Games that got stuck in development hell, but amazingly didn’t suck

Unlike our beloved Duke, not all games wither and die when they get stuck in development limbo. While the majority of titles that undergo drastic changes or lengthy delays end up performing oral acts on donkey’s groins, some survive the pre-release purgatory smelling of roses. Well, more ‘gameplay that’s not shit’ than roses, really. So without furthing rambling, here’s a bunch of games that survived development hell and lived to be damn decent titles.

Alan Wake

Forget about the Steven King wannabe getting lost in the woods and chopped to bits by an imaginary axe murderer; his game was almost lost to the abyss of development hell. Developer Remedy originally started work on the game as early as 2001, with first footage of Wake shown at 2005’s E3. Back then, the now moody, tightly scripted thriller had more in common with GTA. And the town of Bright Falls was originally designed to be an open-world sandbox.

Above: Screw your kidnapped wife, Wake. Just focus on getting released

But despite the game’s constant delays, which saw a planned PC version fall by the wayside, old Al eventually stumbled out of the woods in a surprisingly decent, brilliantly tense survival horror. With the sandbox genre so horribly oversaturated, we say it’s a good thing the developers were given the time to hone their vision for the game. As a result, we’ve got a pretty unique title. Albeit one that wasn’t quite worth a nine year wait. Oh, and, Remedy? Next time you get stuck in development hell, lose the bloody chore of a wife character, eh?


Woah, bear with us. 2006’s forgotten Native American, portal-jumping FPS wasn’t half bad. Especially considering it was once a shitty looking shooter based on an unstable Unreal engine, starring someone called Talon Brave. Hugely ambitious when it was first announced in 1995, it was the game’s lofty technical goals that ultimately cast it out like a leper in the development wilderness for over a decade. 3D Realms just had to wait for the tech to catch up. When it did, the results were bloody decent. Even if playing the game for more than five minutes at a time made you want to upchuck your cookies. Stupid shitting motion sickness.

Above: Don't worry, we've all had many a fantasy about Prey's doors

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Sam Fisher, you despicable Commie-loving hippie. Back in 2007, our hard-ass sneaky agent was supporting a look more akin to a beardy Ashton Kutcher than someone you associate with stabbing spleens in the dark. Thankfully, Ubisoft Montreal put the kibosh on the original vision for the game, which saw the unkempt Fisher stealthing his ways through Assassin’s Creed-style crowds.

Above: If there's one thing Tom can't abide, it's an unkempt haircut

A quick hair cut and a miraculous anti aging cream later and our boy was back on track. Taking names and not so much kicking ass, as… eh, smashing people’s faces against pianos and bathroom sinks. Streamlined, cinematic and brutal, the version of Conviction we eventually got is far better than any game (that’s essentially undergone a complete redesign half way through development) has a right to be.


  • b-dog1991 - June 2, 2010 10:09 a.m.

    Great article, but no Wire references? Come on Meeks, we expect at least a SHHHIIITTTT!
  • Games_Radar_DaveMeikleham - June 2, 2010 10:17 a.m.

    @b-dog1991 Ah yes, a total lack of Clay Davis references above is indeed unforgivable. Don't worry, though, I'll give myself forty lashes at lunch.
  • bluscorp - June 2, 2010 10:26 a.m.

    Great feature Meikleham, but you forgot to include the game that i know we both love, the best PS3 exclusive, joint best game of 2008(with gta4).....Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. MGS4 was delayed for ages.
  • oufour - June 2, 2010 10:33 a.m.

    how si half life 2 not on this list?
  • 435 - June 2, 2010 10:36 a.m.

    @oufour Because it's Valve, and they don't make games that stink.
  • CARDYKEV - June 2, 2010 10:47 a.m.

    Personally i thought SC:Conviction really was not worth the wait and in the case of Stalker, 3rd times a charm!
  • Erwin - June 2, 2010 10:56 a.m.

    "Aka the last game Rare made that actually felt like a Rare game." I really hope you only forgot Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
  • Redeater - June 2, 2010 10:58 a.m.

    @oufour because I don't think anyone expected it to be anything else but great. Also it appears the main theme in this article is a major overhaul in gameplay when it was first shown.
  • Octoboy - June 2, 2010 11:07 a.m.

    Alan Wake isn't a good game. In fact, it's a terrible game. The whole game design is outdatet; obsolete game mechanics, repetitive gameplay, unconvincing acting, stunning but monotone graphics. Above all, the narrative is a joke that's not even funny. And atmosphere? Go and play Dead Space. It beats Alan Wake in every aspect. Alan Wake would've been great, no doubt, if it was released 3-5 years ago. But in 2010, that's just not the quality you'd expect of big releases. Especially if something like Red Dead is released within the same week. So, in short, Alan Wake did suffer from being stuck too long.
  • Clovin64 - June 2, 2010 11:12 a.m.

    You forgot Final fantasy 12. That game took ages to come out, got delayed several times and apparantly Square Enix buggered their budget and the director allegedly had a breakdown and had to step down. I think. It was still an awesome game when it came out.
  • Joshin69 - June 2, 2010 11:18 a.m.

    Then there was Halo... No not on the xbox, on PC.
  • guillotinedream - June 2, 2010 12:42 p.m.

  • TheHolyHandGrenade - June 2, 2010 1:10 p.m.

    @guillotinedream didn't team fortress 2 take 9 years or something. Right now im playing the game to death on my PS3
  • guillotinedream - June 2, 2010 1:27 p.m.

    @holyhandgrenade yeah and the original concept was more realistic. it was like counterstrike with classes. one class actually had a top down view of the map and acted as a commander
  • Gahmah - June 2, 2010 1:33 p.m.

    Dark Sector! YOU CAN GET IT USED FOR 10 CENTS ON AMAZON at time of posting. Trying to think of other good delayed games but nothing's coming to mind.
  • sveini22 - June 2, 2010 1:59 p.m.

    "Above: Don't worry, we've all had many a fantasy about Prey's doors" Hahaha i almost died. That was just hilarious :D
  • lovinmyps3 - June 2, 2010 2:19 p.m.

    Pretty cool. I was still a bit disapointed with Splinter Cell though, but Resi 4, of course, was amazing!
  • Conman93 - June 2, 2010 2:58 p.m.

    Why do I get the feeling epic mickey will be added to this list..
  • ventanger - June 2, 2010 3:42 p.m.

    I agree, TF2 deserves a spot. Back in the day (yes, the day, you know the one) TF2 was basically what Duke Nukem Forever is today. Early screens looked more like a multiplayer Call of Duty than the cartoony panic-fest it is today.

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000