The sequels we never had... Part 1
Memory is a great thing... Until that moment when it allows you to remember something so absolutely fantastic that, just as you are about to share your mood with the whole world, brings on another memory and it's back down to Earth again. Sometimes life sucks!
For people who love Videogames this happens a lot more than most people care or want to admit, you see for us it's usually that instance of remembering that special game you grew up with only to realise a few moments later that it never got a sequel. Games like Shenmue 1 & 2 spring to mind, however there are far better examples of better titles that never got the rewards the first game entitled them too. Here's one such videogame that was robbed of two follow up's.
We had one, we should have had three, I guess it was never meant to be...
Ahhh, LucasArts. The name alone evokes so many memories, especially to those who lived the golden era of point and clicks with titles such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Monkey Island, Loom, and – of course - Full Throttle.
The game introduced itself with very good reviews both from players and critics, a rather unusual combo. As time went by, this LucasArts game became a cult classic which gained a huge fan base. Why weren’t there any sequels, for Transbot’s sake? There were, at least, they existed on paper, but were cancelled in a blink of an eye and little is known about them except for their names: Full Throttle: Payback, Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels and a few pictures of them to prove that at some point they were indeed in production. Having loved this incredible Point 'n' Click style adventure I decided to take a look at a trilogy that never happened but very much could have been, and if you ask me SHOULD have been!
Get your motor running...
Just by looking at the cover of the game you know you are in for a good ride. Ben, the main character is shown riding his Corley bike. Above him lies the title: Full Throttle, and right below the bike, the phrase “a heavy metal adventure” seals the visual deal. For the current generation of gamers, boxes don’t mean much (bloody digital worshippers) but in 1995 the game packaging was sometimes as important as the game itself, therefore several special editions were sold in different packages with different goodies like a game guide and a “bandana” with the Polecats logo, the main motorcycle gang of the game.
The first version of the game was developed exclusively for DOS, but newer versions were compatible with modern OS's. The game’s architecture was developed with a modified version of the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine, which turned Full Throttle into the 10th game to use that technology.
Full Throttle beings with a short intro where we are introduced to Malcolm Corley - Corley Motors CEO - The very last motorbike manufacturer in the world – and Corley Motors’ greedy VP; Adrian Ripburger, whose voice is played by no other than Mark Hamill (yeah, Luke Skywalker himself).
What is most striking about this first scene is that the car where they are travelling is actually hovering over the road. While they are discussing a shareholders meeting, a gang of bikers jumps on the roof of the car while they rush away to some place unknown. Instead of feeling angry for the incident, Malcolm decided that it would be a great idea to go to the shareholders meeting with true Corley users to prove that his brand is more than just a company, it’s a lifestyle. The Polecats however reject the offer, and Ben, the leader of gang falls into a trap when he is sucker punched by one of Ripburguer’s goons.
A new cool rider is born... A lone crusader, riding a steel horse!
LucasArts succeeded in introducing a new action menu. During the course of the game, you can interact with people and objects by activating a menu panel displayed only when you click the left button of the mouse in the form of the Polecats logo. This menu allows you to, talk to people, investigate your surroundings, grab things, etc. The right button of the mouse will give you access to the inventory to use the items you have already collected. Your progress can be saved at any time by simply pressing the F1 key in your keypad.
The creative team did an awesome job conceiving not only a great story, but stunning individual characters and motorcycle gangs that scream originality. Each band has its own unique feature that helps build and deepen the story of the game. The Polecats, for instance, have a good sense of morality and are led by Ben, the main character of the game. The Rottwheelers, on the contrary, know nothing about morality and his ranks are filled with low life thugs. The Vultures is an all-girls band, and my personal favourite, the Cavefish, is formed by almost blind bikers who live in caves!
The duration of the game might be its only flaw. You can finish the story in a couple of hours since the puzzles are not really too complex and were created just to keep the story flowing. Having said that, it is important to note that many of those puzzles are time limited, which translates into having to repeat many times the same things until getting it right. This does not mean that the story becomes boring or anything like that, the plot is flawless and the characters carry it perfectly, maybe that’s the reason why it feels so short.
Payback's a Bitch! If it ever comes that is...
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that there were many attempts to do a Full Throttle sequel, but for several reasons they were only that, mere attempts. The first example was Full Throttle Payback.
When the project began, Tim Shafer – the brain behind FT – was no longer part of LucasArts and was not in touch with the team responsible for this sequel. According to rumours, the developers were very excited with the project and even the marketing area was working non-stop in a major launching campaign. However, it is said that one of the big fishes within the board of directors of the company believed that bands like the Cave Fish in the sequel should not be included as they were “not part of the franchise”. So the main reason for cancelling the game was issued by someone who hadn’t even played the original game. Business, eh?
It is known that the story of the game was a tad similar to what was seen in Full Throttle. There was a plot between a crooked governor and a local corporation to convert all paved roads into hovering platforms that only family cars and mini-vans could use. Truckers and bikers would, of course, fight this monstrous idea. To make things worse, the Rottwheelers would be hired to kill Father Torque. So, where would Ben be in this whole disaster? He is hiding, a fugitive running from the law accused of murdering Ripburger in the first game.
During the first half of the game you would have to stop the assassination of Father Torque while in the second half you would have to join a rogue reporter to expose the governor’s dirty plans. The game would have shown a wide variety of scenarios following a structure very much like in the original game aiming at keeping the old fan base happy and luring new players into the franchise.
Unfortunately, the game was cancelled when only 25% of the levels were finished and 40% of the art was done. Who is to blame for this decision? Was it only due to differences between the developers and the higher ups within LucasArts? We might never know…
New generation, same old outcome...
In mid-2002 LucasArts announced that they were developing a Full Throttle sequel that would be released not only in PC but also in PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox. In a press release, the president of LucasArts at that time stated: "Full Throttle is one of LucasArts' greatest and most beloved original games. We can't think of a better brand or character to lead LucasArts' charge into a new era of original game development. Ben so perfectly symbolizes our legacy and yet has just the right mix of attitude and edge to appeal to a new generation of game players."
In 2003, during the E3 a trailer and a game demo was shown to prove the sceptics that the game was, in fact, a reality.
The story of the game followed Ben in his quest to find out who had destroyed the roads of his town: El Nada. To make things easier, he joins forces with his mentor – Father Torque – and his ex-girlfriend Maureen (the hottie of the first game). The gameplay of this sequel was much more focused towards the action rather than to the point and click aspect. A combo meter was also included and even a power bar that could measure the strength of the attacks was thrown in. As in a beat ‘em up game, you could throw all kinds of objects, from chairs to bottles. Ben could also switch motorbikes in what was planned to be a 35 levels game.
Why didn’t the “symbol of LucasArts’ legacy” pass the demo stage then? Little is known about that. A few months after the 2003 E3, LucasArts cancelled the development to the surprise of many critics and fans. It is said that the company was not satisfied with the graphical aspect of the game, especially when they compared it when other 3D titles of the time. Another element that led to this decision was the fact that Tim Schafer was not part of the project, which may have irritated some of the hard core fans. To make things even worse, Roy Conrad, who gave Ben his special voice had passed away in 2002.
If you were to ask me if we will have a new sequel, I would say that I don’t see it happening any time soon, especially since LucasArts has decided to step away from the adventure genre and also because almost all members of the Full Throttle development team are no longer in LucasArts. However, in a scene where the indie presence is becoming stronger day after day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new Full Throttle.
If that happens, I would certainly be among the first backers. After all, I miss riding my Corley on paved roads.