Summary: Round 2 of games that need sequels launches. JCal goes over some neglected franchises in need of an update.
As we did in our previous article, our criteria for being included in this list is a simple one. The game or games must have been good ones (not necessarily ones that got high sales) and that have not had a sequel released in the last few years nor ones that have been announced as coming out (once again, Duke Nukem Forever isn’t allowed since it’s technically been in development since 1998). So let’s take a look at other games that we think need could benefit from new entries.
Starcraft: I remember being at the Blizzard press conference at E3 way back in 1997 and seeing the opening cut scene for this game and thinking, “Wow, is the game going to be as good as this?”. Well, actually, yes..yes it was. In fact some people consider this title to be the best RTS game ever made. Released in 1998 (with an expansion, Brood War, released late that year), the game has sold millions of copies around the world and is still a popular game today.
So why is it so good? Partly it was because of how Blizzard made each of the three sides in the game (Terran, Protoss and Zerrg) so different from each other. The strong single player campaign was another reason. However the big hook on Starcraft is its strong multiplayer battles. Indeed, the Korean game market jumped on Starcraft and made it a national phenomenon with pro players getting tons of money just by playing.
Odds For Revival: Very likely. Hey, this is Blizzard we are talking about. They are not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Yes, they tried to release that console shooter Starcraft: Ghost but apparently they were not happy with it and put that project on “indefinite hold”. That doesn’t mean Blizzard won’t ever make a sequel to the RTS game. In fact we are pretty much betting the house, camper, and the condo on the beach that in the next couple of years we will finally get that press release we have been waiting for all this time with the headline, “Blizzard Announces Starcraft II.” Yep, that will be a good day indeed for RTS players in general.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert: While fans of the original sci-fi RTS game will finally get a third title in the series sometime next year, the truth is that the C&C game we really want is, for want of a better term, the wacky cousin in the series. Not the super serious original game or C&C: Generals, but the campy alternate timeline setting of Command and Conquer: Red Alert, which was first released back in 1996 (a sequel was released in 2000). Hey when you have Albert Einstein traveling back in time, a Soviet Union at war with the US and psi-powered troops, you know you have something pretty cool.
While both games in the Red Alert series were in 2D, we can’t wait to see a Red Alert III take advantage of a full 3D engine, along with other wacky alternate timeline settings and maybe some of that live action cut scene footage that made Red Alert 1 and II so memorable. Add in some imaginative units and you have a huge seller.
Odds for Revival: Likely. In fact just after current C&C developers Electronic Arts LA finished the first Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth game, a slightly unofficial announcement was made that a new Red Alert title was to be the next game that the team would develop. As it turned out, that actually didn’t happen and the EALA team moved on and worked on the Battle For Middle Earth sequel and later C&C 3. However, EA is never one to ignore a franchise that has done so well in the past and we think a new C&C: Red Alert game could be a part of their plans in the future, especially if C&C 3 is well received.
It wasn’t just the cool visuals or the use of true 3D space that made Homeworld and its sequels so memorable for many. It was also the overall presentation, with its epic storyline to its music and sound to its unusual unit and technology tree structure. Homeworld remains a game that, while some have approached its quality, few have actually achieved.
Odds for Revival: Possible. There was a published rumor in Game Informer magazine a few months ago that Relic, now owned by THQ, was trying to buy the Homeworld property rights from its current owner Vivendi Games but there has not been any confirmation of this bit of news. Oddly enough, a development team composed of former Barking Dog members are working on a game called Sword of the Stars that combined turn based strategy with real time 3D space combat. Our view on this is that the Homeworld name and the overall quality of the series itself will become hard to ignore and that a new game in the series will eventually happen. The big question: Will Relic be in charge of its development?
Wing Commander: Origin’s space combat-sim series is one that even non-gamers may know of, thanks unfortunately to the awful movie adaptation that was ironically directed by the game’s creator Chris Roberts. That shouldn’t take away from the game series, however, which mixed in a deep (for games, anyway) storyline with some fast paced space action gameplay. There were several games in the series released by Origin in the 1990’s and were some of the first games to use live actors for cut scenes (yep, Mark Hamill as Christopher Blair was an acting powerhouse)
It’s been a long time since the last game in the series, Wing Commander: Prophecy, was released in 1997 but we still think that Electronic Arts (the owners of all the former Origin properties) would get a lot of mileage out of a new game, especially if they get a top notch development team to handle it. The name recognition alone would help sales.
Odds For Revival: Unlikely. We hate to say it but space sims, once a huge gaming draw, are now down to something of a niche market for the indie developer set. We still think a new Wing Commander series would work well but for now it doesn’t look like Electronic Arts would be interested in reviving this franchise anytime soon
Freespace: Developer Volition gave Wing Commander a run for its money in the late 1990s with two games in this fully 3D space combat-sim series that were published by the now (almost) dead Interplay. The first game, Decent: Freespace – The Great War was released in 1998 with the next game, simply called Freespace 2, shipping out in 1999. Both games used terrific looking graphics, a fun single player campaign and more.
Volition was bought by THQ soon after Freespace 2 was completed and in 2002 decided to release the entire source code of the game to the public. This led to a number of free stand alone games being released with the Freespace 2 source code (including an impressive Babylon 5 total conversion). The game itself is also free to download thanks to a general license agreement.
Odds for Revival: Unlikely. Volition has moved on to other games with its new owner THQ, including two Red Faction titles and the upcoming Saint’s Row and there’s no indication that the team is working on any Freespace follow-up. However with all of the Freespace 2 mods and TCs out there, fans of the franchise have a lot to check out if they want to find and download new additons and with Interplay barely a company nowadays, we suspect that someone could buy the Freespace license from them at a pretty cheap price.
However, since we love games with alternate timelines, perhaps its time to look into an Interstate 95 game. Combining 90’s fashions and trends with an improved graphics engine and real destructible environments could be the ticket, especially since games like Burnout and Full Auto have made the car combat genre cool again, you dig?
Odds for Revival: Unlikely. Activision has seemingly put this franchise to pasture much like they did with their True Crime series when the second game failed to impress. We still like the idea of a third game in this series set in the 1990’s though. Maybe someday the publisher will look back at its catalog and decide that cool car combat is the way to go.
Carmaggedon: UK publisher SCi released the first game in this decidedly “M” rated series back in late 1997 (Interplay was the US publisher). On the surface the Stainless Games developed title it was a simple urban driving game but the big attraction of this series was the ability to run over pedestrians and see them break up all over your windshield. Needless to say, this made Carmaggedon a sales success and a target for critics of games with violent content, with several countries censoring or outright banning the sale of the game. A second title in the series was released in 1998 and a third game shipped to stores in 2000.
With games like the Grand Theft Auto series going even further than Carmaggeddon did in portraying violence, it would seem like the best time to start the engine on a new game in this franchise. However, you can bet that there would be some very loud (Jack Thompson, Hillary Clinton) people who would let others know of their disapproval.
Odds for Revival: Unlikely. In fact, SCi announced a few years ago a plan to bring back Carmaggeddon but nothing ever came of those announcements and with the merger of SCi with Eidos in 2005 there has not been a mention of any new Carmaggedon game for some time. With the new SCi/Eidos now concentrating its efforts in other areas it seems like this car has been put back in the garage.
Clive Barker’s Undying: When we did our first article looking at first person shooters that we though we needed sequels, we missed one pretty obvious one that we are rectifying now. Clive Barker’s Undying was an excellent Unreal engine based action title from Dreamworks Interactive (later bought and renamed EALA) that used the horror writer’s ideas as a basis for a truly frightening game that had some great gameplay elements (including combining weapons and spells), impressive level design and a solid story.
Unfortunately, despite tons of critical praise, Clive Barker’s Undying failed to reach a mass audience when it was released for the PC back in 2001. A planned PS2 port was cancelled and EA decided to not release an “M’ rated game for several years in part because of the poor sales of Undying (that string was broken in 2004 with the release of Def Jam: Fight For New York).
Odds for Revival: Unlikely. Despite being a critical darling, EALA has moved on and has concentrated on making Medal of Honor and RTS titles. While we may not get a direct sequel, Clive Barker has continued his interest in helping to make video games. A planned title, Demonik, was cancelled by Majesco, but just this week Codemasters announced plans for a new action game called Clive Barker’s Jericho. It will have a long way to go to meet the quality of Undying.
The one-of-a-kind game design drew praise from game critics but the title itself wasn’t a huge sales success for its publisher Interplay. Planet Moon went on to create the humor filled action game Armed and Dangerous and in 2005 released Infected, a zombie action game that was an exclusive for the PSP console.
Odds for Revival: Possible. Perhaps we are being overly optimistic about this but we would love to see Planet Moon return to the universe of their first game and see how those three sides are behaving now. We think that their gameplay hasn’t really been done since and we would welcome a return to controlling that huge creature.
Psi-Ops: Midway’s psi-powered action game was a welcome surprise when it was released in 2004 (the most recent of all the games on our list). The PS2-Xbox game was one of the first to really use a physics engine in new and interesting ways, from lifting objects and even people with the character’s mind to other abilities like seeing beyond their line of line to controlling other character’s bodies.
Since Psi-Ops’s release, the team at Midway who developed the game has reportedly been the one that’s working on the upcoming action title Stranglehold but we secretly wish that their next game will be a sequel to Psi-Ops. With a more advanced graphics and physics engine, we think the gameplay opportunities would be far greater.
Odds for Revival: Unlikely. Unfortunately, despite a lot of solid reviews for Psi-Ops, the game did not do as well as Midway projected in terms of sales and with the team now working on other projects, a direct sequel to the game doesn’t appear to be in the cards. However, with more advanced physics engines on the horizon perhaps someone will attempt to do something similar to Midway’s game in the future.
Crimson Skies: Based on a FASA created board game, developer Zipper Interactive got the nod from Microsoft to create a PC action game based on this alternate 1930s timeline (here we go again) where air travel was as popular as cars are in our timeline. The game, released in 2000, was a critical success as it contained excellent flying action combined with a unique art and story style. In 2003, Microsoft developed an internally created Xbox game called Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge that got even more praise for its impressive graphics and gameplay and its excellent Xbox Live multiplayer modes.
Microsoft still owns the rights to make more Crimson Skies titles but at the moment it doesn’t appear to be making any plans for more games in this franchise. That’s a shame as we would love to get back in our cockpit and fly the not-so-friendly skies again. Crimson Skies remains one of the more unique flying action games ever made
Odds for Revival: Unlikely. The team behind the Xbox game was let go by Microsoft following the game’s release so it appears like the company has put this game series to rest for now. Perhaps one day the way will become clear once again to make a new game in the series but at the moment our plane is still sitting in the hanger.
With all that history and all that genre jumping, it seems sort of odd that there haven’t been any new PC or next-gen console games in the Mechwarrior franchise announced. A DS game is actually due out later this year but for fans like us that’s just not going to cut it. We hope Microsoft can see fit to bring back the Mechwarrior franchise sooner or later.
Odds for Revival: Possible. Hey, Microsoft is bringing a Shadowrun game to the PC and Xbox 360 in 2007 (even if it is a first person shooter) so there is still some interest in FASA properties. Our demand is that Microsoft prove its announced new commitment to PC games with a full on sim style Mechwarrior 5. We are waiting patiently.
Earthsiege/Starsiege: This mech action game series rivals the Mechwarrior franchise for its dedicate fan base. Created by developer Dynamix in 1994, the series went through several changes eventually turning into Starsiege for its final version in 1999. The game was set in the same sci-fi future history as the Tribes multiplayer shooter series which went on to surpass its cousin in popularity.
The mechs (or Hercs as they are known in the game) have a slightly more organic look and feel than the machines in the Mechwarrior series and that was part of their appeal. Unfortunately, the series came to an official end with the closing of Dynamix following the release of Tribes 2. However a fan based project (officially endorsed by current Starsiege owners Vivendi Games) has plans to release a new Starsiege game using the Torque engine (created by former Dynamix members).
Odds for Revival: Likely if you count the fan based project but unlikely for a full fledged professionally developed game. With the critical pans that Tribes Vengeance got when it was released in 2004. it seems likely that Vivendi Games will not be revisiting the universe of Starsiege in any form for some time, if ever.
Ultima Online: Oh boy, this is awkward. Origin/EA released their original MMORPG back in 1997 and while not the first game in this genre (that would be Meridian 59) Richard “Lord British” Garriott’s crowning achievement certainly became far more popular and set the trends that continue in this genre today. Even today, subscribers to the game are estimated to number around 130,000.
To date not one but two sequels have been publically in development and later cancelled before their release. Ultima Online 2, which would have added Steampunk elements to the Ultima universe, was cancelled in 2001. Ultima X: Odyssey, an MMO game set in a different world but linked to the original Ultima, was also cancelled in 2004. In both cases, the game’s publisher EA said they decided to concentrate their efforts on expanding the original game, which had had a number of expansion packs released over the nine years the game have been live.
Odds for Revival: Very Likely. Recently, EA announced that they had purchased Mythic Entertainment, makers of the long running MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot and the upcoming Warhammer Online. Just a few days later, the official Ultima Online web site stated that they would be working with Mythic on upcoming projects. While details are still unavailable it would seem very likely that a full fledged sequel might be one of those projects. Perhaps the third time will be the charm.
These are just some of the games that we think need to get a new lease on life; there are many more that we can think of. Perhaps one day in the near future we will do a follow up and look at some more games that need sequels. Until then feel free to debate our choices and add in your own in our comments page and forums.
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