The Big One is a cancelled action adventure / open world sandbox game that was in development by Melbourne House for the Playstation 2 in 2004 / 2005. After releasing Transformers on the PS2, the same team got started working on Transformers 2, but after only a few months this sequel was canned: Atari was starting to go through its financial troubles, and as a result they sold the Transformers license back to Hasbro to gain some money.
As we can read on Wiki News, Bruno Bonnell, then-head of Infogrames/Atari, had an a idea for a game that involved natural disasters and aliens having weapons that could cause earthquakes. The project was given to Melbourne House to make, that started to brainstorm different game designs and gameplay around natural disasters, while the art team went ahead and built ‘look-and-feel’ concept arts for destructed environments. This new game was going to be based on the great Transformers 3D engine, so the coders started updating it where necessary.
After some thoughs, they decided that the game would have followed a number of different characters in the aftermath of “The Big One”, the biggest earthquake to hit San Francisco. Similar to Raw Danger / Disaster Report 2, players would have been able to do different tasks depending on the character (one of which was a firefighter, as seen in the video below) and then the available area would open up and allow to freely explore the city (in a “Prince of Persia Sands of Time” style. to climb in and out of broken buildings) and to help more people (or leave them to die).
Melbourne House had an idea for a “karma system” based on the good / bad actions of the players and their interactions with the NPCs, but they did not have enough time to finish its design before the cancellation. The Big One would have included physics puzzles (for example you had to use crates and rocks to stabilise a tettering bus before rescuing the driver) and heavy use of fire, water and destruction-related effects (smoke, debris, etc).
The game had potential, but sadly only an early prototype was done and the apartment level seen in the video below was just a tech / art demo that had gameplay forced on it for demonstration purpose. When Atari’s Eden studio was working on Test Drive Unlimited for the Xbox 360 launch, Atari decided that to offset the risk of the launch title, they would have Melbourne House port TDU to PS2 and PSP, instead than to keep working on a tricky project as The Big One. TBO was cancelled and TDU PS2/PSP was the last game from Melbourne House before they were bought out by Krome Studios in 2006.
Thanks to TN for the contribution!