Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Have you heard the news? Microsoft just decided to throw a load of its money on the table, and agree to buy Activision Blizzard for a whopping $68.7 billion. 70. Billion. Dollars. Or near enough. If you thought the Bethesda acquisition was big, this one is massive. Is it a good thing for us as the players? That, so far, is unclear - it’s likely to mean even more games coming to Xbox Game Pass, which means better value for money if the monthly subscription remains the same price. But consolidation is rarely good for the consumer in most cases, and no matter what Microsoft says, this acquisition is entirely in the name of chasing profit.
However, the news has also got us thinking about all of the dormant IP that Activision has in its back catalogue, just waiting to be resurrected. Activision Blizzard has become very focused on only a few core franchises in recent years, with most of its development teams working on Call of Duty, Diablo, and Overwatch right now. Xbox, on the other hand, has shown that it’s not afraid to revive older franchises, like Perfect Dark and Fable. So, with that in mind, here are six Activision franchises we’d like to make a comeback under the leadership of big Phil Spencer.
What do you get if you combine the fast-paced street races of Project Gotham Racing with the chaotic power-ups and weapons of Mario Kart? I’ll tell you exactly what you get - an underappreciated gem of a racing game that’s slowly rotting away in Activision’s expansive back catalogue. Blur was one of the most fun racing games of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generations, and, alongside titles like MotorStorm, proved to be the multiplayer racer of choice for players looking for a fun, arcadey experience beyond Mario Kart.
Despite a decent critical reception, Blur performed poorly commercially, but we reckon it’s primed for a comeback in a market dominated by fun multiplayer games. Whether we get a modern remaster, or a brand new reimagining, a modern Blur release could become a multiplayer hit, with the benefit of launching on Xbox Game Pass. Xbox could even build it in the Forza engine, or maybe even add a new Blur mode to Forza Horizon 5! Whatever happens, we would love to see Blur make a return under Microsoft.
Spyro the Dragon
Of all the items on this list, Spyro is certainly the franchise that Activision has given the most love to in recent years. The little purple dragon was the familiar name that helped launch the original Skylanders game, and more recently, we got an excellent collection of the original PS1 Spyro trilogy, all polished up to a wonderfully colourful HD sheen. However, it’s been over thirteen years since we’ve had a brand new Spyro game release, and with developers Toys For Bob (Crash Bandicoot 4) and Vicarious Visions (Crash N’Sane Trilogy) both moved onto other projects recently, it appeared that there were no plans for a new Spyro the Dragon game at Activision.
All of that could change when Xbox takes the reins, however. While the importance of the cartoon mascot platformer has waned in recent years, a new Spyro game would still spark plenty of excitement at a Microsoft press conference. The family-friendly platforming series could also help diversify Xbox Game Pass, with Phil Spencer having previously conceded that the service was missing more “E-rated content” and “casual content with a broad appeal”. What better character than Spyro to fill that gap? No, not Crash Bandicoot - he had his chance.
It’s one of video gaming’s greatest mysteries - how have we never had another Darkwatch game? Developed by High Moon Studios, and released on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 back in 2005, Darkwatch combined gothic horror, steampunk technology, and a wild west setting to create a game thats concept was, arguably, more fun than its execution. Still, for a mid-noughties shooter released in the era before Call of Duty 4, it was still remarkably solid and fun. Like all new IPs, it just needed a sequel to really iron out the kinks and kick on.
Unfortunately, this sequel never came, cancelled by Activision in favour of High Moon Studios developing a licensed Bourne game. But under Microsoft, there could be hope for a new Darkwatch yet. Perhaps it could be handed off to The Coalition, to give the studio a break from Gears, or Bethesda’s MachineGames, which would also be an excellent candidate, given its proclivity for first-person shooting, gore, and the supernatural. In a world full of multiplayer shooters, I’d love to play a really focused, single-player FPS once again, and Darkwatch could offer just that.
Step aside Lara Croft. Take a hike, Nathan Drake. It’s time to make room for gaming’s OG treasure hunter and explorer to make a comeback - Pitfall Harry. Tasking players with avoiding quicksand, swinging on vines, jumping on crocodiles, and leaping over pits, Pitfall was the original Indiana Jones-inspired adventure game, and one of the most iconic games of the Atari era.
Activision did bring Pitfall back in the early 2010’s, in a surprisingly fitting Temple Run-like on mobile, but we want to see the franchise return to consoles. There are two ways Microsoft could revive this old-school series - they could create a smaller-budget modern 2D reimagining, similar to Battletoads; or, they could go big, and launch a massive adventure title to rival the likes of Uncharted and Tomb Raider. Sure, the first option is far more likely, but where’s the fun in that? I want to see Pitfall Harry standing proudly alongside Master Chief and Doom Slayer in all the Game Pass promotions. Maybe they should change his name first, though.
Another first-person shooter given only a single bite of the cherry, one can only imagine what might have become of developer Raven Software’s Singularity, had it been given a sequel. Like TimeShift, a similar FPS with a time-bending twist, Singularity revolved around a ‘Time Manipulation Device’ (TMD), enabling you to move objects backwards and forwards through time, or draw them towards you, like using the Force. You could even zap enemies with a bolt of energy from its high-tech E-99 core.
As demonstrated in Titanfall 2’s infamous ‘Effect and Cause’ mission, manipulating time in FPS games can make for some excellent, uniquely memorable and mind-twisting action - perfect fodder for a Singularity reboot or sequel. Granted, Singularity might be a relatively obscure choice, but it’s undoubtedly something we’d like to see Raven Software take another crack at, fleshing out the ideas it explored with the 2010 original for Xbox 360 and PS3, and potentially delivering something refreshingly different. Go on, why not give it a try? Surely it’s about time.
A GTA clone among a sea of GTA clones, it’s easy to see why True Crime ended up quickly fizzling out after two mainline games. While 2003 original True Crime: Streets of LA did well enough to spawn 2005 sequel, True Crime: New York City, that game’s poor reception saw True Crime: Hong Kong binned, before Square Enix scooped it up and released the game as Sleeping Dogs in 2012. With no sign of a Sleeping Dogs follow-up happening anytime soon, and enormous gaps between GTA releases (lest we forget, Grand Theft Auto V launched in 2013), surely it’s high time the corpse of True Crime was jolted back to life.
Rope in another all-star cast of celebrity voices, situate the action in a grimy, detailed urban sprawl, and deliver a memorable narrative with intense set-pieces, and there’s no reason why a new True Crime game couldn’t prove a success. And, frankly, why wouldn’t Microsoft want an open-world crime saga to call its own? Pump up the production values, give it the development time it needs, and watch a brand new, gritty, down and dirty True Crime game soar. It could be the video game equivalent of The Wire or The Sopranos (probably). Make it happen.
When developer Radical Entertainment closed its doors in 2012, it also spelled the end for the Prototype series after a paltry two games. Another of Activision’s ambitious open worlds, both games provided enjoyable power fantasies, with protagonists Alex Mercer and Sgt. James Heller enjoying the benefits of superhuman abilities granted by a virus. Few open world action games have managed to muster such raw, unfettered destructive fun - if throwing tanks around and smashing things up is your jam, Prototype had you covered.
Sure, Crackdown and Saints Row IV have delivered similarly unbridled thrills within their own expansive cityscapes, but only Prototype and its sequel made you feel nigh-on unstoppable. Should Microsoft deign to resurrect Prototype, a new protagonist with even more formidable powers could give Sony’s own inFamous power fantasy a run for its money, and provide Xbox with yet another IP to be proud of. Assuming it’s done right, of course.
For the most part, we’ve been focusing heavily on Activision franchises, but we’ve also got Blizzard to think about too. While I’d love to see new RTS games in the Warcraft and Starcraft franchises (hell, it’s about time) it’s unlikely those titles would make their way off PCs and onto Xbox consoles, even if they did come out. No, instead, I’d love to see the return of a project thought to be long-dead - StarCraft: Ghost.
Originally meant to release on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube, Ghost was a first-person shooter spin-off that put players in the boots of Nova, a character who would go on to appear in the StarCraft II campaign. Similarly to games like Splinter Cell or Perfect Dark, there was a strong focus on stealth and darkness. Sure, maybe StarCraft: Ghost would clash a bit with Perfect Dark, and maybe it's silly to think that a long-cancelled game could return from the dead. But if Metroid Dread can resurface after fifteen years, maybe Microsoft could also bring back StarCraft: Ghost. We can only hope.
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