FPS

Hired Guns (Devil’s Thumb, VR-1) [PC – Cancelled]

The original Hired Guns was a First Person sci-fi tactical RPG developed by DMA Design (the team that created GTA and later became Rockstar North) and published in 1993 by Psygnosis for Amiga and PC. Hired Guns was quite ambitious for its time, players were able to use 4 different characters at the same time, each one had their own view and the game was played using a 4 windows split screen, also allowing up to 4 players to play together in coop.

The team behind this “reboot” of Hired Guns was Devil’s Thumb Entertainment, a small DMA division started in 1995 by David Jones and led by Tony Harman. Only a year later Devil’s Thumb was cut off from DMA and became an independent studio, working on Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone (released in 1998 for Nintendo 64) and Tides of War (released on PC in 1999). Sometime between the release of these two games, Devil’s Thumb also pitched this new Hired Guns to Psygnosis, that soon greenlighted the project to be developed using Unreal engine.

As recalled by a former Devil’s Thumb member who worked on the game:

“All of our levels had a maximum on-screen limit of 80 polygons using the old Unreal 1 engine.  Our art direction was to use a lot of color, since the first person shooter at the time was Quake and it was very brown.  Our marketing was going to include:  “There are millions of colors, we used them all…. except brown.”

A few previews for Hired Guns were published back in the day by Gamestop and IGN:

“Whereas most shooters are pretty simple run and gun affairs, Hired Guns is a complex game of tactics and teammates, more along the lines of X-COM Alliance or System Shock 2 than a Quake or Unreal. “

“Here’s the basic story. In the not so distant future, those who could afford it left the now poisoned Earth to travel to different off-world colonies that had been established by three different corporations. The first colony was in the Luyten system 10.8 light years from Earth and was reached by the mammoth Tesseract Corporation using a brand-new interstellar drive. Later colonies were started not only by Tesseract, but by the Betelov and Grenworld Corporations as well. With these new colonies in place, humans began to flourish again with huge new stores of resources to tap and trade. Sadly, human nature began to kick in and the three companies began fighting over consumer wealth and loyalty.”

“In the beginning of these battles, war was fought more or less in the conventional fashion, with huge armies taking each other on in space and on the colonies, wiping each other (and often the colonies) out in the process. As colonies wised up and began to create their own militias and as the corporations began to loose the ability to fund huge armies, they started to hire small mercenary groups to commit acts of espionage and sabotage for them. It was during this time that the Hired Guns, a crack team led by a man named Kircher appeared. Considered by some to be the finest data espionage agents ever assembled and by others to be absolutely insane, this ruthless group started to play each of the companies against the others in an attempt to bring themselves massive profit and power.”

“Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you’re currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you’re not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its health goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.”

“Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-soldier with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the berzerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.”

In 2000 VR-1 Entertainment acquired Devil’s Thumb, while at the same time Psygnosis decided to leave the PC market to focus their resources on Playstation games. It’s not clear which company owned the Hired Guns IP, but unfortunately without its original publisher and with a new studio management the game had to be canned.

It seems Hired Guns was almost finished when cancelled, there’s even a leaked beta that you can download and play to check out what it could have been.This beta is labeled as a “pre-production version” and it includes all the levels, characters and weapons planned for the final game.

Thanks to Harri for the contribution!

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Heartland (Homeland) [PSP – Cancelled]

Heartland (originally titled “Homeland” in its early stage) is a cancelled FPS in development by Incognito Entertainment / SCEA, planned to be released on the PSP. The project was conceived by David Jaffe as a mature shooter focused on making players thinking about their decisions and the consequences of war, with political themes related to George W. Bush’s administration and their “war on terror”.

Jaffe wanted to arouse players’ emotional reactions with a strong setting and series of dramatic events, which would have been directly affected by their choices during the game. A couple of examples of these difficult / morally ambiguous decisions would be to “blow up a bridge, stranding the townspeople, but preventing the ground assault” and “obey or disobey the order to douse an innocent family and their house with gasoline, and set them on fire”.

Heartland was meant to be a metaphor of the real US invasion of Iraq in 2003, with North American being the invaded country by a foreign army. The game was to be set in “heartland” of the US in an alternate history in which China invaded America. The main protagonist was a soldier debating whether to stay in the army and fight for America or go AWOL to find his family.  As revealed by Jaffe in a few articles on 1UP and Escapist:

“On one hand, it was supposed to be emotional, we wanted players who are sensitive types like myself – that cry at Hallmark commercials – we were hoping that those types would actually cry, and that other players would still feel something that came close to an emotional response.”

“We were trying to put in a lot of gameplay that would evoke emotion. You had sequences where you’d go into homes and your commanding officer would tell you to shoot innocent Chinese-Americans. It was very dark and was meant to cause players to consider what it’s like to live in America and be an American today.”

“It wasn’t supposed to make you hate the Bush Administration so much as, as a layperson political junkie, it was supposed to put into light – using games as a medium – all the things I didn’t like about the Bush Administration.”

The team planned to use many different and original ways to unfold Heartland’s story and its themes, for example by letting players to find a tape they could watch: initially one would see the execution of a Chinese soldier, but by rewinding the tape you could discover older footage with the soldier’s family during a vacation at Disneyland.

The Incognito team was full of talented developers and after their experience on the PSP with Twisted Metal: Head-On they were planning on making a full 1st person shooter experience to “create the definitive shooter for the PlayStation Portable.”

You can imagine Heartland’s gameplay as an open ended FPS, with several objectives in each area and many different ways to resolve them. It was meant to be more similar to a “Deus Ex” set in a contemporary american settings than another “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield”. As said by Jaffe “I was really excited about creating this almost homage to Deus Ex.” On his old blog Jaffe wrote:

“HEARTLAND: Was going to be a return to more old school, opened up single player (and co-op) Goldeneye/Doom II style level design. Plus a little Deus Ex thrown in, in terms of multiple solves, as much emergence as we could intentionally create (not the mention the happy surprises)”

 

Unfortunately Heartland would never seen the light of day: the team worked on the project for about 6 or 8 months, creating concept art, 3D models and an early engine running on the PSP, before most of them were moved to the Warhawk team to help finishing the game. As more and more people left the Heartland team, they thought to cut some parts (such as the planned multiplayer mode), but in the end with less than 10 people available it was clear they did not have enough resources to fulfill their original concept. For Sony Warhawk was a much more important project to complete and it had the priority over an ambitious PSP game.

With such a small team David Jaffe and Scott Campbell left Heartland behind and decided to start a most suitable project, which later became “Calling all Cars“, released for Playstation Store in May 2007. In mid 2007 Incognito was splitting to create two new studios: Eat Sleep Play lead by Scott Campbell and David Jaffe – which later created Twisted Metal (2012) – and Lightbox Interactive lead by Dylan Jobe – which later created Starhawk (2012).

Unfortunately we still did not save any image from Heartland (the ones you see in this article are from random videos related to the chinese army), we got in contact with a few former developers who worked on the game but they did not have any screenshot or concept art anymore. If you know someone else who worked on this lost game, please let us know!

LiZboa [Cancelled – PC]

LiZboa is a cancelled game that was in developed between 2009 and 2011 by Portuguese team Vectrlab, who wanted to create the first portuguese horror FPS, taking place in a post-apocalyptic Lisbon filled with zombies.

Being developed for PC and Mac, LiZboa would place the player in the role of a survivor of a pandemic disease that would transform Lisbon in the Ground Zero of a worldwide zombie-apocalypse. All of the action would happen in the most famous places of the Portuguese capital, such as Alfama, Graça, Baixa, Avenida da Liberdade, among others. In order to raise money for development, the game was supposed to have in-game advertising, product placement and a crowdfunding campaign was also planned.

Vectrlab were inspired by movies like 28 Days Later, Evil Dead, I am Legend and Dawn of the Dead, other than games like Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil 1 and 2.  LiZboa was shown to the public for the first time at Motelx 2009 (Lisbon International Horror Film Festival) and in December of the same year, it was also shown at the 3rd Ignite Portugal, where Tiago Loureiro (Vectrlab CEO and Executive Producer) did a presentation of the game, explaining the concept behind te project, their marketing and how they planned to raise funds for development.

In 2010 a new partnership with Blueshark Studios was announced: this Portuguese company with a long history of outsourcing work for videogames, would provide concept art for LiZboa. In May another partnership with “Bad Behavioud” (a studio focused on horror movies), to – quoting Ângelo Fernandes – “expand LiZboa’s universe so as to give it a [more] cinematographic experience”.

At Motelx 2010 a playable demo / vertical slice (created in about  1 year of development) was available for the first time. Vectrlab had finally some defined concepts for their game (such as the main story arch, characters and their motivation, settings, etc.) and they could finally show this playable section of the game set in Sao Jorge Castle.

Despite all their efforts and the promotion of their game, Tiago Loureiro now recognizes that at the time LiZboa was too ambitious for their small start-up company. The project ended up being cancelled, after failing to secure funds with their crowdfunding campaign, without any investors interested in their in-game advertising or product placement. It was not possible to continue the project with just their own money.

Article by Jump/Error, original version in Portuguese on the Videogame PT Blog!

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Deprived (Diesel Games) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PC]

Deprived is a cancelled first person horror game that was in development by Diesel Games in 2007 / 2009, planned to be released for PC and Xbox 360. The game was conceived as a collaboration with GenAudio to showcase their “4D sound technology” known as AstoundSound.

As far as the settings and gameplay promised, Deprived could have been similar to Condemned: Criminal Origins – another first-person horror game developed by Monolith Productions and released in November 2005 on the Xbox 360.

Audio would have been a key element in the game, taking advantage of the AstoundSound technology to “models how the brain perceives sound from all directions (including above and below the listener)”. As Deprived was conceived as an horror game we can assume that this kind of high-level audio would have highly improved players’ immersion in its fearful world.

“AstoundSound uses enhanced 3D sound technology software, we call 4D, built on over a decade of research and development into how the human brain perceives sound. “

In the end – even if Deprived was never released as a full game – an audio demo with the same name and settings was released by GenAudio on their official website:

“We’re thrilled to present Deprived, a special technology demo from Astound Holdings. Set in a creepy, abandoned prison building, the demo provides the perfect setting for you to experience a rich soundscape powered by AstoundSound 3D RTI spatial audio technology. You’ll hear game audio like never before!”

Before to close down without any official statement, Diesel Games were also working on another cancelled game only known as “Project Tesla”. If you worked on these lost games and could help to preserve more details and media, please let us know!

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Alien Fear (Rage) [Beta – PS3, Xbox 360]

Alien Fear is a FPS that was announced in September 2010, initially to be developed by Farm51 and to be published by CITY Interactive. In February 2011, CITY Interactive was displeased by the work done by Farm51 and moved the project to one of their related companies based in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

Farm51 responded that they still had rights over the work done so far on the game, so CITY Interactive reworked Alien Fear to change some of the previous work, and planned to released the game on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. In the late summer of 2012, CITY Interactive restructured was renamed to CI Games. At the time that CI Games took control of Alien Fear, Farm 51 reported that the game was 75 percent ready but it is unclear exactly how much was playable.

There are screenshots available of both versions of Alien Fear: the game as designed by Farm51 and the later game that was reworked by CITY Interactive/CI Games. Screenshots from the first half of 2011 reveal that Alien Fear utilized a point system similar to the one used in Bulletstorm and was using the Unreal 3 engine.

The game’s location was set on a ship in deep space. At this point, Alien Fear was similar in tone to the 2008 game Dead Space with many dark corners populated by monstrous aliens. Others who have viewed these early screenshots of Alien Fear compared the game to Doom and Alien. The reworked version of Alien Fear by City Interactive/CI Games used less of an horror setting with larger and more mechanical oriented characters, somehow similar to Gears of War.

In May 2013, Alien Fear was reworked again due to another commitments by the time and title was changed into Alien Rage. The director credited to the game is Mark Lambert Bristol. The game marked Bristol’s first director credit on a video game and Bristol would also direct Enemy Front in 2014. Alien Rage was released on the PC on September 24, 2013, and later on the Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 in October 2013. The game received mixed to negative reviews with many critics focusing on the game’s generic play and glitches.

After Alien Fear, Farm51 began work on several new projects, including a FPS mixing the Bourne Identity and Gothic and another FPS with an Indiana Jones atmosphere. Farm 51 would ultimately create two games for the Xbox 360/Playstation 3: Painkiller: Hell & Damnation and Deadfall Adventures. Work on the Gothic based game likely ended up in Painkiller where the player fights demons, while the Indiana Jones game became Deadfall Adventures which is set in the universe of Alan Quartermain, a 19th century novel and series of films from the 1980’s about an archeologist adventurer.

Article by Blake Lynch, thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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