It was all the way back at E3 2011 when Ubisoft unveiled an announcement trailer for Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 , an over-the-top entry in the WWII-era shooter series from Gearbox Software, having returned to prominence among hardcore gamers thanks to their smash success Borderlands series.
Yet it is now 2014, and the developer has yet to unleash the game’s action upon willing shooter audiences. Now that Gearbox is laying out its plans for the next generation of their franchises, some insights have been offered into the spot still held by Furious 4, as well as the Brothers in Arms banner it no longer carries.
When Gearbox first unveiled the trailer, it showed that the darkly comic tone of Borderlands was something the studio was going to be adopting for more than just their post-apocalyptic new IP. Furious 4 followed the likes of Chok, a tomahawk-wielding Native American, the Texas gunslinger Crockett, the electrocuting Stitch, and the lumbering Montana as they unleashed justice upon the Nazi ranks of 1944 Europe.
The comparisons between Furious 4 and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds were immediate, and concerns were raised over just how far the tone and humor were straying from the Brothers in Arms fiction – a franchise fans are still hungry to see more of.
Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford – always one for candid comments – pulled no punches, explaining to Polygon that after plenty of internal discussion, the studio came to the same conclusion as many fans: Furious 4 just wasn’t right for Brothers in Arms. However, those who felt that might not be a bad thing don’t need to worry; what was shown years ago is just the tip of the iceberg by now:
“We love the game design loop, and we didn’t think that the game design loop was the perfect fit for the Brothers in Arms brand, so we let those guys go nuts with game design… Wherever that leads you, don’t worry about the franchise. It morphed into something that’s completely unrecognizable. So at some point we’ll talk about that.
“The team and the software and the design elements, all of that – I think it’s probably best, at this stage, to not even… to just assume that the idea of what Brothers in Arms: Furious Four was, that doesn’t exist… “We let the game evolve into something totally different. It’ll be a brand new IP. It’s become a whole new game, which we’ll announce when we’re ready.”
Hopefully those announcements will come soon, but given the amount of time that has passed since the game was projected to release, Gearbox is clearly in no rush. And if Furious 4 is something of a priority for Gearbox – with Pitchford pointing to Homeworld, Tales From the Borderlands and Game of Thrones as future areas of development to worry about – then a next-gen announcement could come before long.
But that leaves the other question: does this mean that any chance to see the Brothers in Arms series revitalized, and an end to the story of Staff Sgt. Matt Baker of the 101st Airborne altogether? Pitchford explains that just because Furious 4 wasn’t a proper sequel, it doesn’t mean the developers don’t have hope:
“I think what we kinda decided was, Brothers in Arms deserves a true Brothers in Arms game, and so we’ve been… We haven’t announced anything, but we’ve been working in that regard for a while in sort of secret… I don’t know if I would say secret. It’s really just like, this is how ideas form. You have people that care about things, and you let things incubate and cultivate.
“At some point we’ll hopefully get to a stage where we feel good about being able to say, we’re going to bring another authentic Brothers in Arms game. Here’s what it is. We haven’t made such a statement yet. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where that becomes a good decision.”
What do you make of Gearbox’s plans? Are you happy to see Brothers in Arms keep its more faithful, historical tone? Or did the initial announcement of Furious 4 get you excited to see the series head a new direction? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.