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Radical Entertainment

Remembering studios that closed in 2012

Dec 22 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Hudson Soft Founded on May 18, 1973, Hudson Soft has been a force in this industry for so long that it seemed as if it would always be around. By 2003, the company had over 500 employees, with studios in both Tokyo and California. Throughout its history, Hudson designed a vast amount games and characters, including the iconic Bomberman, as well as less-iconic-but-still-identifiable Bonk. This story was one that was drawn out, as last year saw the closure of the offices in California. The final nail would come this year, when even the Tokyo offices would also be shut down. It’s something that is definitely heartbreaking for many a fan of the company's works, as well as people who loved the classic bee logo -- doubly for people in both categories like me. With the closure came the announcement that Konami would be absorbing what was left of Hudson, and retiring the name. So while the cute bee might be put out on the rocker on the front porch, hopefully the properties that bee ran won’t be neglected in the future. THQ & THQ San Diego Yesterday we reported that THQ had filed for bankruptcy. The company may not intend to reduce its workforce size during this period, but it's not a very optimistic situation. In March, the company reported a net loss of $239.9 million for the end of the fiscal year, which was over $100 million greater than the previous year's loss. Shortly after, THQ publicly made a deal with Electronic Arts to sell off its license to the UFC franchise. This directly lead to the closure of the THQ studio located in San Diego, the team behind the UFC games. This is one of those times that just goes to show you how fragile some things are in the industry. One deal sealed the fate of a whole studio, and all the workers there. While this might not be the end for THQ yet, the company's long-term survival is by no means guaranteed. I don't usually root for a publisher, but my heart is out for this one, if only for Saints Row 4. Black Hole Entertainment Black Hole Entertainment might be known for a few different games. It developed a couple of Warhammer games: Mark of Chaos and Black March. The company's most notable recent achievement would be Heroes of Might and Magic 6, which can be claimed as the reason for its downfall. Shortly after filing for bankruptcy, an insider from the company came out with claims that Ubisoft, the publisher they worked with, was at fault. The claims laid down include a lack of accountability from Ubisoft for missed deadlines, consistently sudden changes and feature removal demands by Ubisoft, and Ubisoft restructuring the key development team numerous times. Supposedly, the penalties from the missed deadlines, as well as the losses from money spent on features taken out of the game after completed made it so that an unreasonable 200 million copies needed to be sold before Black Hole would see any profit. Whether these claims are true is unknown, but the fact that the company went bankrupt still remains. Radical Entertainment Radical Entertainment is mainly known for the recent series Prototype, but it has been around since 1991, getting passed between multiple publishing companies through its history. There were layoffs, and many claimed that these layoffs lead to the crash of the Vancouver game design market. It was the oldest studio located in Vancouver, after all. This story happens to have a silver lining, as it appears that the company is still partially intact, functioning as a support studio for Activision Blizzard. Rockstar Vancouver/Barking Dog Rockstar's Vancouver studio is known for Bully and the recently released Max Payne 3. Shortly after the release of Max Payne 3, it was announced that Rockstar would be dissolving the studio to refocus its efforts in Canada on its Toronto-based studio. This story does not bring the saddest news of closure though, unless you're someone complaining about the decline of the Vancouver market. All 35 of the Vancouver employees were offered positions within the Toronto studio. With the additional claim of more positions being created afterwards, hopefully this leads to big new projects coming from those folks. Sony Liverpool/Psygnosis Sony Liverpool, perhaps better known as Psygnosis, is the studio behind the WipEout series. At the start of the year, Sony Worldwide Studios came out with an announcement that they would be restructuring the Liverpool studio. Many of the projects they were working on were halted as a result. It wouldn't be until August when the announcement finally came about the studio's closing. The studio employed roughly 100 people across two development teams. The studio was reportedly working on two projects at the time, each for the next-generation Sony console. While the facility at Liverpool remains functional, it is only to house other Sony Computer Entertainment Europe departments. The status of the two projects, one being a new WipEout, is unknown. BigBig Studios BigBig Studios, I feel, is mainly known for Pursuit Force, one of the better launch games for the PlayStation Portable. The studio was formed from a core team of four former Codemasters employees. Sony acquired the studio in 2007, and assigned them to work exclusively on games for the portable system. That might have been the major component in the downfall of the studio, due to the generally dismal life of the portable device itself. The last game they made would be the recent Vita game, Little Deviants which released to less-than-stellar reviews. The studio would be shut down at the beginning of the year as part of restructuring of Sony's European studios. Zipper Interactive Zipper interactive started out making computer games before it became tied to the franchise that would rule the company for the most of its life span, SOCOM. In 2006, the studio was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment and would go on to make games exclusively for the PlayStation brand.  Not to let SCE Europe have all the fun restructuring studios, SCE Worldwide Studios announced in March that Zipper Interactive would be shut down. The reason given was that it was part of a normal cycle of resource re-alignment within Sony. The studio had roughly 80 employees at the time of closure. Its recent games, SOCOM 4, MAG, and Unit 13 are still going to be supported, according to Sony. Paragon Studios NCSoft is one of the few companies that almost exclusively deals in MMOs. Of course, most of that is acquiring studios that make those kind of games and just putting the monetary system on top of that. There are two things that usually happen. Either the game becomes too bloated to sustain from a financial standpoint, or the people calling the shots shift their focus to something "new." Such is the case with City of Heroes, which was finally shut down this year, much to the outrage and disappointment of its players. The really sad part comes with the liquidation of Paragon Studios, the developers behind the game. As of now, I don’t exactly know what happened to the folks who worked there, whether they were reassigned, or just let go entirely. At the very least, I hope that they are all still out there making games. 38 Studios and Big Huge Games 38 Studios started in 2006, originally named "Green Monster Games." Founded by Baseball star Curt Schilling with a dream to make his own MMO, he seemed to start out the right way, hiring talent that had great experience in the game world. In addition to writer R.A. Salvatore and artist Todd McFarlane, former general manager of games at Comcast Jennifer Maclean, former lead engineer at EA Jon Laff, and a former lead designer of EverQuest Travis McGeathy were in the employ of the studio. To further bolster the prestigious talent base of the company, 38 games acquired studio Big Huge Games, of Rise of Nations fame. The single-player RPG that BHG was working on at the time would be turned into a tie-in to Schilling's MMO. It all looked like it was going the right way, and in 2010, the studio received a $75 million dollar guaranteed loan from the state of Rhode Island to relocate their business to the state, in the hopes of creating new jobs. In February of this year, that RPG would see release in the form of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which received favorable reviews. A missed loan payment just a few months later, and very shortly after, the entire 379 person workforce was laid off, with 38 Studios entering bankruptcy. Schilling and his studio has come under investigation since then for criminal charges, though at the time of writing, no federal charges have been filed against him. A state-level investigation is still underway. As for the folks under Big Huge Games, they're still happily together as Epic Baltimore.
Studio Closures in 2012 photo
Taking a sec to pay respects
This year was great in general for videogames. Beyond the predictable success of games like Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, there were a ton of hits that came out of nowhere, including not just big publisher titles, bu...


Prototype 2 finally hits PC

Jul 24
// Jim Sterling
The PC version of Prototype 2 has finally graced computer players with its presence, after launching for Xbox 360 and PS3 back in April. All boxed copies and pre-ordered digital copies will include access to the game's RADNET...

Radical responds to closure, Prototype 2 PC still coming

Jun 29
// Jim Sterling
Radical Entertainment has responded to news of its shutdown via the studio's official Facebook page. It has thanked fans for their support following the unfortunate situation, and has also promised that the PC version of Prot...


[Update: According to Tweets from Game Informer's Jim Reilly, Activision is trying to keep the Radical team together, but the studio looks like it's busted. Prototype was not considered commercially successful, and the publis...

Review: Prototype 2

Apr 23 // Jim Sterling
Prototype 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Radical EntertainmentPublisher: ActivisionRelease: April 24, 2012MSRP: $59.99 Alex Mercer was the epitome of an anti-hero in Prototype, but this time, he's crossed the line into undisputed villain territory. The Mercer Virus, a mutagen that once turned half of New York into crazed monsters, has been unleashed again, and Alex is the source ... or is he? Or isn't he? In Prototype 2, we play one of the victims, Sergeant James Heller, who lost his family thanks to the virus and now bears a burning hatred of Alex. Things only get worse when, upon meeting with his enemy, Alex infects James with a strain of the disease that grants him deadly powers and earns the attention of the sinister Blackwatch group -- a private military organization that is using an infested New York like a private laboratory. Quite what Alex is up to, what Blackwatch is planning, and why New York has been overrun once more, all remains to be seen.  As Alex Mercer's unwilling progeny, James Heller has many of the same abilities. As with Prototype, players may freely roam New York at super speeds, with the option to sprint vertically up the sides of buildings, glide through the air, and hit the ground from any height. Yet again, our questionable hero can morph his body to generate a number of vicious weapons, earning claws, tendrils, blades, and whip arms as the game progresses.  [embed]226294:43473[/embed] Combat has been refined, no longer quite so full of random difficulty spikes. While still chaotic, a very nice balance has been struck between making the player feel powerful, but not thoroughly invincible. That said, controls are still a little unwieldy, with Heller sometimes randomly targeting far-flung opponents, or leaping huge distances through the air without any clear indication of why. That said, fights are usually so sprawling -- involving dozens of opponents in the milder situations -- that anywhere the player lands is usually full of more juicy bodies to slice open.  As the story unfolds, Heller will be able to pilot tanks and helicopters, as well as fling cars and other objects at ridiculous speeds. Every aspect of Heller's powers can be upgraded by investing mutation points, earned by completing objectives or finding hidden collectibles. Mutations are split into categories, such as Locomotion (running, jumping and gliding) and Power (enhancements to Heller's bodily weapons). Each of these categories have multiple skills to unlock, similar to Fallout's "Perk" system -- they even have descriptions and cartoon icons in exactly the same way -- and can have some firmly entertaining influences on the game.  As well as mutations, Heller can upgrade his general abilities by leveling up in the traditional manner. Each time Heller evolves, players can invest a skill point in various attributes, such as health, regeneration, shapeshifting and more. He can also improve his vehicular and weapon skills by targeting specially marked enemies and absorbing them. All told, there's an almost overwhelming amount of customization and improvement that players can make to Heller, and by the end of the game, he'll be literally leaping over buildings in a single bound, slicing huge foes in two, and practically flying from the rooftops.  Absorption yet again plays a major part in Heller's journey, for both regeneration and deception. Any human in the world can be grabbed and ingested, either stealthily or forcefully, allowing the sergeant to take their form and fool the opposition. Many missions involve walking into military bases disguised as a soldier before slowly eating one's way through the building and acquiring a certain target. Heller can "hunt" targets through the city by clicking the left stick and following a pulse that the soon-to-be victim relays back to Heller's position. This feature can also be used to determine which enemies can be seen by their allies, and which can safely be consumed without anybody noticing.  Unlike Mercer, Heller cannot point out enemies and pretend they're him, a great trick which would make soldiers panic and shoot an innocent man. The loss of this skill is a great tragedy, as it was one of the more fun aspects of the last game. Fortunately, Prototype 2 offers us a new toy that is almost as delicious, and consistently hilarious. The Bio Bomb plants a sample of the virus in a person's neck, causing that person to scream and draw the attention of anybody nearby. In a few seconds, the victim will then be pierced by multiple tentacles that spray from his or her body, latch onto nearby objects (and humans) and drag everything back toward the torse at such a rapid pace that it liquefies all living tissue caught in the crunch. Not only is this a great way to draw eyes away from the player, it's also a tremendous amount of sociopathic hilarity.  Prototype 2 answers a number of criticisms the first game had. Boss fights, for example, are more dynamic and aren't prone to artificial difficulty. Infected monsters, hulking super soldiers, and humans with the same "gift" as Heller are waiting to provide a decent challenge, with a combat system that makes a good use of blocking and dodging to create something more fluid and less luck-based than the last game. It's still incredibly anarchic, and sometimes hard to follow, but it's definitely an improvement.  Similarly, side missions are now much more involved. An entire set of optional quests involve Heller taking out key Blackwatch personnel and disrupting the faction's plans. While prone to repetition and some infuriating glorified checkpoint races, these missions are worth doing and they don't feel quite so inane as the out-of-context athletic games that Mercer was expected to undergo in Prototype. For added rewards, players can hunt black box recordings and eliminate field operatives hidden throughout the city, earning new mutations for their efforts.  While Mercer's brand of silly challenges are not in the "proper" game, they have been preserved in the game's purchase incentive, RadNet. RadNet is unlocked via a code found in new copies of the game, and will drip feed a new set of challenges to the player each week. Such challenges involve jumping off buildings and smashing the ground to take out static targets, racing through rooftops within a time limit, or tossing barrels into an incinerator while soldiers try to stop you. These challenges unlock new upgrades, or award extra video content and Avatar/PlayStation Home goodies. However, having had access to seven weeks of content, I have to say that I don't find any of the RadNet missions fun. They're pretty much the same meaningless distractions that annoyed me in the first game, and I found myself more than happy to ignore most of them. At the very least, it's fair to say that this is one pass code that is very optional, mostly because it doesn't provide much in the way of entertainment.  The main game is more than enough amusement, and will provide at least a solid ten hours to get through the main story, with plenty of extra distractions -- and a New Game Plus -- left over. With the power to hide in plain sight, slice through limbs using multiple bodily extensions, steal guns, throw cars, and pilot both tanks and helicopters, there's a great sense of variety to the game. Almost all the abilities of the last game have been retained, with extra new powers such as the summoning of a pack of loyal monsters that tackle multiple opponents or focus on a single target. There's loads to do, tons of upgrades to earn, and three distinct zones of New York to explore, all affected by the virus in their own unique way.  All that said, the game still drags toward the end. Heller can do an insane amount of stuff, but the missions themselves are all fairly uniform and there are few surprises once you've done all that can be done, with plenty of game left to get through. It's always entertaining to jump onto a roof from ground level, and instantly parkouring through the streets by holding down a single button is strangely entertaining, but one does it so much that it becomes almost fatiguing by the end. Similarly, combat can be so overwhelmingly rampageous that it almost feels like too much. There's nowhere to go from Prototype 2's starting point, no crescendo to build to, because it already started on maximum. There's a consistent level of awe, but it's a static level, and definitely wears a little thin toward the end.  One clever way in which this repetition has been combated is with the splitting of New York into the three aforementioned zones -- the yellow zone, green zone, and red zone -- each with their own special atmosphere. The yellow zone is an oppressive place where people are being herded like lab rats, and live at the mercy of Blackwatch's double-edged protection. The green zone is relatively untouched, with people trying to go about their normal lives despite the military presence and attacks from mutants. Meanwhile, the red zone is a place of all-out war, with total devastation and violence in the streets. The zones are a great way to keep the game fresh, and even though players will be doing the same things in all three of them, the change of atmosphere is certainly welcome.  A few issues from the last adventure return, such as a control scheme with so many options that Heller won't always do what you want. It can be quite irritating to have him pick up and throw a barrel when you wanted to consume an enemy for health. It's also a pain to have Heller running up walls when you just wanted him to sprint on the ground, due to the context-sensitive nature of Heller's locomotive powers. The player can sometimes feel ironically powerless, unable to get a grip on a character who will fight with unpredictable results. It's certainly better than the last game, with a targeting system that at least doesn't lock onto the wrong thing quite so much, but there are some notable moments of exasperation to be had.  Still, Radical manages to pull out all the stops at the end for one climactic rumble that I shan't spoil, but is worth getting to. The game's story is also quite intriguing, with a protagonist who feels more rounded than Mercer was as an antihero. As for Mercer himself, I still feel a little disappointed that the game refuses to give him more personality than he has. As an antagonist, he's certainly bumped up the charm a little, and he is presented as a formidable and even seductive foe, but I feel like so much more can be done with him. Hints about his motivation are given throughout the game, providing some opportunities for a truly interesting character that Radical seems disappointingly reluctant to take. Though I always felt Mercer had the potential to be a truly enthralling personality, it seems I shall have to wait yet again for that potential to unlock.  Prototype 2 is far more polished, varied, and ultimately superior to its predecessor. It falters due to us having already seen a lot of what it can do in the last game, and the sheer consistency of the chaos means it never reaches new heights and can drag on a little, but it nonetheless provides a gratuitous binge of bloodthirsty mayhem that should amuse anybody looking for a solid power fantasy. While not quite as fresh as the last installment, Prototype 2 is a laudable step forward for what I hope becomes a continuing series. I feel that the Mercer Virus, its victims, and those that seek to use it, have a lot more to offer, and after this entertainingly homicidal helping, I'm looking forward to whatever may come next. Simply put, Prototype 2 is your number one choice for anybody who wants to inflict abject biological horror on an entire army of helpless individuals who are nonetheless just nefarious enough for you to feel justified.

Last generation, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy and Second Sight had the ill luck to release at the same time, despite sharing an otherwise unique concept. Games involving psychic powers and telekinesis were few and far bet...


Prototype 2 shows the power of revenge (and Johnny Cash)

Apr 16
// Jim Sterling
Prototype 2 is almost upon us, and it needed just one more thing to complete the pre-launch hype -- an "emotional" trailer with suitably melancholy music. It's an old trick, but I still find it effective, so this live-action video featuring Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" is okay by me.  The game launches on April 24 for Xbox 360 and PS3, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Activision opens Prototype 2 merchandise store

Mar 15
// Jim Sterling
As much as I loved Prototype, I had no idea it did well enough to get a sequel. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. Now, I find out it's a big enough deal to get its own clothing line? Was I asleep when that happene...

Prototype 2's Supersoldiers sound delightful

Feb 24
// Fraser Brown
Making a supersoldier is tricky, just look at all the failed attempts to make another Captain America. In Prototype 2, Sgt. James Heller will be facing a whole army of them, so color me impressed. Using a new strain of the Bl...

Prototype 2 Collector's Edition announced in new trailer

Feb 15
// Brett Zeidler
With news that should surprise no one, Activision has announced today that Prototype 2 will be getting a collector's edition called the Blackwatch Collector's Edition. $79.99 will net you a pretty good amount of extra conten...

Early Prototype 2 buyers to get 'Radnet Edition' upgrade

Jan 31
// Jim Sterling
Activision is one of the few big publishers to shy away from putting online passes in its games, but with Prototype 2, it would seem the company is definitely looking to maximize brand new purchases. Early adopters of the ga...

Prototype 2: Better side missions, expanded gameplay

Jan 11 // Jim Sterling
"The predatory stealth aspect of the game is definitely still an integral part of the experience. This has now been expanded with new sensory abilities that allow you to read the environment around you and find targets to consume," detailed Matt. "The goal has been to put much more control into players’ hands, allowing them to find their own targets in the world without us having to mark them on the mini-map. "One of the most interesting aspects of these improvements is how they’ve been folded into a brand new feature we’re calling Black.Net. This is Blackwatch’s secure, encrypted communications network which contains details of all of the various operations and experiments that Blackwatch and Gentek are carrying out across the three Zones of the city. By hacking into this system via communications vehicles throughout the city, the player learns the identities of the key operatives associated with these missions and, by hunting down and consuming them, opens up brand new missions within the world." When talking to those who have played Prototype, I think the sorest point that a lot of them had was with boss fights and the "attack spam" methods with which they were fought. Hammering the same repeated attack commands to drain an enemy's lengthy health bar isn't much fun, so it's a good job that Radical is more than aware of the problem. "'Attack spam' was a pervasive issue in the first game that affected not just bosses, but pretty much every combat encounter you found yourself engaged in. One of our biggest challenges for Prototype 2 has been to make the battlefield much more readable and give the player to tools to deal with every eventuality without reducing the sense of over-the-top chaos that was such an epic and cool defining feature of the first game. I’m really happy with what we’ve achieved and the game as a whole has benefitted enormously from the changes. "We’ve definitely heard and addressed the concerns around repetition that surfaced from the first game. It hasn’t just been about adding more gameplay options, either. We’ve really worked hard to ensure that missions have a much more diverse range of narratives, span unique areas, contain unexpected twists and are much better paced and presented experiences for the player." Radical seems to really know what worked in Prototype and what did not, which is a great sign. If the studio implements all these improvements fully, then I reckon this is going to be one of the 2012's best. 

If gamers had one lasting complaint about Prototype, it's that the gameplay could get pretty repetitive. Side missions were particularly galling, featuring drab time trial exercises that felt like petty wastes of time. While ...

Prototype 2: A more engaging, funnier protagonist

Jan 11 // Jim Sterling
"The decision came out of one of our early design meetings," revealed Matt. "We were just throwing out ideas about where we could take the sequel after the events of the first Prototype when one of the guys said 'You know what? We should just kill Mercer.' The room was suddenly bursting with energy, excitement and debate around the idea and that made me realize that we had the seeds of something really special. In the end, the premise was just too exciting to pass up. "This decision also allowed us to execute on the idea that the Blacklight Virus is the true star of the series. Part of the appeal of the Prototype universe is the fact that it allows us to go anywhere in the world, release the virus onto a completely different person, have it express its effects in a completely new ways and experience how this new protagonist uses these abilities to achieve their own goals and desires." It sounds like promising stuff. The virus and the Blacklight military group tracking it down were far more intriguing than Mercer himself turned out to be, and the world Prototype was set in happened to be rather engaging. If James Heller can be a more likable protagonist within that, then Prototype 2 is definitely on the right track.  Keep an eye on Destructoid for more from our Prototype 2 interview.

Destructoid has been chatting to Radical design directer Matt Armstrong about the studio's upcoming sequel, Prototype 2. I'm a fan of the original, but fully admit it had some flaws, and I wanted to see what improvements were...


Rumor: Prototype, Guitar Hero developers hit with layoffs

Feb 11
// Brad Nicholson
It's possible that two Activision-tied studios, Radical Entertainment and Neversoft, have been serving pink slips to their employees.According to Kotaku sources, Radical, developer of last year's open-world action game Protot...

Game Debate to the Death! Prototype VS inFamous

Jun 30
// Tom Fronczak
Last week's debate was the last odd game debate in our almost year long journey! It also ended with one of the best "odd debate" matchups of the entire series, with a legendary multiplayer game with virtually no sto...

Prototype boss says open-world games are hard to make

May 05
// Jim Sterling
Radical dev boss Tim Bennison has been telling VG247 about the perils of creating an open-world game like Prototype, stating that sandbox titles will always be a tough prospect, and just get tougher to make the closer they ge...

Original Prototype vision was 'too huge' boasts Radical

Apr 23
// Jim Sterling
As you may remember, Radical's upcoming shape-shifter Prototype was due to be released last year before getting slapped with a delay. According to Radical, however, the extra time has been important, as it's helped the team l...

New Prototype video discusses comic book, has explosions

Feb 06
// Jim Sterling
We have our hands on a new video for Radical Entertainment's violent sandbox conspiracy adventure Prototype. In it, we get to hear a bunch of people working on the comic book tie-in give the game a massive, sloppy verbal bl...

Prototype comic coming in April: Like a videogame, but more comic booky

Jan 21
// Jim Sterling
I had my hopes up for Prototype even when everyone said it looked lame, and hopefully my hopeful hopes aren't rewarded with hopelessness. Our glimpse of it in action at CES was promising, but glimpses often are.Anyway, the ne...

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