The first Fighting Force was developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive for PlayStation and PC in 1997, the same year in which they released Tomb Raider 2. Core Design was at the vertex of their popularity, becoming one of the most recognized teams in the gaming market, their Tomb Raider franchise was a money-making machine.
Fighting Force was nothing compared to the caliber of Tomb Raider, it was conceived as a simple 3D incarnation of the classic beat ‘em up formula. Players had to fight their way through different levels punching and kicking enemies, either in single player or coop multiplayer, choosing between 4 different characters: Hawk Manson, Ben “Smasher” Jackson, Mace Daniels and Alana McKendricks. Being one of the first quite-fun-to-play beat ‘em ups in 3D, the game had a good number of fans, and Eidos probably spent quite a lot of money at the time to promote it in gaming magazines.
It’s interesting to notice that initially Core Design tried to pitch their Fighting Force concept to Sega, to make it a new 3D chapter in the Streets of Rage series, as an exclusive game for their Saturn console. In the end Sega and Core had different views and expectations for Streets of Rage 3D and broke their collaboration: Core continued to work on their game with a new IP and the Saturn version was never officially published. In November 2008 a prototype of Fighting Force for Saturn was found and preserved online: the game still had its early title “Judgement Force” and some differences from the final version.
Fighting Force was popular enough to get a sequel in late 1999 for PlayStation and Dreamcast. Fighting Force 2 was kind of different from the original game, as Core Design decided to change it from a linear beat ‘em up to a more action adventure, mission based type of gameplay, coop multiplayer was removed and there was only 1 playable character, Hawk Manson. Fighting Force 2 was not a great success, with low scores and sales. This was the sad end of the Fighting Force series, but a third, unreleased chapter was planned, even if never officially announced.
Fighting Force 3 was in development by Core Design between 2002 and 2003, to be released for PlayStation 2, Xbox and maybe even on Gamecube. This time the team went back to their roots with classic beat ‘em up gameplay, fully playable coop mode and 4 different characters to choose from: Hawk, Mace and Smasher, returning from the first game, and a new one, Jill. Gamers would have been able to fight their way through many different levels, using punch-kick combos, weapons and interacting with the environment. The environment could be used in many ways, such as, breaking down a water tube to use it as a mace, impaling enemies on iron bars, throwing them under moving trains or against barrels on fire to burn them.
The team was able to create a good number of fully playable stages, available in single player and coop, but the project would have still needed about 1 year of development before it would be finished. Unfortunately Fighting Force 3’s development was halted in late 2003 / early 2004, mostly because of complex issues between Core Design and Eidos Interactive (its parent company at the time).
In mid-2003 Core released Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness for PS2 and it received low ratings from magazines reviews and fans. Eidos decided then to move the Tomb Raider series from Core Design to Crystal Dynamics. Unsure of their future and seeing their most popular franchise being taken away, at the end of 2003 many key members from Core decided to leave to find a new job, and some of them formed a new studio together (Circle Studio).
The remaining Fighting Force 3 team lost most of their will to continue working on the game for Eidos, development slowed down and Core found themselves with lack of people to finish the game. After a year of re-organization, in 2005 Core Design was able to release a new game for PSP (Smart Bomb) that unfortunately was also a big failure for the company. While they were working on a new project, Free Running, Core Design was sold from Eidos to Rebellion Developments Ltd.
After a few years working as an internal team for Rebellion, the studio was officially closed down by them in 2010. Eidos was not immune to the economic crisis either and after many years of losses in early 2009 all of their properties, assets and IPs were sold to Square Enix. It’s currently unknown if we’ll ever see another Fighting Force game in the future, but it’s possible that S-E have quietly forgotten about this long-lost series.
A little tech demo from the project was found at fairlyfanatic.com and a single screenshot was found on polygonworlds.wordpress.com. More memories and footage from Fighting Force 3 were saved thanks to former developers. Thanks a lot to Hey Hey and Gh0stblade for the contributions!