Video game history is littered with titles that never quite made release, but it’s not only smaller projects and new IPs that have had projects cancelled and work left in the dust. Many Star Wars fans have mourned the loss of Star Wars: 1313, whilst Sledgehammer Games had a third-person Call of Duty game cancelled.
However, some projects can receive a second lease on life. Nosgoth, Psyonix’s free-to-play multiplayer title, was originally the multiplayer mode for the unreleased Legacy of Kain: Dark Sun.
Certain developers have been lucky enough to be given another chance to use their ideas and prototypes with major tweaks. In fact, sometimes a well-loved game can have an unrecognizable first version. Here’s a rundown of some of the games that had major changes along the way.
Devil May Cry
The flamboyant hack and slash series Devil May Cry has become one of Capcom’s most well-loved franchises. The over-the-top action, vibrant graphics and larger-than-life characters all help make Dante’s demon-hunting quests some of the most enjoyable gaming experiences around. However, were it not for a serious bout of development hell, Devil May Cry may have never existed.
As it goes, Capcom was having severe trouble with Resident Evil 4. The survival horror sequel was causing lots of problems behind the scenes, with prototype after prototype being deemed not quite right. Capcom created one early version of Resident Evil 4 that was seen as too action-focused by the developer. However, the prototype had too much potential to simply be scrapped. Instead, the go-ahead was given to develop a new IP, with the property seeing release as Devil May Cry.
Doom is one of the most influential video games of all time. Although id Software did not create the first person shooter genre, its ultra-violent demon-hunting title certainly brought immense innovation to the fledgling game style and made it a staple of the PC gaming library. There’s a reason why other FPS games were referred to as ‘Doom clones’ for many years afterwards.
However, Doom itself could have ended up an entirely different beast. According to Doom guru John Romero, id Software was initially trying to create a licensed Alien FPS. Rather than Doom’s nightmarish supernatural beasts, players would instead have faced off against Giger’s Xenomorphs. However, negotiations stopped at the last minute after id Software decided they wanted more creative control. John Carmack then simply asked “what if we did the same thing, except with hellspawn instead of Aliens?” The result was a huge part of video gaming history.
Franchises will often try to branch out from the genre they are known for. Super Mario has taken up go-kart racing and golf, Resident Evil has tried its hand at online co-op play and even on-rails shooters, whilst Metroid took the leap to FPS with great aplomb with its Metroid Prime series. Unfortunately, not all genre shifts are successful.
This was the case with Time Crisis Adventure. Envisaged as a way to take players off the rails and into a more open environment, Time Crisis Adventure was pitched to Namco by developer Darkworks in 2003. Unfortunately, Namco then dropped the title one year later. Darkworks persevered, though, and Time Crisis Adventure found new life. The game was picked up by publisher Ubisoft and took a survival horror turn. It was resurrected as Cold Fear for the original Xbox and Playstation 2, and received mixed reviews upon release.
Factor 5 had a long and troubled history with Star Wars titles. The developer had helped create the memorable Rogue Squadron series, but in a frank interview Julian Eggebrecht, former president of Factor 5, explained that all-too often prototypes and early drafts of games were scrapped. In one instance, the developer was tasked with creating an Xbox 360 exclusive called Star Wars Rogue Squadron: X-Wing Versus Tie Fighter.
The project was another to be cancelled by LucasArts, but Factor 5 took the project to Sony as a PS3 launch title, who asked them to adapt the game into a new IP making use of the PS3 controller’s Sixaxis. The result was the dragon-riding air combat title Lair. Unfortunately, Lair did not live up to the expectations set of it. The game was a critical and commercial flop, leaving fans wondering about what might have been if X-Wing versus Tie Fighter had been given the go ahead.
As far as GTA alternatives go, it’s hard to go wrong with Sleeping Dogs. The story of an undercover cop taking on the Triads in Hong Kong, the open world actioner gained plenty of fans upon its release, and has a MMO sequel on the way in the form of Triad Wars. However, the GTA comparisons go back much further than the 2012 title.
The title was initially meant as a follow-up to the True Crime series of games, and would have been titled True Crime: Hong Kong. Previous titles True Crime: Streets of LA and True Crime: New York City were released in 2003 and 2005 respectively to fairly positive critical receptions but middling sales. True Crime: Hong Kong, however, was cancelled by Activision Blizzard due to delays and budget problems. Square Enix then bought the publishing rights but not the rights to the True Crime series itself, making Sleeping Dogs a spiritual successor to the franchise.