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#002: Frame City Killer


Inzoreno

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Frame City Killer
Namco
Namco
XBOX 360
2005-2006

My first blog post was devoted to the first game I was aware of that got cancelled. For the second post, we are going to look at the first game I lamented the cancellation of. The transition from the original XBOX to the XBOX 360 was the first generation leap that I was paying attention to and I remember how much enthusiasm and potential the new console held. The months leading up to the launch of the console saw a slew of games announced for the new system. Some would come out at the launch of the console, some would be a bit farther down the timetable. Frame City Killer was one of these games who would sadly become the first game to be officially cancelled for the new console, only about six months after the 360 had launched and after only being announced the year prior. 

Frame City Killer made it's grand debut at E3 2005, though it was a bit of a muted introduction. While it did get to appear during Microsoft's press conference, it's showing amounted to a short clip during a montage of upcoming titles. For further information, journalists and attendees had to visit the Namco booth, where a longer cinematic trailer was played to provide a tad bit more information. The game takes place in the year 2047, where you play as a secret agent named Crow, who spends the length of the game working to take down a drug lord named Khan. As an undercover agent, your goal is to take out Khan while minimizing the amount of attention you draw to yourself. In some ways, it appears it would have played similar to Assassin's Creed, as you would spend time observing your targets in order to determine the most opportune time to eliminate them while minimizing how much attention you draw from the assassination. The targets would have had specific daily routines they would follow, so once you had an idea where they would be at a particular time, you can create a plan to eliminate them with the minimal amount of witnesses. Assisting you in this task was an in-world tech known as Visual Frame, which would aid you in collecting information about your targets. All-in-all, the main selling point was the idea that you had a significant amount of freedom to accomplish your missions in whatever way you saw fit. 

While it was never show off, Frame City Killer was planned to have some form of online play, though the only discussed feature was more akin to a leaderboard ranking rather than true online play. A mini-game mode called Criminal Killer would see the player try to kill as many enemies as they could within a given time limit, with your final score then posted as part of a ranking tournament. You would earn coins based on your performance that would allow you to unlock collectible figurines of the various in-game characters. New maps for this mode were to be available for download each week. By the time that the game was cancelled, this was the only form of online play that had been detailed to any degree. 

Frame City Killer was also notable for the fact that, at the time, it was the first game developed by Namco that would use the Unreal 3 engine. Given this was their first time working with the tech, it does appear that Namco hit some snags along the way. For example, shortly before the Japanese release of the game, Namco received flak from the gaming public after some terrible screenshots were released to the Japanese press. This occurred after the game had already missed the launch of the XBOX 360 and pushed it's release date past it's new February 23rd date into the spring of 2006, with no specific date. Up until it's final cancellation, Frame City Killer would never again have a specific release date, instead only stuck with vague Spring 2006 or TBA 2006 dates. After missing E3 2006, Namco published a message on the official fan page stating that the game had been cancelled, though no specific reason was given. 

I remember first reading about the game in Official XBOX Magazine and while at the time the details were vague, they did sound quite promising as the next generation loomed ahead. The idea that you had almost complete control over how you would pursue your targets was something I hadn't encountered in any games at that point. Of course, then everything went off track. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion gave us a taste of what might have been, as the NPCs in those games had their own schedules to adhere to, requiring some planning when playing through particular quests. Had the game actually come out when it was supposed to, at the launch of the 360 or shortly afterwards, it could have been praised in the same ways that Dead Rising and Oblivion were, games that truly felt like the next generation had arrived. The 360 arrived with only a few titles during the launch window that actually felt like real steps forward for the video game industry, so Frame City Killer certainly would have had the opportunity to stand out. But it was not meant to be and Crow would never have the chance to put Khan down once and for all. 

Sources:
https://www.ign.com/articles/games/frame-city-killer/xbox-360-747906
https://www.gamespot.com/articles/frame-city-killer-e3-2005-impressions/1100-6125673/
https://www.neoseeker.com/frame-city-killer/

Edited by Inzoreno

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