Five cancelled games that deserve another chance on PS4 and Xbox One
The game industry is in a different place than it was five years ago. The types of games that were considered impossible before are now possible, whether through impressive technology or developers willing to take more chances. With a booming indie scene and new consoles around the corner, that innovation might be even more exciting.
When looking forward, it’s hard to not also look back and imagine what some games would be like if they came out today. What about the ones that never came out at all? While the chances of any of the following games going back into development are slim-to-none, it’s exciting to consider how much better or more practical they would be today.
Starcraft: Ghost is quite possibly the definitive cancelled video game. Unless you ask Blizzard, who say the game was never truly cancelled. The concept is simple: cast players as a stealth assassin within the greater Starcraft warzones. As a Ghost, you’d infiltrate bases, sneak past guards, and even engage in hectic battles in vehicles that looked a lot like Halo.
Today I imagine Starcraft: Ghost as a very different game, and I hope Blizzard would too. Back when the game was in development it was clearly limited by hardware. The result looked like your typical stealth action game — sneaking around bases, sniping, watching guard patrols — it was Starcraft’s universe force-fed through what the stealth action genre was at the time.
Since then, we’ve had games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist successfully blend action and stealth within larger setpieces. MGS4 even introduced the concept of sneaking through a raging firefight, camouflaging within rubble, under gunfire, with soldiers fighting and dying all around you. That’s the kind of thing a modern Starcraft: Ghost seems destined to capture. New console and PC tech means Starcraft: Ghost could genuinely place players on the ground in the epic battles the RTS series is known for, sneaking through and changing the course of the fight without anyone ever knowing you were there.
Very little is known of this cancelled Dreamcast, PS2, and Gamecube game, but the concept alone sells it. You play as an art thief in what, at the time, was proposed to be one of the first non-violent stealth action games. The goal was to use gadgets and cunning to infiltrate museums and make off with expensive paintings. Unfortunately, the game never found a publisher and development studio Promethean Designs shut down.
Today we praise games where you play as a border patrol officer or a girl exploring her vacant house. Non-violent game concepts are welcome, and the kinds of interactions we enjoy are broader than ever. A stealth game without violence would still be a challenge to pull off, but we’ve seen enough Sam Fisher and Solid Snake adventures that it could be really refreshing.
Who knows, maybe the game could even teach players a thing or two about famous paintings. With real works, real museums, and real locales, a modern day attempt at an idea like Picassio could be like Assassin’s Creed for art history. It could also explore the intricacies of life as a full time art thief. There are a ton of cool possibilities.
Six Days in Fallujah
Games struggle to be taken seriously, and often with good reason. Great, tasteful game storytelling is a tough nut to crack and there are far more silly, immature games than serious, smart ones. As a result, when a game like Six Days in Fallujah came along, with its aspirations of immersing players in one of the Iraq War’s worst conflicts, it came under a ton of scrutiny.
After mainstream media got their eyes on the game, the sudden influx of negative press was enough to scare away publisher Konami and cost Atomic Studios their funding. After that the game was never technically cancelled, but it’s been a long time without any word on it.
The big vision for the game was that it was meant to capture the real horror and intensity of modern military combat. The developer even compared the game to Survival Horror and claimed that it had much more realistic pacing than the typical “always-at-eleven” military shooter.
What’s worse is that Medal of Honor (released in 2010), more or less managed to do the same thing by setting a shooter within real modern combat scenarios, and got away with it without any trouble. The sad thing being that MoH didn’t seem to have half the genuine aspiration behind it that Six Days did.
Today, I see no reason why this concept can’t have another chance. I only hope the final product would be as authentic as the developers intended.
When Steven Spielberg announced his plans to contribute to a video game, most people probably weren’t expecting anything like Boom Blox. LMNO, it seemed, was more his speed. The game had players taking on the role of a human aiding an alien creature and forging a bond. An AI partner hadn’t really been done right by that point, but now we've seen some of the best games rise above the painful escort mission. In a post-Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us world, LMNO starts to make a lot more sense.
Articles about the game painted a picture of a dynamic relationship, where the player and the alien were independent, but the alien was responsive to the player actions. For example, if you hang back a lot, or leave the alien to handle themselves, they may become more independently capable and less likely to look for your aid. The potential for an emotional bond, where you see your actions have a lasting effect on an AI character, sounds novel, even today.
This is Vegas
Like some kind of LMFAO simulator, This is Vegas aimed to make you the life of a party. You could enter a club, hit the dance floor, serve drinks, mingle, and eventually build a dead club into a choreographed dance number complete with laser light show. It looked absurd, but it also looked a lot different from your typical open world game.
The focus wasn’t on murdering a million cops, but on gambling, partying, and driving through a Vegas open world. Before it was canned, the developers called it a blend of GTA and The Sims.
While some of the game’s more immature moments probably wouldn’t swing today (wet t-shirt contest minigame anyone?), and its reliance on QTEs could be problematic, This is Vegas could easily be updated for modern tastes and still bring in a unique concept. It’s just too bad we’ll never see that happen. I would have liked to do a little dancing.
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