Survival Horror

Necroscope [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Necroscope is a cancelled psychological survival horror that was in development in 2002 / 2003 by Mobius Entertainment for Xbox and Playstation 2. The studio was mostly know for a series of ports and tie-in for GBA and Nescroscope would have been one of their first projects for home consoles. The game would have let players to investigate the world using extra-sensory perception and supernatural powers, as possessing other characters and monsters. It seems that gameplay would have been a mix between a detective adventure (L.A. Noire), horror sections against monsters (Silent Hill), while using special abilities to interact with the environment and resolve puzzles (Second Sight, Psi-Ops). As wrote by Edge Magazine (issue 117) in Necroscope we would have played as a “unique blend of a Jedi Knight and James Bond“.

The story and characters of the game were based on Brian Lumley’s series of sci-fi horror novels, a setting that would have offered a complex plot to unveil and an original way to interact with spirits:

“The term necroscope, as defined in the series, describes someone who can communicate with the dead (coined Deadspeak later in the series). Unlike necromancers, who here extract the knowledge they seek by brutal eviscerations of corpses, a necroscope can communicate with them as equals: peacefully and without any physical interference.”

In 2004 Mobius Entertainment was acquired by Rockstar Games (for which they already developed the GBA conversion of Max Payne in 2003) becoming Rockstar Leeds. After the buyout, home consoles games that were in development by Mobius (Necroscope and Titanium Angels) were canned and the studio focused their resources on creating portable games for PSP.  As we can read in an interview by Ross Sillifant with Dan Hunter (former Lead Artist and Game Designer at Mobius):

Ross: Talking of canned games, Necroscope,previewed in Edge for PS2 and Xbox, described as a cocktail of jedi mind tricks and sophisticated espionage, this was to be Mobius Entertainment’s 1st crack at a survival horror title. From the 4 screens shown, the game engine looked superb, very much inspired by Silent Hill, but it didn’t appear gameplay was as far along as the visuals at this point (Dec’2002). Game was set for a Q4 2003 release, so again, any insights as to what became of it, would be fantastic.

Dan: Necroscope suffered similar issues to Titanium Angels. You’re correct, the game was to be a survival horror game, set in late 70’s, early 80’s, London. Think Silent Hill mixed with the TV show ‘The Professionals’. I loved the concept and setting. I spent a huge amount of time “researching”, watching boxsets of The Professionals, The Sweeny, and films like ‘Who Dares Wins’ (‘The Final Option’ in the U.S). I’d say that actually the gameplay was further along than Titanium Angels ever was. Unfortunately the same pattern emerged, the play style changed over time. Where at one point there was to be little to no gun play or violence, with the vibe firmly set on exploration and playing detective, it slowing changing into shooting and snapping necks from behind cover. For me that was a real shame, I think it had the potential to be something different. There weren’t many people doing a spin on the horror genre, especially something set in the 70’s-80’s (this was pre Vice City). I still think about what it could have been, and I’m a little bummed to think it never happened. The other issue was that it was being developed without a publisher, so therefore wasn’t bringing in any money. Other games were, so naturally that was the focus. ‘Sound of Thunder’ was one, but the main one was ‘Max Payne’. Mobius was tasked with doing the Gameboy Advance version. As people may know, after that Rockstar bought Mobius Entertainment and renamed it Rockstar Leeds. I had left during the development of Necroscope and before the Rockstar buy out, so I can’t give the precise reason for its cancellation, but it’s clear to me that a small horror game set in 70’s London based on a series of books isn’t part of Rockstar’s bigger plans.

Thanks to Ross Sillifant for the contribution! Article translated in Russian thanks to Sergey Tyutin!

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Legions of Fear (La Toile du Diable) [Cancelled – PS2, PC]

La Toile du Diable (“Devil Canvas” in english) was a PC tech demo created by Delphine Software (DSI) in 2002 in order to show to publishers the technical and gameplay features of a planned PC / PS2 adventure game called Legions of Fear. According to ex-delphine employee Paul Cuisset, Sony was interested in the project, but they wanted Delphine to finish Moto Racer Traffic first (which, ironically, got cancelled too). Unfortunately, Delphine was already going bankrupt at the time, and consequently Legions of Fear was quietly dropped shortly after.

The game was supposed to be set during the first World War, with the main characters being a sister (Helena) and her brother. The story began when the heroine got lost and entered the mysterious Wildcastle Manor. Inside the mansion she discovered that the deceased Anton Wildcastle had apparently promised Helena’s soul to his “masters”.

As seen from the videos below, Legions of Fear was a mix between a survival horror and a point & click adventure: during the action sequences we directly controlled the protagonist and fought enemies in pre-rendered backgrounds. When indoors in order to find clues it was necessary to interact with the environments by using a mouse or – in in case of the Ps2 version – the controller buttons.

Thanks to Thierry Levastre, La Toile du Diable’s lead animator, for the contribution!

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Kurayami (Suda51) [Cancelled Pitch – PS3]

Kurayami is a cancelled psychological / horror game that was pitched by Grasshopper Manufacture as a PS3 exclusive and originally announced in Edge Magazine issue 162, in May 2006. Being inspired by Franz Kafka novels (a writer known for his stories about alienation, physical and psychological paranoia), in Kurayami players would had to explore a mysterious european castle (that we can relate to Kafka’s The Castle) and the near village filled with creepy inhabitants, using the light from his torch to resolve puzzles and move through the darkness. Light and darkness would have been a central theme in the game, similarly to what happens in Alan Wake (announced in 2005 but released in 2010), in Kurayami the protagonist would have been safer in lit areas while dangers would have been lurking in the darkness.

kurayami-suda51-ps3-cancelled-kafka-project

Talking about this concept, Goichi Suda said:

“When I considered the visuals, I immediately thought of darkness, and I imagined a hero within this night, with a light that would in a way symbolise his life. That became the core concept of Kurayami: literally, ‘darkness’ (in Japanese). […] It’s not about some hideous monsters or evil creatures coming out of the darkness, but playing on our natural fears of the dark, and the uneasiness that comes from the absence of noise and life. […] “Kurayami’s ideas are not about violence or eroticism, but fundamental problems in the human mind, which may find some conflict with the rating system. […] Though I expect the rating level to be quite high for Kurayami, I also expect the PS3 to be mainly purchased and used by an adult audience. I’m making a game for an adult audience, one that shows what life is and what being human is.”

Players would have had to pay attention to the townsfolk too, as the game would have been ambiguous about their intentions and personality:

“It shows how people change when faced with their fears – in a way, you could see a little bit of what Japan, or the world, is like in this town.”

While there are no in-game screenshots available (only the concept arts that you can see in the gallery below) it’s know that Kurayami would have used a cell-shading style focused on the contrast between colors and black, evolving the 3D engine Grasshopper already used in Killer7. From what was said by Suda during an interview with Joystiq in 2009 it seems that the game never entered into a prototype form:

“It’s not even in development right now. We aren’t even really working on it. We’ve just been talking about it, but there hasn’t been time to work on it. Actually it was really just for Edge. The artwork was just something we submitted them. We’re not working on this project yet. They had some special coverage about Grasshopper and we talked a little bit about Kurayami, and so we gave them some artwork.”

Originally Suda51 told to Edge that they wanted to make Kurayami appealing to more people than their precedent games, saying that “The challenge now is to go beyond simple recognition, and transform our original games into a mainstream success”. Only a year later Grasshopper released No More Heroes for the Wii and it became their most successful games until that point. While Kurayami sounded like a dark, introspective and uneasing experience with european inspired environment and characters, No More Heroes was an explosion of over-the-top action, japanese fanservice and quirky personas.

This could have been the reason why Kurayami was quietly cancelled: in the next few years the team was busy developing Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen (Wii, 2008, a new chapter in the popular Fatal Frame / Project Zero series) and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle (Wii, 2010), supporting Nintendo’s motion-controlled console and finding a new market for their projects.

While Kurayami was never released, its main concept of light and darkness was reused for another Grasshopper Manufacture title: Shadows of the Damned. SotD was a much more linear, over-the-top horror / action game than what Kurayami appeared to be, and even if the released project is a good one, unfortunately there’s no trace of Kafka influences anymore.

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Dino Crisis [GameBoy Color – Cancelled]

Dino Crisis [GameBoy Color – Cancelled]

The original Dino Crisis was a widely popular survival horror (marketed as survival panic) game developed by Capcom and released on the original PlayStation in 1999. It was created by the same team that made the first Resident Evil game and contained many of the same tense elements but focused on more of an action feel.

A portable version of Dino Crisis was being developed for the Gameboy Color by British studio M4 Ltd, who had released Tasmanian Devil: Munching Madness and were due to release Jerry McGrath Supercross 2000.  M4 stated that the game would not be complete until Q4 of 2000 but development had started early in the year, this was reported by IGN who spoke to the developers. M4 said that Dino Crisis for the GBC would be a top down adventure rather than how the original was, it would also be developed exclusively for the GBC by-passing any kind of black and white compatibility. Virgin interactive handled development for Capcom in the UK and so they were handling this game, there was no word on where it would be released. M4 Ltd version of Dino Crisis GBC was never released, but they developed top-down Resident Evil Gaiden, published by Capcom in 2001.

It seems that this unreleased version of Dino Crisis was used as a base to develop the released Resident Evil Gaiden. As we can read at NowGamer:

As I recall, we produced a very impressive demo for a GBC version of Dino Crisis. Resident Evil was already in development as an over-ambitious port from the PlayStation version. This was scrapped and Capcom asked us to do a bespoke game with our Dino Crisis engine.

Capcom had requested Virgin for a Dino Crisis demo, Virgin asked us to create it. It used the exploration mode and [similar] battle system as Gaiden would use.

It was playable. The dino sprites in exploration mode were large. I have entire backups of everything from M4, absolutely everything, but I’m in Brazil and the backups are in the UK.

This is not the only version of a GBC Dino Crisis that can be found on the web though, as on two separate Spanish websites Vandal and Dino Crisis Wiki the game was reported to be being developed by a different studio. This other cancelled game was said to be being developed by the now missing Fluid Studios another British developer who released games such as Top Gun: Firestorm (GB) and Army Men: Air Combat (GB and N64). This was also said to be being developed late 1999 early 2000, for the GBC.

There are a few more details for this version of the game though: it would not be a top down adventure but rather using static backgrounds and images accompanied by text sequences. Some presumed screenshots from Fluid Studios’ Dino Crisis seem to have been leaked online too, but we don’t know their source. These sites also report that the game was to be 7 maps with 100 rooms in total. There were to be four characters in the game Regina, Rick, Gail and Dr Kirk all who appeared in the original game on the PlayStation. Also it was said that there was going to be five types of dinosaur two unspecified with the others being the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor and Pteranodon.

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Update: While this article was being uploaded to the site I have been looking through documents that were released (you can find the design doc online) regarding the game that was in development by Fluid Studios. In this document it is revealed that what Fluid actually wanted to produce was a scaled down version of the original Dino Crisis, they wanted to keep all the original maps, plot-lines, dinosaurs and the look and feel of the original. This is quite a bold statement as the original was on the PlayStation 1 which is a more powerful system. Fluid were worried about the restrictive nature of the GBC especially in regards to the sprite size and how they would recreate the dinosaurs.

The story had a very brief background written about it, there was to be an undercover agent (Regina who had infiltrated the compound and was trying to capture Dr. Kirk and take him back to her government agency. Fluid also intended to have different game modes for this and it was said that they would have bonus missions if you had completed the game. This was said to contain three missions in which the player would have to kill a set amount of dinosaurs in a certain period of time.  

The Evil Within [Beta Differences]

The Evil Within (AKA Psycho Break in Japan) is a survival horror developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda Softworks for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC in 2014. As we can read from Wikipedia, work on The Evil Within started in late 2010 under the codename “Project Zwei” by Shinji Mikami, but the game was officially announced to the public only in 2013 and most of its beta elements were never shown.

Yousef was still able to notice some differences in the early trailers from the game, as the one below: from 8:11 you can see some beta gameplay, a different inventory and 2 unused (?) weapons, a knife and a mine trap.