E3 2012: The Vapourware List

The absent games we're beginning to wonder about.

Amidst all the excitement about E3 press conference stars like Beyond, Watch Dogs and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, it's easy to forget that not everything we hear about will make it to fruition, and that the time it takes for a game to go from spectacular reveal to an ignominious death that no one even bothers to report is only as long as it takes for a trailer to fade from memory. Given that we've published 478 videos so far this week, and some of them were for games like that Nike Plus thing, that's not long.

So, we've written plenty about the games that are at E3 2012, but what about the ones that we were hoping to hear from? Who are the biggest E3 absentees, and do any of them yet qualify for the label 'vapourware', the poisonous sobriquet handed down over the years to games that were unveiled with great fanfare only to never see the light of retail day?

The following list is presented with apologies to any developers who are actually making these games. Although, seriously, get the f*** on with it.

The Last Guardian (Sony Japan)

JUST PROGRAM THE CAT FASTER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Easily the highest-profile game of anything on this list, The Last Guardian is the latest release (actually, poor choice of word) by Fumito Ueda's Team Ico at Sony Japan. In development for more over six years - and actually sufficiently advanced that Sony flew us over to Japan in February 2011 to check on its progress - fears are nevertheless growing about whether it will see the light of day. Ueda himself left Sony a while back (promising to continue working on the game as a contractor), release estimates have come and gone, and once again there was no sign of it at Sony's E3 Conference. Shuhei Yoshida says it's facing "technical difficulties".

All of which is a terrific shame, because it looks wonderful. It's a game about a little boy who becomes friends with a giant cat-eagle and has to escape a mysterious place by solving puzzles together with his new friend. Who doesn't want to play that? Hopefully Sony won't forget that we all do. We'll even buy it twice, if that helps?

Ryse (Crytek Budapest)

Remember this? It is - or was - a first-person hack-and-slash game set in ancient Rome and developed by Crytek Budapest exclusively for Kinect. First announced as Codename Kingdoms at Microsoft's E3 2010 conference, then renamed and trailed again at last year's equivalent, we've heard absolutely nothing since. There were rumours of studios layoffs last year, but those supposedly came before the E3 showing, so we have no idea what to think. It's a Kinect fighting game, though, so perhaps we should count our blessings.

Agent (Rockstar North)

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Hurry up, Rockstar, you pompous nitwits.

Announced to great fanfare at E3 2009, Agent was set to be a new PlayStation 3 exclusive from Rockstar North, famed creators of the Grand Theft Auto series. Not only that, but it would be an espionage action thriller set during the Cold War, personally overseen by Rockstar founders Sam and Dan Houser. It sounded bloody amazing. The only problem, of course, is that we've heard absolutely nothing official about it for the last three years. With the clock running down on the PS3 era, we're beginning to wonder. Nice logo.

Rainbow 6 Patriots (Ubisoft Montreal)

Less vapoury than a lot of its neighbours on this list, Rainbow 6 Patriots mostly ends up here because we're impatient. It certainly made a splash in late 2011, with some impressive "target footage" showcasing a mixture of Quantic Dream-style interactive drama sequences and more traditional squad-based Special Forces activities, neatly wrapped up in a tail of domestic terrorism fuelled by contemporary politics. But we've heard nowt since.

Fair enough, because Ubisoft Montreal is probably busy making the thing, but its absence from E3 2012 makes us wonder whether we'll really see it in the previously mooted 2013 timeframe. Either way, with Sam Fisher having apparently stumbled onto the set of Medal of Honor for his next adventure, we could do with neutralising some domestic threats.

Thief 4 (Eidos Montreal)

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Er, Thiaf? Might want to start by stealing another book on l33tsp34k.

Eidos Montreal was a hot property this time last year on the eve of Deus Ex: Human Revolution's release, and that game's success in breathing new life into a dormant sneaky action game series surely bodes well for Thief 4. Over a year later though, still the only thing we have to go on is that somebody over there thought it would be a good idea to go with "Thi4f". If they're stuck on some hard design decisions or something, I'll give them one for free: scrap that. But do carry on; the world could do with more Thief.

Final Fantasy Versus 13 (Square Enix)

Unveiled at the dawn of time, Final Fantasy Versus 13 is a mysterious action-RPG by director Tetsuya Nomura that acts as a companion piece of sorts to Final Fantasy 13, sharing the same universe if not the same characters. The only problem is that Nomura and his friends have now taken so long to get their role-playing ducks in a row that Square Enix has already finished and released an entire new game set in the Final Fantasy 13 universe. We like to imagine that the developers of 13-2 shipped the game then took Nomura a copy, handed it over and went, "OMG BUUUURN."

Prey 2 (Human Head Studios)

Unveiled early last year at an event in the Utah mountains, Prey 2 looked fresh and interesting - an open-world tale of intergalactic bounty-hunting on an alien world using a mixture of parkour, first-person shooting and RPG-style character development. A year later, however, rumours spread that development had stalled, and publisher Bethesda issued a statement saying that the game "does not currently meet our quality standards" and would be delayed. Further rumours suggested that developer Human Head had ceased work on it due to a contract dispute, but Bethesda wouldn't comment further.

Sadly, then, of all the games on this list, Prey 2 may be the one that actually does end up as vapourware, despite being one of the more interesting and dynamic. There's no joke here. We hope things get sorted out.

Brothers in Arms: Rise of the Turbo Hitler (Gearbox Software)

Please let it be real!

By god there are jokes here though. Officially called Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 (we've renamed it), it was demonstrated at E3 last year and is perhaps best described as World War 2 re-imagined by a teenage Kevin Smith fan who likes Quake 3 Rocket Arena. A crack team of commandos join forces to, well, fire rockets at hot air balloons in Nazi fairgrounds, throw hatchets across crowded beer halls to cleave skulls, and brand Nazis with hot pokers. Yeehaw! According to a deadpan Wikipedia, however, "The new approach was met with negative reaction from fans." Perhaps they object to characters like "Stitch", "a mentally unstable Irishman who shocks enemies with a custom-made taser".

What makes all this insanity especially precious, of course, is the degree to which it contradicts Gearbox's usual patter about how Brothers in Arms is a celebration of the sacrifice and valour of the real-world soldiers it depicts, whereas Rise of the Turbo Hitler is more like a three-minute bubblegum pop-song version of war that does quite the opposite. We certainly look forward to hearing why it all makes sense, somehow. (Oh, and incidentally, we secretly think it's amazing, but we're not proud of ourselves.)

Half-Life 3 (Valve Software)

Do we really need to explain this one?

Let us know what you thought was missing from E3.

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