Racing

Aero-Cross (Metro-Cross 2) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Aero-Cross is a cancelled sequel to Namco’s classic Metro-Cross, a racing-platform game that was released in arcades in 1985. This new chapter planned PlayStation 3 Network and Xbox 360 Live Arcade was announced in 2011 and it would have been released for the “Namco Generations” series, conceived to modernize some of their classic titles, such as  Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and Galaga Legions DX.

Aero-Cross would have followed the same gameplay as the original, with players running in linear levels trying to avoid obstacles and collecting items (but this time in a sci-fi setting). In the end the project was officially cancelled in 2012 along with the other missing Namco Generations title: Dancing Eye HD. Luckily in this case a playable demo for Aero-Cross was found by Ganonthegreat on an old PS3 demo-disc, and shared online on Archive.org

Thanks to Ganonthegreat for the contribution!

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Ground Effect (Angel Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Ground Effect is a cancelled hovercraft racing game that was in development by Angel Studios (the modern Rockstar San Diego) around 1996 1997, planned to be published by Inscape for PC.

A short preview of the game was published in PC Powerplay magazine (issue 18):

“It’s about bloody time that there was a hovercraft racing sim out there for us to go crazy with. The whole idea of being propelled on a cushion air seems to have universal appeal. Not only that, but it makes a great kind of racing game too. Gone are the traditional and familiar physics of a road based racer, or even a straight water based racer, as the hovercraft is an interesting mode of transportation altogether. The development team spent a lot of time with hovercraft enthusiasts to get the feel of the thing just right. With 3D accelerator support, this is looking good.”

The game silently vanished after Inscape was acquired by Graphix Zone in early 1997. We can speculate Ground Effect was reconsidered by the new company as a niche racing game that would have not sold enough to spend more money on. Other lost games by Angel Studios are titles such as X-Girl, Sofa Kingdom, Shatterman and Buggy Boogie.

After releasing other games such as the Resident Evil 2 port for the N64, the Midtown Madness series, and Smuggler’s Run, Angel Studios was bought by Take-two in 2003 and renamed Rockstar San Diego. They then moved on to work on such popular titles as Red Dead Revolver, Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto V.

Thanks to Xanarki for the contribution! 

Radikal Bikers [Game Boy Color – Cancelled]

The original Radikal Bikers was a pizza-delivery racing game for Arcades, developed by Gaelco in 1998 and later converted to PlayStation in 1999. A Game Boy Color port was also in development by Bit Managers, but it the end it was never released. Some years ago a prototype of the cancelled GBC port was leaked online, so you can play it on your favorite emulator.

Gameplay is similar to the original arcade version, but using a top-down, isometric view. Players race in different cities trying to avoid cars to delivery pizza to their clients as soon as possible. As we can read from the original press-release:

“Jump on your scooter and take up the challenge. Through the busiest streets in the world you’ve got to avoid trucks, cars, police, obstacles and people in a pizza fuelled dash for glory. Take the challenge and race your way across Paris, London, New York and the true home of Pizza – Italy!

Featuring:

  • Classic Arkade Mode.
  • Radikal Mode.
  • 2 player dash for glory.
  • Numerous Characters and Scooters to suit your personal taste.
  • GET OUTTA MY WAY!
  • No speed limit. No seat belt. No air bag. No rules!”

A sequel to Radical Bikers was also in development by Gaelco, but also canned.

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Ion Runner [Cancelled – GameCube, PS2, Xbox, PC]

Ion Runner is a cancelled racing / on-rail shooter game that was in development around 20022003 by Attention to Detail, the team mostly known for such titles as Rollcage, Lego Racers 2 and Drome Racers. The project was planned to be released for GameCube, Playstation 2, Xbox and PC, but unfortunately the team did not find a publisher interested in supporting it.

Some details about this lost game was shared online by former developers, who started working on Ion Runner after the cancellation of Lego Racer 4:

“A more ambitious project, Lego Racers 4, was canned after substantial development effort. This was technically interesting as the design called for streaming of the entire game world from DVD, allowing much larger and more intricate play area than earlier Lego games, or most console titles at the time. The team involved went on to work on Ion Runner […]

Two complete levels of Ion Runner were programmed and demonstrated to many publishers, but there was no time to sign a deal before venture capitalists 3I pulled the plug on the company in August 2003.

Since then the demos have been seen by many in the industry who were surprised that the project was never finished – but the price, calculated to refloat the group as well as to cover the development costs, meant any deal on this new IP was hard to arrange.”

It seems the game initially started as a classic 3D racing – on rail shooter, in which players would drive their overbike through different levels while shooting down enemies. After a while the team toyed with a more open adventure-alike gameplay, possibly with HUB world to explore, NPCs to talk to and other action-adventure mechanics. As far as we know, not much was done on this version before the cancellation.

In the end with no more funds to keep the studio alive, Attention to Detail had to close down for liquidation:

“UK developer ATD (Attention to Detail) went into liquidation last Thursday, it has been revealed. While most of the country’s attention was directed at the ECTS trade show approximately 50 staff was laid off after a failure to sign the developer’s Ion Runner title.”

If you know someone who worked on the game and may have saved footage or more screenshots, please let us know!

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Stuntpigs [GameCube – Cancelled]

Stuntpigs is a cancelled arcade racing / adventure game that was in development by M4 Ltd (mostly known for Resident Evil Gaiden on GB) for Nintendo GameCube. Players would drive around the city to perform crazy stunts, collect bonuses and find the best way to show-off their stunt-driver skills. While the game was never officially announced, in 2014 some collectors found related documents in a M4 cd / dvd:

“Did you know stunts performed in Hollywood blockbuster movies are actually done by pigs? Of course you’ve never seen any Stuntpigs, but just occasionally if you look really closely you might just see a trotter or a curly tail pop into shot. Join the Stuntpigs and carve a stylish, precision timed path of mayhem and destruction through the most expensive movie sets ever built, establishing your crew as the top hogs of Hollywood. Your movie’s success is determined entirely through the extravagance of its stunts, the more stylish and closer your stunts are to near death experience the better the box office results.”

We can also read some details on Stuntpigs in an old article on the Hardcore Gaming 101 blog and in a page on NowGamer:

“Sadly no original M4 titles made it to the shelves. Bounty Hunter, Space Cadets and Stuntpigs were all games we really wanted to bring to market. The later two are still held by us in Stuntpigs Ltd a dormant company. Who knows maybe one day they will rise.”

“Bounty Hunter was in production when I joined M4 and it really was stunning. As for Stuntpigs – the best game never made. I think it was just ahead of its time… Space Cadets though, that was actually completed and it was a really good game. It was different though and it really worked best multi-player. It’s typical – generally publishers don’t like to risk money on original stuff, especially when there’s cartridges to pay for.”

“Kieron agrees: “Stuntpigs had frantic gameplay, some dark humour and loads of destruction. Way ahead of its time and beyond the scope of publishers  to realise. Shame!” Although the team disbanded it’s clear they had a lot of talent – Gaiden is testament to this – and it’s a shame M4 was never given a fair shot.”

As you can see from the available footage, the game somehow looked like a mix between Crazy Taxi and Simpsons’ Road Rage, with cartoony graphics and fun, arcadey gameplay. It could have been a nice addition to the GameCube library. We hope one day a former M4 developer could find a playable prototype from their lost game and share it online.

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