FPS

Black Death (Darkworks) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Black Death is a cancelled FPS / Survival Horror game somehow similar to Condemned and Dead Island, in development by Darkworks around 2011. Darkworks was an independent French studio not widely known by the average gamer, but they released a couple of fan favorite games as Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (Playstation, Dreamcast and PC) and Cold Fear (PS2, PC and Xbox). Black Death was announced in June 2011, as the team tried to get attention from publishers to find money and resources to fully develop their idea. This was the last project they tried to pitch before closing down after a series of unfortunate failed projects, such as their Onechanbara reboot, State of Crisis and The Deep.

After Ubisoft took away I Am Alive from Darkworks in 2008 to complete it under Ubisoft Shanghai, the team worked on many different prototypes. We can assume at the time the team tough that shooters were the most marketable genre to be greenlighted by publishers, so they conceived a few ones (such as Black Death) with interesting / original features.

Some more details about Black Death were published in the (now removed) official website:

What is Black Death? Black Death is a new survival horror from Darkworks. Black Death is the personification of the fear generated by the recent pandemics and the mistrust which has been associated to their supposed origins (natural apocalypse, scientific, industrial, or military ones… or else… ).  Our goal with Black Death is to go one step further by focusing the game on three essential elements: speed, fluidity and freedom of action, to offer the player a sensation of freedom and the possibility to create his own arsenal.

Pitch: Today, The  American North East coast, a city is suddenly hit by a massive cloud of smoke. Mysterious swirls of this black smoke appear and infect everybody. This new disease is spreading all over the city making it a place full of sick people sunk into a comatose state. As they mutate into strange creatures with various powers and group behaviours, they start to become violent and invade the whole city. The player is a survivor who will try to stay alive and wipe out this scourge from the city.

Gameplay Experience: THE FOG PLAYS WITH YOU, PLAY WITH THE FOG
Survive in the fog
Be Creative: Create your own chemical weapons and test them on your enemies
Cure or kill infected you meet and choose your fighting strategy
Spectacular: Have fun discovering a unique bestiary, and experiment with multiple weapons and devices
Fight: Fast action, it’s difficult to kill, you must finish on contact
Control the fog
Discover the black death evolution

A playable demo / prototype for Black Death was also released in July 2011, but it failed to gain much interest from gamers and publishers. With no more money to keep working on their projects, in October 2011 the studio was placed into Compulsory liquidation and was closed. In about 15 years of activity, Darkworks were able to successfully complete and release only 2 games, while all their other projects were either cancelled or moved to different developers. There are already a good number of interesting lost Darkworks games in the Unseen64 archive, but many more still remain unseen and even if we tried multiple times to get in contact with people that worked at the studio, it seems almost impossible to know more about what happened to them or to their cancelled games.

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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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Dark Matter: The Baryon Project [PC, Xbox 360, PS3 – Cancelled]

Dark Matter: The Baryon Project is a cancelled sci-fi shooter RPG that was in development by Pixelcage, planned to be released for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. The project was quite ambitious for a rather small and obscure team, promising to offer both on-foot first-person shooting and third person spacecraft combat.

In their old – now closed – website, we can read they wanted to create a vast universe in which to freely fly around, inspired by such games as “TIE-Fighter” and “Freespace”. You would fight in space against huge spacecrafts planned to be up to 100 km (62 miles) in size – something that would be considered a massive open-world even by today’s standards (SKYRIM’s world is about 5 km wide), gigantic spaceships-worlds in which you could also break-in to continue attacking your enemies on foot.

“When playing such games in the past, I always wondered how it would be to just ram one of that bigger vessels and just “clear the bridge manually”. With today’s hardware capabilities, we now do a swing on it. – Marco Sobol, former Pixelcage developer”

If this was not enough to hype up the project, they also wrote about “graphic details up to a grade of millimeters!”, “experience speeds of up to 3000 km/h!”, “have a million polygons on your screen – in realtime!” and “can you handle hundreds of enemies?”. For sure the team had big dreams for their first project.

Thanks to an old interview with Pixelcage by Gengamers, we can read that work for the game began in 2003 with a core team of only 7 people, with plans to expand the studio to more than 40 people when they would finally find a publisher.

“Dark Matter is a first person shooter/ space shooter with some RPG elements, such as an inventory and improving skills, but without the flaws of pondering about tables and character sheets. It will feel much like a common FPS when it comes to game controls and speed, but comes with hours of dynamic scripted scenes, a non-linear storyline and state-of-the-art sound effects and music.”

Not only gameplay and huge environments would have been quite ambitious for its time, Dark Matter: The Baryon Project was also planned to have a open-ended storyline with different endings. Pixelcage wanted to have several playable characters appearing in the game and time travelling would have played an important role, featuring morphing aliens and fierce “time warriors”.

If such an immense game like this was not complex enough to develop, the team also wanted to add online multiplayer:

“We will put much efforts in the multiplayer part. There will be several deathmatch and teamplay modes, we even plan to include a mode in which you can play the single player campaign together with your friends. This is generally possible because there is more than one prime character in the game.”

It’s easy to see how Pixelcage were a passionate team with many ambitious ideas for their project, but unfortunately it seems they never found a publisher interested in funding it. In the end they had to abandon Dark Matter: The Baryon Project to work on other, simpler games such as Switchfire (published in 2006) and Jekyll & Hyde (2010), before to close down the studio.

If you know someone who worked on this game and could help us to preserve more screens, videos and details, please let us know!

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Deadline (Kando Games) [PS2, Wii – Cancelled]

Deadline is a cancelled game that was in development by Kando Games, initially for Playstation 2 as an action game inspired by Metal Gear Solid and later for Wii as a FPS inspired by Half Life 2. The team was founded in 2003 by former Darkworks developers, and in about 5 years of existence they released Rebel Raiders: Operation Nighthawk (Wii, PS2, PC) and Touch Mechanic (DS).

deadline kando games ps2 cancelled

Deadline was one of the first projects they ever pitched to publishers in 2003 / 2004, by looking at the few screenshots available you can see how it was heavily inspired by MGS. It’s unclear if they ever found a publisher interested in the game (translated from French using Google Translator):

“Kando Games, a small french developer founded notably by former figures Darkworks (Alone in the Dark – The New Nightmare), simultaneously produces two titles for PlayStation 2. Deadline, which its authors hope to make one of the big surprises of E3 2004, is the largest project under construction. What’s wrong tunes Metal Gear Solid do not cheat, Deadline will be a very different kind. Based on the staging increasingly cinematic games today Kando Games hopes to offer players a relatively unique experience in organizing the handling of the title with a script and a set of modular cameras, which would not yet not threaten maneuverability, through a process they jealously kept secret for the moment. Basically, the game is truly a film (by virtue of its scenes and framing) playable. Hopefully they will take their goals and to come back in that capacity in a few months for a more successful and practical concept so special.”

As far as we know Deadline for PS2 was never shown at E3 2004 and was later cancelled. Kando Game’s first released game was then Rebel Raiders in 2006 and only in late 2007 Deadline reappeared again, this time as a first person shooter announced for Wii.

Unfortunately Kando Games only released a few tiny screenshots for the Wii version of Deadline, but by looking at those gamers noticed it was quite similar to Half Life 2. Deadline Wii also vanished soon after its initial announcement and was never shown again before its cancellation.

As of November 2017 Kando Games’ website is still online, listing Deadline, another cancelled Wii project titled “Symphonic Orchestra” and an unreleased flying combat sim for PS2 and PC titled “Les Chevaliers du Ciel”. Their latest game was published almost 9 years ago, so we can assume the studio doesn’t exist anymore or they only work as support for other companies. We tried to get in contact with former Kando Games developers but without luck.

If you know someone who worked on Deadline and could help to preserve more screenshots or videos, please let us know!

Thanks to Dan for the contribution!

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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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