TA Top Five: What Took So Long?

Opinion - Andrew Ogley, 2 years ago
It's been said that patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait, and as gamers, we are getting used to - although not finding it any more enjoyable - hearing about delays to our most anticipated titles and release dates shifting. From that moment a particular title is announced, we wait with growing anticipation fueled by marketing hype, only to have our hopes dented as one release window slips into another. That joy of the initial reveal becoming an increasingly faded memory with each additional day that passes. Today, we look at those titles that kept us waiting the longest, from their initial unveiling to the moment that they hit the shelf, and of course, we have to ask, was it really worth it?

Honorable Mentions

L.A. Noire - Announced 2004 - Released May 2011 - 6 Years

Film Reels

Team Bondi announced in 2004 that they were working on a new title for the upcoming PS3, although the title was not confirmed until 2005. One year later, in 2006, it was announced that Rockstar Games would be publishing the game and then things went a little quiet. It wasn't until the end of 2010 that a trailer for the title was revealed and then another six months until the title was finally released in May 2011. Was it worth waiting for? The game went to receive very positive reviews, many heralding its innovative facial animation technology. The title was nominated for several gaming awards and went on to sell nearly five million copies across the various platforms. Sadly, the six years in the making was too much for Team Bondi who went into liquidation later in October of the same year.

Resident Evil 4 Announced 1999 - Released January 2005 - 6 Years

Resident Evil 4 screenshot

To be honest, we could write a whole chapter on the development history of Resident Evil 4, with some saying that the number '4' in the title represented the number of re-writes and restarts that the title underwent during its development. Originally announced in 1999 for the Playstation 2, the gameplay was much more action oriented than the previous titles in the franchise. Producer Mikami didn't feel that this was the correct direction and decided that a rewrite was needed. Fortunately, the work was simply rebranded and went to be an equally successful franchise in its own right, Devil May Cry. After further rewrites and changes in characters and locations, each causing further delays, the title finally hit the stores in January 2005. Was it worth the six year wait? Were all those re-writes worth the effort. Absolutely. Resident Evil 4 went on to be considered the best title in the franchise at that time, is still considered one of the best videogame titles in history, and was responsible for bringing third-person over-the-shoulder shooters to the mainstream a full year before Gears of War appeared.


Top 5

5. Too Human - Announced 1999 - Released August 2008 - 9 Years

1

Too Human was an action RPG that attempted to combine Norse mythology with futuristic cybernetics. Perhaps it angered one or two of those Norse Gods as the title was cast into a production hell that plagued its development. The title was first announced by developer Silicon Knights at E3 in 1999. However, in the next year, Nintendo and Silicon Knights signed a deal together and the title was moved to the GameCube instead, and at that moment it all went very quiet. In 2005 the title resurfaced, when Silicon Knights signed another partnership deal with Microsoft to develop the game into a trilogy and an exclusivity deal with Epic to use the Unreal 3 engine in the development, a deal which eventually turned sour with one party suing the other, one for breach of contract, and the other for using the engine without paying royalties. Somehow, despite all of this, the title still made it to market in August 2008, nine years after its original announcement. Sadly, the game only received mediocre review scores with one critic awarding the title, "Underperformer of the Year" and the trilogy never appeared. Incidentally, the court battle between Epic and Silicon Knights was eventually won by Epic in 2013, who were awarded $4.5m in damages and the developer was ordered to destroy all unsold copies of games developed using the Unreal 3 engine. The title was also removed from the Microsoft Store.


4. Final Fantasy XV - Announced 2006 - Released November 2016 - 10 Years

FFXV

Final Fantasy titles have always been epic in scale, not only in the world they present but also in how it is presented with extensive CGI, video clips and amazing soundtracks. It's little wonder then that the most recent titles in the franchise have had a development cycle of five to six years. However, Final Fantasy XV went much further and almost doubled that amount of time. It was announced as early as 2006, albeit, with a slightly different title, Final Fantasy XIII Versus. The scope of the game quickly prompted it to be rebranded into one of the mainstream titles, talks of retitling the game started as early as 2007 although the name change wasn't confirmed until 2013. In between, the game would intermittently appear like a blip on a radar before disappearing again. In the prolonged development period, the next generation of consoles was announced and the title had to be completely reworked for the Xbox One and PS4 machines. The team also took the opportunity to rewrite some of the storyline and replace some of the original characters. Finally, in March 2016, the title was revealed and a launch date in September of that year was planned. One last delay saw that date pushed out, and on November 29th, 2016 the title finally hit the shelves, a mere 10 years after the original announcement. Was it worth it? There are very few bad Final Fantasy titles, and true to form, the game won multiple awards and received positive critical acclaim polling high scores on both platforms.


3. Prey (Xbox 360) - Announced 1995 - Released July 2006 - 11 Years

Prey

Right from the start, Prey was always an ambitious title demanding game engines available to realize its revolutionary vision of moveable portal technology. Unfortunately, ambition can be seriously undermined by a good dose of reality and development of the title was labored from start to finish. Originally announced in 1995 by 3D Realms and aimed at being a vehicle for their own in-house game engine, the title was successfully demoed at the 1997 and 1998 E3 expos. Even during that short period, the title's design had already been abandoned and restarted. Impressive as the demos were, the title was struggling and was plagued with numerous technical problems and personnel changes, development slowly ground to a halt, and although it was never formally canceled, the title disappeared in a state of indefinite hiatus. In 2001, 3D Realms picked up work again using the proprietary IdTech4 engine that was more than capable of handling the portals that were key to the gameplay. Development was still slow and despite rumors as early as 2002, the final version of the game wasn't unveiled until April 2005. A year later, April 2006, the release date was finally confirmed, and finally a couple of months later in July 2006, the game was released, 11 years after its initial reveal. Was it worth it? The game released to critical acclaim with many reviews citing how impressive the graphics were and how amazing the gameplay was. The title went on to sell over one million copies making it commercially very successful.


2. Aliens: Colonial Marines - Announced 2001 - Released February, 2013 - 12 Years

Aliens Dec. 11th

Any game that carries the Alien moniker is always keenly anticipated and followed by fans of the sci-fi/horror franchise but sadly, up until recently with the brilliant Alien: Isolation, nothing had given the fans the Alien game that they craved. Back in 2001, a game entitled Alien: Colonial Marines was announced for the Playstation 2, but was canceled before ever being released. In 2006, Sega announced that they had bought the rights to the franchise and a few days later, Gearbox announced that they were working on a new game in the franchise although no titles were given. In fact, the actual title was only confirmed thirteen months later in 2008. It was also called Alien: Colonial Marines and shared similarities in its storyline, timeline - between the second and third movies - and the gameplay although Gearbox maintained that the two were unrelated. Sadly, from this moment on, the development became embroiled in conspiracies of shady practices and corporate misconduct, the like of which Weyland Yutani would be proud. Gearbox allegedly removed resources from the title to work on their own projects, whilst outsourcing the Alien title to another studio, all-the-while, collecting milestone cheques from Sega claiming for a full team that wasn't actually working on the title. There were later claims that Gearbox had mismanaged the outsourcing and not paid attention to the quality of the work that was being developed. Ultimately, it took its toll on the title and the game was released in February, 2013 to very negative reviews - including our own. Post-release it didn't get any better. The difference between E3 trailers and screenshots was so great that a class action lawsuit was started claiming that fans and buyers had been deliberately misled. 12 years after the initial announcement, it was not a happy ending for Gearbox or for the fans.

1. Duke Nukem Forever - Announced 1997 - Released June 2011 - 14 Years

Duke Nukem Screenshot

Whilst some of the titles on this list might have raised a few eyebrows, there can surely be no surprise that the 'Duke' claims the extremely dubious honor of claiming the first place. The game was promoted as a sequel to the relatively successful 1996 3D FPS title, Duke Nukem 3D, and was officially announced by developer 3D Realms in April 1997 (although its actual development had started months earlier in the previous year). It's never been established just how many Dantesque circles of hell there are for game development but certainly descended through a fair number of them including financial, corporate, legal, management and technical. Continual delays in development took so long that the game managed to jump numerous generations of game engine, from the original Build engine, through Quake II, Unreal singleplayer, Unreal Multiplayer, Doom 3, before returning finally to Unreal again. The title was ultimately bought by Gearbox Software in 2010 and after one final delay was finally released to the public in June 2011. After 15 years in development and 14 years after its official announcement, was it worth the wait? Did fans really get the game that had been waiting for? Sadly, and perhaps a little predictably, the game had suffered and was not very well received. Most reviewers were very critical and its time stuck in development was reflected in its anachronistic and antiquated gameplay.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.