Sierra

Captives (Impressions, Sierra) [PC – Cancelled]

Captives is a cancelled real-time strategy / puzzle / adventure game, with an interesting gameplay somehow similar to a mix between Lemmings, Choplifter, Lost Vikings and Blast Corps. The game was in development by Impressions Games (mostly known for such games as Caesar, Global Domination, Pharaoh) around 1996 – 1997, to be published on PC by Sierra Entertainment.

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Next Generation magazine wrote a nice preview of the game in their May 1997 issue, but even if Impressions and Sierra are still quite loved by PC gamers, today Captives is mostly forgotten by everyone. Only a few pages about the game can still be found online in some old websites and Sierra fansites.

“It could be argued that the action/puzzle genre, which took off with the publication of Lemmings in the early ’90s, has languished since the advent of real- time strategy games like Warcraft II and Command & Conquer. Now developer Impressions is trying to remedy that with Captives, a new spin on the formula. The game takes place in a far-off planetary colony, under attack by some decidedly unfriendly aliens, who have taken numerous hostages.

The player takes the role of Dak Ransome, a professional hostage rescuer, who enters the domed city in his combination rescue wagon and tank. Gameplay resembles a  combination of elements from Lemmings and the classic Apple II game Choplifter.

The main idea is to locate a group of hostages, free them using the firepower of the tank, and then use the skills of the rescued captives to open up new areas and free additional prisoners. The four types of captives are civilians, engineers, scientists, and soldiers; only a limited number of each can be found in each of the game’s 25 to 30 levels. The developers are quick to point out, however, that like in Lemmings, many levels will have multiple solutions.

The most noticeable break from the tried and true is the use of a three-quarter, isometric perspective, as opposed to the side-scrolling, 2D which has been the norm, even for such recent action/puzzle releases as Lost Vikings II. While not yet fully 3D, the perspective still manages to open up the playfield considerably, giving a sense of scale and size often missing from the more simplified graphics of a Lemmings or Humans.

Overall, the game should  combine a fast pace with humor and an easy-to-use interface. Multiplayer support is planned, and a level editor should be released sometime shortly after the game itself hits the shelves. With its high-res graphics and new approach, Captives could fill a niche the computer game industry hasn’t really seen in a while.”

It sounds like this could have became a fun and fascinating cult-classic, but unfortunately something went wrong during development: Captives was never released. By looking at the screenshots and short trailer available, it looks like the game was quite far in development: maybe one day someone could find a playable beta to share it to the world? It would be great to preserve this lost piece of PC gaming history.

Thanks to Moritz for the contribution!

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Crash Tag Team Racing [Beta – PS2 / XBOX / GameCube / PSP]

Crash Tag Team Racing is a racing game developed by Radical Entertainment and  published in 2005 by Sierra Entertainment for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox and PSP. A beta E3 demo of Crash Tag Team Racing was shared online by ePiX in april 2012 and Stranno posted an interesting comparison between the final version and the beta.

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CRY.SYS [PC – Cancelled]

Cry.Sys is a cancelled action game that was in development in 1995 by Sierra, not related in any way with Crysis by Crytek. In Cry.Sys we would have took the role of a virtual reality robot, to fight against other mechs to save the last girl on the planet, trapped in this weird cyberspace. Sierra planned to have an editing feature to create our own robot and an online multiplayer mode. For some reasons the project was never finished and only a short preview from NextGeneration magazine issue 12 and a CG trailer remain to preserve its existence.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!

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Babylon 5: Into the Fire [PC – Cancelled]

Babylon 5: Into the Fire is a cancelled space combat simulation that was in development by Yosemite Entertainment, an internal division of Sierra FX / Entertainment, based on the cult TV series. The main story would have been placed after the war against the Shadows, but an in-game simulator was supposed to allow fights against their ships, as well.  As we can read in Wikipedia, work on this game ended on September 21, 1999, when, as part of a corporate reorganization, Sierra cancelled it and laid off its development staff when the Babylon 5 was only a few months away from release.

The game was going to let players to pilot of a Starfury fighter craft, giving the opportunity to “move up through the ranks,” and eventually take command of capital ships and even fleets. Christopher Franke composed and recorded new music for the game, and live action footage was filmed with the primary actors from the series.

In the old Babylon 5 website we can still read some more info about the project:

What ships can we fly?

In the single-player game you’ll be flying for the Earth Alliance. That means that your primary ships will be the Starfury and the Thunderbolt. The Minbari Nial, the Centauri Sentri, the Narn Frazi and the Drazi Sky Serpent fighters will be available in multiplayer mode. The Whitestar may also be added as a special case ship.

Will this game be multiplayer?

From day one, the game has been designed with a robust multiplayer mode. B5’s mulitplayer mode has been shown at 1999’s E3, Gencon and a few other events where gamers have been able to test the multiplayer demo.

Thanks to Brackynews and derboo for the contributions! (scans from from PowerPlay 7/1998 and PowerPlay 9/1999)

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SWAT: Urban Justice [PC – Cancelled]

SWAT: Urban Justice is a cancelled strategy FPS that would have been the 4th title in the SWAT series of real-time tactical games. Urban Justice was in development by Sierra in 2001 / 2002, but something went wrong, the game was postponed and soon vanished without an explanation. In 2004 Vivendi Universal / Sierra announced a new SWAT project, the official SWAT 4 developed by Irrational Games and published in 2005. As we can read on Gamespot:

According to a carefully parsed statement from a VU spokesperson, work on Urban Justice has been “discontinued” in favor of SWAT 4’s development. However, the same spokesman stressed that SWAT 4 is both a different game and a true sequel, so it will retain the series’ gameplay elements, albeit in a refined form.

In the released SWAT 4, they did leave an ester egg that refers to the unreleased Urban Justice (Info from IMDB):

In the mission “Victory Imports Auto Garage”, there is an arcade game in the waiting room called “SWAT: Urban Justice”. This is a company in-joke; Urban Justice was supposed to be Sierra/Vivendi’s follow up to SWAT 3: Close Quarter Battle (1999), and they began advertising the game as “Coming Soon” in 2002 with a view to releasing later in the year. However, after a spending long time (to the order of years) in development purgatory, Urban Justice was cancelled by Vivendi

Thanks to discworld for the contribution!

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