wet was a third person hack n’ slash shooter inspired by grindhouse / exploitation movies, developed by Artificial Mind & Movement (later renamed to Behaviour Interactive) and published by Bethesda Softworks for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009. As described on Wikipedia:

“Wet is an action game that combines shooting and swordplay with acrobatics and gore. The main character, Rubi, carries twin pistols and a sword (she can also carry dual shotguns, submachine guns, or crossbows), and can fire while jumping, sliding on her knees, and running on walls. In some sections of the game, Rubi’s face will get covered in blood and she will go into a murderous, berserker-like rage. These sections are presented in noir style, with bold red, black and white visuals.”

While the game received average reviews and sales, it became a cult-classic for fans of fun action games and grindhouse stories.

In late 2010 Behaviour Interactive officially announced Wet 2 during an interview:

“As part of today’s announcement that the developers of last year’s WET, Artificial Mind & Movement (A2M), would be changing their name to Behaviour, the independent studio has revealed plans to continue the story of Rubi Malone. No formats were discussed, but it is likely that the sequel will follow the original release onto the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.  When discussing the future of ‘triple-A’ productions from the studio in an interview with Develop Online, CEO Remi Racine stated; “I think the triple-A market has become very difficult for independents. I’m not saying we’re avoiding it – of course we’re making a triple-A game with WET 2. But it is a very difficult market. It’s very difficult to be successful with those kinds of games.”

Wet 2 would have follow the same gameplay and grindhouse style of the first game, with new missions and enemies to defeat. The team was able to create some concept art (using placeholder images and photos from popular movies), design documents and an early prototype for Wet 2, but after about a year of development the project was canned.

As noted by Behaviour Interactive’s CEO, around 2010 / 2011 the gaming market was quite difficult for small / medium developers. Many great companies had to closed down during those years and lots of promising games had to be cancelled. Wet 2 was one of these failed ideas: we can speculate it was cancelled for lack of funds or because they thought it would have not sold enough copies to justify its completion

Some images and early HUD tests created for Wet 2 were found online by fans of the original game, and are preserved in the gallery below to remind the existence of this lost project.

After some years working on tien-in games and less successful projects, in the last few years Behaviour Interactive were able to work on such popular games as Fallout Shelter, Dead by Daylight and Star Citizen.

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The Sandman (Silicon Knights) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

The Sandman is a cancelled third person shooter / action game once in development at Silicon Knights around 2009. While the game was never officially announced by the company and we don’t have any details about its story and gameplay, by looking and the remaining concept art preserved in the gallery below we can speculate the main character was somehow able to control some kind of “dark matter”. This power would form different objects and demons around the protagonist, with an effect similar to sand flying around him. This is probably the reason for the “Sandman” name and as far as we know the game was not related to the omonimous Vertigo comic in any way.

The world found out about this lost game because of some old resumes, leaked concept art and a disastrous legal case. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“On May 2012 Epic Games defeated Silicon Knights‘ lawsuit (opened in July 2007) and won its counter-suit for $4.45 million on grounds of copyright infringement. Silicon Knights was directed by the court to destroy all game code derived from Unreal Engine 3 and to permit Epic Games access to the company’s servers and other devices to ensure these items have been removed. In addition, the studio was instructed to recall and destroy all unsold retail copies of games built with Unreal Engine 3 code, including Too Human, X-Men Destiny, The Sandman, The Box / Ritualyst, and Siren in the Maelstrom.”

Some more details on the fall of Silicon Knights were published on Kotaku in October 2012. On May 2014, following the loss of the court case, Silicon Knights filed for bankruptcy. As far as we know, every The Sandman file had to be deleted, so it could already have been lost forever. As Epic Games had access to Silicon Knights’ server, someone may have saved parts of their cancelled games. We can only hope one day someone may be able to share more screenshots, footage or details from these projects.

If you know someone who worked on The Sandman and may help us to save something more from the game, please let us know.

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BioTech: Liberator [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

BioTech: Liberator is a cancelled first person action game in development around 1998 by australian studio Beam Software (AKA Infogrames / Atari Melbourne House and Krome Studios Melbourne), planned to be published on Playstation and PC. Previously the same studio developed and released KKND2: Krossfire for PC and Playstation.

BioTech: Liberator was quite original for its time, with players using morphing mechs / vehicles to resolve different missions in a strange gameplay mix between “Soviet Strike”, “Blast Corps” and Lemmings. Some details about the project can be found in an old press-release:

“You’re stuck in a steaming alien jungle with nothing but your own sweat for company. The enemy has a lock on your position and they’re rapidly closing in. Your shields are down to 14%, you’ve got just two guided missiles left in your BioTech Assault Tank, and if you stay put you’re dead meat. So, what are you going to do? Panic and start crying? Or do you get a little creative… ?

In BioTech: Liberator you take control of a single combat vehicle, but one capable of morphing into widely differing forms, providing you’re carrying the relevant Transform Pod to make the change. Each form has its own unique abilities and weapons and since you’re up against an entire planet of warmongering nasties, you’ll be needing them all if you want to get out of there in one piece.

It’s partly about blowing the enemy into gooey, bite-sized chunks, but it’s also about using the different forms of the biotech vehicle to the best effect – transformations are limited. Much as we hate to use other games as a point of reference, think Soviet StrikeTM meets Blast CorpsTM, with just a pinch of LemmingsTM. In short, a killer mix of strategic problem solving, white-knuckled action and hefty explosions!

Key Features are:

  • A wide range of unique and awesome weapons, a deadly enemy and fiendish puzzles to solve
  • Fully deformable true 3D landscape – if you don’t like the way something looks, blow it up!
  • Multiple 2 player modes. Choose from Deathmatch, Conquer and Chase variations
  • Support for force feedback devices

Some more details were found in a Russian website, featuring a few screenshots taken from an unknown magazine:

The game consists of at least 30 missions (20 standard, 5 bonus and a few secret ones), which often require not only shooting, but also finding items, saving hostages, capturing enemy bases, and much more.

BioTech: Liberator was planned to be released in 1999, but the same year the studio was sold to Infogrames. It’s possible that Infogrames decided to cancel the game to switch resources on more safe and profitable projects, as GP 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

If you know someone who worked on this lost game, please let us know!

Thanks to Visurox & Edward Kirk for the contribution!

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Incursion (Argonaut Games) [PC – Cancelled]

Incursion is a cancelled squad-based action game that was in development by Argonaut Games in late ‘90, possibly planned to be released on PC. While many other lost games by Argonaut were widely known, a few ones such as Kanaan and Incursion remained forgotten for many years. Argonaut is mostly remembered today as the studio behind such classic games as Starglider, Star Fox and Croc, but between the late ‘90s and early ‘00s they fell into obscurity, until their closure in 2004.

Incursion started development after the cancellation of Kanaan, by the same team. As it happened with Kanaan there are not many details about the game, but only a few small, pre-rendered images. Players would have used a squad of robots, to fight against other robots and aliens squads in different missions.

From what we can see from these images it seems Incursion would have been a real-time action / strategy game, in which players would give commands to their robot-allies while playing as one of them in third or first person view. The team attempted a 3D cell-shaded graphic style for their game, that looked quite awesome for its time.

After Incursion was canned, part of the team left Argonaut to form Pompom games. We tried to get in contact with a few developers who worked on Incursion, but with no luck. Only a few images are preserved below, to preserve the existence of this lost Argonaut project.

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