Ex-Free Radical Design developers have revealed why publishers turned down TimeSplitters 4, pointing the finger at the poor reception to Haze and difficulty marketing the brand.
22nd December 2008
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The story of Free Radical Design begins with one of gaming's milestones, and after almost nine years it ended with the studio's blood on several publisher's hands. Founded in April 1999, the Nottingham-based studio created the much-loved shooter series TimeSplitters and third-person psychic drama Second Sight during the PS2 era. But Haze, the company's final game, received a critical mauling, sold poorly, and shortly afterwards Free Radical entered administration.
Former Free Radical Design and Rare developers have joined forces to create a new studio.
Crytek UK, the developer that rose from the ashes of the collapsed Free Radical Design, hopes that when gamers look back on PlayStation 3 exclusive Haze they'll remember it more fondly than they did at launch.
In 2009, after slipping into administration following the failure of PS3-exclusive shooter Haze, Free Radical Design was bought by Crytek and renamed Crytek UK. The Nottingham studio then set upon work on the multiplayer portion of next year's Crysis 2.
Administration company Resolve has confirmed the demise of Haze developer Free Radical Design.
"The company was placed in to administration yesterday afternoon," Resolve spokesperson Cameron Gunn told ThisIsNottingham last week.
"We will be spending the next three or four days assessing the financial position of the company but it's business as usual, although we have asked that almost all of the employees apart from a skeleton crew remain at home.
Independent UK studio Free Radical Design closed its doors this morning, our sister site GamesIndustry.biz
Sony will stuff more content onto the PS3 Store today, lead by a demo for exciting quad-bike racer Pure.
The PSN Store is yet to be updated, but PS3gen is claiming to have a heads up on content.
There's another sampler for NHL 2K9 - although the game should be as top-notch as always - plus a Destruction add-on pack for Haze, which costs EUR 4.99 (GBP price coming soon).
Grand Theft Auto IV remained at the top of the UK All Formats chart for the fourth straight week, beating off strong challenges from Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and Haze, which debuted at two and three respectively.
If there's one thing the world doesn't need right now, it's another spirit-crushing first-person shooter, but here it is anyway. And after enduring such teeth-grinding nonentities as Blacksite, Turning Point and Conflict: Denied Ops in recent months, the fact that such a respected, reliable developer as Free Radical Design can turn out such a desperately uninspired effort is not only a shock, but a massive disappointment.
One thing FRD has been exceptionally good at is making games with a style, feel and personality completely at odds with everyone else's. From the original team members' work on GoldenEye and Perfect Dark at Rare through to TimeSplitters (and even Second Sight to a lesser extent), the creative forces at the Nottingham studio were always determined to do things their own way. Be it the art and animation style, the slightly quirky control systems or interesting gameplay modes, you always felt they ploughed their own furrow to great effect. But, after a three-year absence, rather than launching onto the next generation scene with bold concepts and dazzling technology, Haze limps along apologetically - a stark demonstration of a developer completely out of touch with a genre it used to help boss. It's fallen into line with what everyone else is doing in the most depressing fashion possible.
Haze is stultifyingly dreadful from the very beginning. Featuring some of the most excruciating dialogue in videogaming history, it makes Army of Two look like a masterclass of narrative subtlety. The general premise of playing the soldier with a moral conscience is fine on its own, and, yes, we get the fact that you're not supposed to approve of the antics and utterances of your meat-headed bio-enhanced squad-mates, but the ham-fisted execution is akin to being told the same rubbish joke over and over again. It's a shame, because the original concept of fighting on the side of a dubious corporate entity had potential.
Haze writer Rob Yescombe has likened his game to GoldenEye after it was given just 4.5 out of 10 in its IGN review.
The upcoming PS3-exclusive shooter had previously received high marks from Famitsu and the Italian PlayStation Magazine.
"My thoughts are 'Owch'. No, wait - 'MEGAowch'," Yescombe told PSU.
Creative lead Derek Littlewood has confirmed that Haze does not run in high definition.
A demo of much-delayed shooter Haze has now been added to the PlayStation Store.
We've already brought you our hands-on impressions of the single-player and co-op modes in Haze, so now it's time to sink our teeth into multiplayer in Free Radical's upcoming PS3-exclusive shooter.
Ubisoft has plans to release a four-player drop-in co-operative demo for Haze in early May. No wait June no last February no definitely May no Christmas. May.
A Ubisoft spokesperson has told Eurogamer that Haze will "definitely" be released on 23rd May.
It's hard to think of a more hostile environment for a game's launch than the one Free Radical's Haze faces. On one hand, it's viewed as a flag-bearer for the PlayStation 3, a console whose vocal detractors aren't afraid to come out in force online to criticise any weakness. It's also got the misfortune of being billed (although not by its developers) as a Halo-killer (well, it's a first person shooter where some of the characters wear funny looking helmets, what did they expect?) and it's launching at a time when the world's FPS gamers are still in the midst of a torrid love affair with Call of Duty 4.
Ubisoft has changed the Haze release date back to "May".
Ubisoft has finally plastered a date on Haze, which will be out on 22nd May.
The slippery shooter from Free Radical was, once upon a time, expected at the end of last year, but was subsequently nudged and budged into the first quarter of fiscal 2008 (sometime between April and June).
Haze was originally pencilled in for release on Xbox 360 and PC at a later date as well, although Ubisoft recently decided to make it a permanent exclusive on PS3. Or not. No one knows any more and frankly we're tired of asking.
Just in case there was any lingering doubt, it's been confirmed that Haze is a PlayStation 3 exclusive and will remain so in the future.
Ubisoft has pushed the release of Dark Messiah of Might & Magic Elements back one week to 15th February.
In Q3 financial results released today, Ubisoft revealed that its upcoming game Haze has been delayed into fiscal year 2008-09.
Ubisoft has spread word that Dark Messiah of Might & Magic: Elements will be out on 8th February.
Ubisoft has revealed that drug-inspired shooter Haze will now no longer be out before Christmas.
Ubisoft has said that Haze will be out this year on PS3 - 14th December if you're asking.
A slightly baffling choice - mid-December releases have a sketchy track record, although it perhaps demonstrates that Free Radical is working down to the wire to launch it this side of Christmas.
There is also no sign of the 360 or PC offerings (if they exist, etc and so forth), although we expect them to show up on the schedule in 2008 - maybe lending extra significance in releasing the 'lead platform' version this year.
Another good thing about Christmas is that you can kiss people by holding a twig with leaves above their heads, made all the more likely by the enormous vat of incredibly pungent mulled wine stewing in the kitchen. Similarly smile-worthy is that yes there are games on PS3 to buy this year, despite what James with his rival console says in the comments section while picking his nose and flicking it at his equally spotty friend.
Those of you in surveillance vans outside Eurogamer TV will have noticed a new trailer for Haze joining the cinematic line-up.
Of all PlayStation 3's forthcoming releases, the most interesting and significant is neither a game nor for sale. Home, Sony's more structured, sanitised and solid attempt at a Second Life world might seem innocuous enough but with the screenshots of its cinema space and the implied possibility of fully downloadable movies, there's the chance it might eventually outgrow even its host platform in significance.
Steroids are great. I'm as strong as an ox and can keep going with barely any rest. Nothing can stop me now - I'll be enormous soon. Oh, but what's this little thing? Why are all these people looking at me and talking behind my back? I'll crush them like pesky little flies!
Haze is Free Radical Design's first big push on next-gen, and a recent demonstration at UbiDays suggests it's got more ideas than most. Having talked about how the game itself is put together in last week's preview, today we're offering up the rest of our chat with David Doak, during which he deals with everything from PlayStation 3 and Halo 3 to making games more emotional.
We've overdosed on games before, but we don't usually overdose in games. And clearly for good reason: mainline a bit too much of Mantel Corporation's soldier-buffing war juice, Nectar, and you can't tell friend from foe, and everyone who crosses your sights eats lead whatever buttons you're pressing. Fortunately you go bright red, so people can pick you out. "Five seconds ago he was their best friend," says Free Radical Design's Rob Yescombe, chatting along to a four-man demo of upcoming FPS Haze during UbiDays. "But suddenly he's their worst enemy." There'll be tactical issues to consider in these situations: do you kill your squad-mate? Rob Yescombe looks like he'd kill his squad mate.
Free Radical Design's Rob Yescombe - writer on upcoming first-person shooter Haze - reckons it's "pretty f***king bizarre" to see war veterans working on videogames.
Free Radical's David Doak has told Eurogamer that Haze is being developed for multiple formats after all - it's just leading on PlayStation 3.
Ubisoft has revealed that Haze will launch on PS3 this autumn. No mention was made of the previously announced Xbox 360 and PC versions.
Free Radical's futuristic shooter Haze will feature four-player co-op in both campaign and online modes.
Haze has slipped into Ubisoft's financial year 2007 - which runs from April 2007 to March 2008 - according to a quarterly financial report from the company.
Another round of musical publishers has seen Nottingham's finest, Free Radical Design, cosy up to Ubisoft for its latest project, after successful stints with Eidos, EA and Codemasters.
Ubisoft has confirmed that a new next-gen first-person shooter is on the way from Free Radical Design, the clever little monkeys who brought us the TimeSplitters series. And the chance to shoot virtual monkeys, bless 'em.
We first got wind of the project earlier this week, and it turns out our old friend Internet Reports was right on the money. Due for an early 2007 release on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, the game places you in the military issue boots of Jake Carpenter (don't you just love videogame character names?), a newly enlisted soldier in the Mantel Corporation army.
It's set some twenty five years in the future, which gives Ubisoft the perfect excuse to throw in a "high-tech arsenal of vehicles and weapons" and a couple of grams of coke - sorry, we meant "performance enhancing bio-medical support."