It’s an oft-repeated fact that, in the realm of cinema, decent sequels are almost non-existent. Exceptions such as Aliens and The Godfather: Part II aside, most movie sequels are little more than warmed-over imitations of whatever came before it.
In the case of videogames, the reverse is often true, with many sequels actually building on the brilliance of their predecessors. Great though Super Mario Bros was, most gamers would surely agree that Super Mario World was even better. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is another example of a game that took an existing premise, and both polished and expanded it to almost mirror-like perfection.
Sadly, not every game is given the opportunity to develop in the way that, say, the Call Of Duty or Super Mario franchises have.
Earlier this week, we learned of the depressing news that UK studio Black Rock’s planned sequel to the brilliant, underrated arcade racer Split/Second had been cancelled, and that the jobs of around 100 members of the developer’s staff were in jeopardy.
Had it been completed, Split/Second 2 could have been absolutely stunning – the original was one of the very best racers of its type to come out of last year’s crowded release line-up, and the fact that it failed to sell in significant numbers had far more to do with poor timing and marketing than the quality of the game itself.
Even if the Split/Second sequel had offered little more than a refined version of the original – which, as we described it in our review last July, was “an arcade racer that takes place in the mind of Jeremy Clarkson” – it would have remained very near the top of our videogame shopping list.
Unfortunately, Split/Second 2 is but one potentially fantastic videogame that, for one reason or another, will never see the light of day. Here, we lament 10 other games that won’t be appearing on a screen near you soon.
Mirror’s Edge 2
The problems with EA DICE’s Mirror’s Edge were legion, but strip away the frankly horrible shooting mechanics (which players were actively discouraged from using in any case), brief campaign length and hideously designed cut-scenes, and you were left with a refreshingly original first-person platformer.
Sprinting across rooftops, leaping chasms and climbing scaffolding felt precise and exhilarating, partially thanks to the excellent control system, but also thanks to the game’s uncluttered level and HUD design.
Given the opportunity, a second Mirror’s Edge could have fixed some of the first game’s issues, and in spite of modest sales of around three million copies, it was suggested in October 2008 that DICE would indeed be creating one or two follow-ups.
Unfortunately, a prototype of what would have been Mirror’s Edge 2 was rejected by EA’s quality control earlier this year, so it appears that the possibility of a trilogy of first-person Parkour games has taken a running jump.
The Getaway 3
2002’s The Getaway was a flawed yet often thrilling London-based third-person action game full of driving, shooting and swearing. Comparisons with the Grand Theft Auto series were inevitable, but Team Soho’s sandbox gangster fable had enough narrative spark and amoral gunplay to justify its existence, and the sprawling city of London was depicted with about as much detail as you could have expected from the PS2.
The less said about the sequel, The Getaway: Black Monday, the better. Failing to fix the control issues of the original, and somehow adding further technical issues to the mix, The Getaway felt like a game that had been rushed for release.
There were hopes, though, that a third Getaway could harness the power of the PlayStation 3, and with a bit of polish and the requisite development time, could deliver a sequel that improved on the original. Aside from a tech demo in 2005, however, little was seen of The Getaway 3, and by the summer of 2008, it was widely reported that the production was dead. Oddly, the title has never been officially cancelled, but with Team Soho (now known as London Studio) now concentrating on SingStar and EyePet sequels, the sudden appearance of The Getaway 3 is looking increasingly unlikely.
Star Fox 2
The original Star Fox, I seem to recall, was so expensive that players everywhere were forced to sell vital bodily organs in order to be able to afford it. The graphics accelerator chip inside the cartridge may have bumped up its price, but the end results were quite startling for the time. Sure, it was little more than an Afterburner-style rail shooter beneath the pretty 3D polygon graphics, but it was still one of the most fun and exciting blasters of the early 90s.
In spite of the success of Star Fox, the planned sequel was never released. Due to appear in 1995, production on Star Fox 2 reached an advanced stage before Nintendo abruptly pulled the plug – according to programmer Dylan Cuthbert, the project was halted due to the Super Nintendo’s successor, the N64.
Ironically, that console was repeatedly delayed, and didn’t actually appear until the summer of 1996 in Japan, and spring 1997 in Europe, meaning that Nintendo could probably have finished and released Star Fox 2 alongside other last-gasp SNES titles like Yoshi’s Island and Harvest Moon.
It’s fair to say that most 3D Sonic games are far from brilliant, but we still wonder whether the shelved Sonic X-treme would have been a rare exception. Originally developed for the Mega Drive, the title was shifted to the Sega 32X and then the Saturn.
While still a platformer at heart, Sonic X-treme would have featured a distinctive and frankly weird fish-eye lens look, which made it look as though Sonic was sprinting or leaping around a colossal sphere, and may well have made players feel like they’d imbibed a large quantity of Belgian lager.
The resulting game may well have been a disaster, but the little we’ve seen of Sonic X-treme leaves us wondering if maybe, just maybe, this particular 3D outing would have been worth playing. Sadly, the game remained in development hell for at least two years before being put out of its misery in 1997, leaving the Sega Saturn without a valuable flagship Sonic title.
True Crime: Hong Kong
Like the Getaway games, the True Crime series was perpetually overshadowed by the bigger-budget (and better made) behemoth that is the Grand Theft Auto franchise.
Planned as a reboot for the series of third-person crime capers, True Crime: Hong Kong had a reasonable shot at reviving the flagging franchise’s fortunes, and was even described as “2011’s most polished open-world” by Computer And Video Games last year.
It must have been dreadful news for developer United Front, then, when Activision halted development on the game earlier this year. Worse still, the game was all-but finished – “True Crime: Hong Kong was playable from start to finish and virtually complete in terms of content before Activision canned it” the developer lamented.
The Legend Of Zelda: The Mystical Seed Of Courage
Ten years ago, Nintendo came up with an unusual and cunning twist for its Game Boy Color iteration of the Zelda series. Called The Triforce Trilogy, it would consist of three discrete yet interlocking games that, with the use of passwords, would provide the player with a very different experience depending on what order they played each story.
The first two games in this proposed trilogy, Oracle Of Seasons and Oracle Of Ages, were both released in 2001, but the third, The Mystical Seed Of Courage, was canned due to the complexities of linking all three games.
Earthbound 64/Mother 3: Fall Of The Pig King
The Mother games were among the most quirky and unique RPGs to come out of 90s Japan. Eschewing the swords and beards generally found in the genre at the time, they were set in a recognisably Earth-like environment, with its protagonist using everyday items as weapons.
Confusingly, the original Mother was never released outside Japan, while its sequel was given a Western release under the name of Earthbound. With the ageing Super Nintendo replaced by the whizzier Nintendo 64 in the late 90s, a third Mother game, subtitled Fall Of The Pig King, went into development at roughly the same time.
Subjected to repeated delays, a playable version of the game appeared at an expo in 1999, before disappearing back into development again for another year. Citing difficulties in making the game work in 3D, Mother 3/Earthbound 64 was cancelled in August 2000.
A game called Mother 3 did eventually appear for the Game Boy Advance appeared in 2006, which returned to the 2D format of the earlier titles while reusing some elements from the N64 version, including an altered version of its final battle scene. Great though the GBA version was, we’d love to see what creator Shigesato Itoi could have done with the increased power of the N64.
Commander Keen: The Universe Is Toast
A DOS-based answer to Super Mario, the impossibly cute Commander Keen games were among thevery best platformers available for the PC in the early 90s. The product of visionary studio id Software, the Commander Keen games were an early example of the kind of episodic games that are fairly common these days, with each adventure released in a trio of instalments.
Invasion Of The Vorticons introduced the eight-year-old astronaut hero in 1990, and was followed by the two-part Goodbye, Galaxy! and a concluding episode, Aliens Ate My Babysitter!, a year later.
In 1992, a third trilogy of Commander Keen adventures, The Universe Is Toast, was announced, but by then, the Wolfenstein and Doom games had taken off, and id Software appeared to abandon the platform genre in favour of the first-person shooter.
There’s an alternate universe somewhere, we’re sure, in which Wolfenstein and Doom were commercial failures, and the Commander Keen games are still enjoyed by a legion of devoted followers. We can dream.Fallout 3
Wonderful though Bethesda’s first-person rebirth of the Fallout franchise is, we still have a hankering for Black Isle Studios’ third-person sequel to the post-apocalyptic RPG series it originally created in 1997.
Under the codename Van Buren, the game looked as though it would continue the narrative brilliance displayed in Black Isle’s earlier games, and when the Fallout license passed to Bethesda following the collapse of publisher Interplay Entertainment, art director Leonard Boyarsky couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“To be perfectly honest, I was extremely disappointed that we did not get the chance to make the next Fallout game,” Boyarsky said back in 2007. “This has nothing to do with Bethesda, it’s just that we’ve always felt that Fallout was ours and it was just a technicality that Interplay happened to own it. It sort of felt as if our child had been sold to the highest bidder, and we had to just sit by and watch.”
Blizzard’s StarCraft strategy games have been wildly successful, and it’s unsurprising that the company began to look into ways of pushing its sci-fi universe into other genres, just as it had with WarCraft.
Announced in 2002, StarCraft: Ghost would have been a third-person shooter with an emphasis on stealth. In development for both PC and the major consoles of the day, early gameplay demos of Ghost looked extremely promising, with varied gameplay that mixed shooting, hand-to-hand combat and sneaking around, and (for the time) smooth, impressive visuals.
Repeatedly delayed, development on Ghost was passed between several development studios until production ceased around five years ago. While never officially cancelled, the fact that it’s ten years since work began on Ghost suggests to us that it’ll never see the light of day.