Sometimes this industry can be tough. One minute you’re on top of the world with a multi-million dollar project, backed by huge advertising and high anticipation across a number of sites, and the next you could very well be shuttered as part of consolidation for work on other projects – or worse yet, closed completely.
That’s what happened to Radical Entertainment last week. Two months after completing work on the highly entertaining Prototype 2, Activision laid off most of the staff from Radical, and while it still remains open, they’ll no longer be developing their own games.
That’s too bad, because Radical has actually been in the development game for just about 20 years now, getting its start with NES projects like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends and The Terminator and eventually moving up onto newer systems and franchises.
But they shall not go quietly. For now, we pay tribute to one of the better development studios out there by looking at their most noteworthy titles over the years. We’ll spare you some of the painful early developments (we’re still trying to forget the Independence Day game exists) and stick instead to the games that truly mattered. For the folks at Radical…this one’s for you!
Jackie Chan Stuntmaster (PlayStation, 2000)
Back at the time of release, Jackie Chan was just landing on his feet in the United States, with the movie Rumble In the Bronx getting a surprisingly good reception (despite not actually being filmed in the Bronx and featuring some of the most ridiculous looking gang members in the history of film). With that, Radical Entertainment jumped on a project that featured the voice and likeness of Jackie, fighting against goons of all sorts while doing his traditional stunts and kung fu style. The end result was a moderately good game that, while lacking in replay value, represented Chan for what he truly was – and continues to be today, twelve years later. Now if that’s not progress, I’m not sure what is…
Tetris Worlds (GameCube and Xbox, 2002)
While numerous versions of Tetris have come out over the years, Tetris Worlds is quite noteworthy, mainly because Radical twisted around the game’s typical modes with various new rules, ones that could really change the way you play. These included Square Tetris, Cascade Tetris, Sticky Tetris, Hot-Line Tetris, Fusion Tetris and, on the Game Boy Advance, Popular Tetris. Each one brings something new into the realm of Pajitnov’s puzzle classic, while letting players of all ages enjoy them. And get this – the story mode actually wasn’t half bad either…even with the Tetrions and the Minos. If you can find a copy, we recommend picking it up.
The Simpsons Hit & Run (GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, 2003)
At a time when we desperately needed a good game based on the popular Simpsons series (Simpsons Skateboarding and Simpsons Wrestling just weren’t getting it done), Radical Entertainment really stepped up. They started out with The Simpsons: Road Rage in 2001, packing a lot of vehicular destruction into a fairly suitable game. But with Hit & Run, the team basically worked on its own variation of the Grand Theft Auto series, letting you run wild in Springfield with a number of crazy missions, outfit changes, and various characters. Featuring the full support of the folks at Fox, Hit & Run managed to be a huge success at the time, returning the family to solidarity in the video game world. Shame we never got a digital re-release, though…
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube, 2005)
The Incredible Hulk could’ve easily put the footprints in the making for the Prototype series, with its “run anywhere, destroy anything” logic and adding the ability for Hulk to run up alongside walls. But in its own right, Ultimate Destruction is a heck of a lot more fun than it deserves to be – and even laps Radical’s 2003 take on the Hulk franchise, loosely based on the film. You’ll battle familiar enemies from the comic books while throwing cars around like crazy, forming boxing gloves with some and destroying pretty much everything in your path, from renegade robots to helicopters packed with gunners. This game stands as one of the best comic book games ever made, and no Hulk game since that time has been able to match up.
Scarface: The World Is Yours (PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Wii, 2006)
“Say hello to my little friend!” While it would almost seem like sacrilege to see the tale of Scarface continue, especially after the brutal climax in the original film, Radical Entertainment did a smashing job bringing the franchise into a Grand Theft Auto-like world. Recapturing the spirit of the 80’s and not toning down one bit on the bloodshed, The World Is Yours faithfully recreated the madness of the film, while opening up a new storyline where Tony Montana once again rises to power. And even though Al Pacino didn’t voice his character this time around, his fill-in did a terrific job, making you feel every “meng” and curse word that flew out of his mouth. If you can find a copy, we suggest checking it out. And don’t forget to see the film!
Prototype 2 (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, 2012)
Finally, we come to Radical Entertainment’s swan song, a highly improved sequel that follows the 2009 release of Prototype. This time around, instead of playing anti-hero Alex Mercer, you control Sgt. James Heller, a man infected by Mercer and convinced that his own government squad is responsible for the plague running through the city. As he searches for the truth, Heller battles the odds, including gun-carrying soldiers and monstrous freaks, all while using superhuman abilities and nifty weapons. The end result is a game that’s worth playing through more than once, just to see how much further your powers can expand. It’s truly a remarkable feat, and, sadly, the final one from the folks at Radical. But as you can see, they’ve crafted a legacy that’s pretty hard to beat – especially when it comes to licensed games.