An "open-world espionage game" is apparently the White Whale to the game industry's Captain Ahab. For instance, gamers have been anticipating two awesomely ambitious open-world spy games for several years, The Outsider and Agent, and both are nowhere to be found.
Ironically, you'd probably have to go undercover to find out what the hell's going on with Agent or The Outsider.
The Outsider, originally scheduled for release all the way back in 2009, was promised to be an action-stealth game casting players in the role of a CIA agent named Jameson who has been wrongly accused of a crime. Jameson must use every skill at his disposal to covertly navigate the city of Washington, D.C., and break enough unsuspecting necks to uncover the truth. The capital city and several surrounding areas would've been faithfully recreated down to the smallest possible detail, giving players a realistic city to creep through like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive on his search for conspiracy-busting justice.
Also, you'd be able to flash a gun within view of the White House! OK, so maybe the game wasn't that strict about the realism.
Meanwhile, Agent, announced six years ago, was to be an open-world stealth game set against the backdrop of Cold War espionage in the 1970s. It was essentially what would happen if Metal Gear Solid collided with Grand Theft Auto in a flurry of turtlenecks, mutton chops, and Grand Funk Railroad. You may recognize this as the greatest combination of ideas ever assembled.
Why You Want Them:
The Outsider was supposedly going to give players an unprecedented amount of freedom to decide how the story would unfold -- do you track down those responsible for your frame-up, burst into their offices, and go on a shoot-punching spree? Or do you carefully work to stay hidden, solve the mystery, and clear your name? Or do you just lose your mind and punish everyone in sight for your misfortune like a bullet-spitting supervillain?
Next time don't go swinging your piece around in public on Capitol Hill, buddy!
The game would've also allegedly featured a complex morality system far beyond the typical "living saint or relentless asshole" choices players are normally given in games of this type. Players would truly be able to affect the outcome of the game, rather than simply earning one of a handful of predetermined endings based on the number of "good" and "evil" decisions made throughout. It also claimed advanced facial animation technology that would have made every single inhabitant of the game's massive world as lifelike and expressive as actors in a movie (and perhaps even more so if we're talking about certain actors).
Michael Buckner/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
We'll take the classy route and not name any names.
If those all sound like promises that are awfully tough to fulfill with current technology, well, that might be why we never got to play it. Maybe they just bit off more than a small studio could chew.
Agent, on the other hand, had no such excuse -- that game was being developed by Rockstar, a company that straight up doesn't release a game unless it's massive -- Max Payne, L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption, and Grand Theft fucking Auto are all edgy, groundbreaking, genre-defining, and/or just plain ol' crazy. And nobody captures the look and feel of specific settings and time periods like these guys -- Agent was destined to be unique for that reason, if nothing else.
Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
Imagine Sam Fischer, Jason Bourne, and James Bond, and you've got Agent. Promising, no?
And it wasn't going to be some farmed-out side project, either -- it was being developed by Rockstar North (the company's top team) and overseen by Dan and Sam Houser, the writers and producers of nearly every Grand Theft Auto title. The idea was to take a stealth game, which is usually fairly linear and restrictive, and toss it into the open-world, sandbox style of gameplay Rockstar is known for ("sandbox" is a term here meaning "ramping over commie spies in a Camaro, while murdering a prostitute"). The action would have been on a worldwide scale, tasking players to alter real historical events in the midst of Cold War era tension.
Why You'll Probably Never Get Them:
The Outsider was first announced way back in 2005, and then proceeded to miss every single one of its projected release dates until Frontier, the game's developer, announced in 2011 that all work being done on the title had ceased. They insist the game hasn't actually been cancelled (despite "we're not doing any more work on it" being the exact definition of "cancelled"), only put on hold so they can concentrate on other equally mind-blowing titles such as Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Kinectimals: Now With Bears, and a Zoo Tycoon remake for Xbox One. So ... yeah, it's probably safe to cancel that eight-year-old Outsider preorder at GameStop.
As for Rockstar, they first announced Agent back in 2007, revealed it to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive back in 2009 ... and then never said anything else about it ever again. Here's all of the information their website has on it:
Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
Well, gee, thanks for the clarification.
Rockstar won't even say whether or not it's been cancelled -- they literally don't discuss it, like Agent is some creepy uncle that got carted off to prison for a laptop full of illegal pornography. And with the company gearing up for its next big Grand Theft Auto release, it seems unlikely that we will ever hear another word about Agent. The only concrete evidence we have that Agent ever existed is a series of nondescript images posted by a Rockstar artist to his online resume.
Leigh Donoghue/Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
Well, Agent certainly wouldn't have suffered for lack of stairwells.
Agent also popped up on another Rockstar employee's LinkedIn profile a few months ago, so at the very least the company is still allowing their development teams to list it on their CVs. And truly, the crowning achievement of electronic entertainment is being able to take credit for the creation of a game that nobody ever got to play.
No one gets to play these games, but we all get to watch the trailer for Cracked's new Star Wars series.
Thanks to Strych10 for his help finding and researching entries. Sam Jackson can be found accepting offers of friendship, food, wine, and work on Facebook and Twitter. When not glued to a controller or working for Cracked, Nathan Birch also writes for Uproxx, and occasionally posts pictures of his pet tortoise on Twitter.
For more video game goodness, check out 5 Ways Video Games Are About to Get Way More F#@kable. Or learn about The 6 Most Retarded Gaming Consoles Ever Released.
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Extra Credit: To make this article more depressing, read about ridiculous game innovations that reached production. We'll never see Agent, but there's totally a game powered by screaming. And did you realize the first handheld 3D game came out in 1983? Because it totally did. But don't let any of this convince you that the game industry is out of ideas- they've got no shortage of ways to screw you.