Battleborn and the Corpse of Furious 4

Earlier this year, Gearbox Software, the creators of the highly-acclaimed Borderlands series, released unto the world a brand new IP, one they certainly hoped would grease the gears of the market and bring them unprecedented success. The game in question was, of course, Battleborn – a self-titled Hero Shooter that mixes together elements from both the MOBA and FPS genres into a single chaotic concoction. However, long before the aforementioned MOBA-mashup graced our screens, Gearbox were working on another project, one that would go on to influence Battleborn’s creation. The game in question? Furious 4.

Now, the aforementioned game might indeed raise a few questioning eyebrows, and no it isn’t a tie-in with the popular broom broom explodey car movie series, Fast and Furious. I would not be surprised, for it has been many years since Furious 4 last adorned the consciousness of gamers. For those who are unfamiliar with the title, Furious 4 was an entry in the highly acclaimed WWII franchise Brothers in Arms, one which had an untimely death at the hands of the development firing squads. Announced at Ubisoft’s 2011 E3 press conference, Furious 4 was scheduled to release some time in 2012, yet was promptly abandoned by the publishing overlord due to the overwhelming torrent of negative feedback that followed the bombastic announcement trailer.
Many fans of the Brothers in Arms series were concerned by the overbearing and cartoonish tone that emanated from Furious 4. Traditionally, the series portrayed a realistic depiction of the Second World War, focusing on the brotherly bond (hint’s in the title is guess!) forged in the fires of hardship and destruction. They were deeply serious and highly tactical games, a stack difference to the Michael Bay-esque combat romps that were Medal of Honour and Call of Duty.

Furious 4, on the other hand, utterly disregarded the core staples that defined the franchise in the hearts and minds of its audience. Gone was the serious realism, decommissioned in favour of a fictionalised over-the-top action thriller straight out of the pages of a comic book. Leaked gameplay from a Gearbox Senior FX Artist shows something that is barely recognisable as a Brothers in Arms game. Miniguns, Nazi jetpack troops and spinning Ferris wheels of doom are elements more akin to Wolfenstein: The New Order as opposed to Brothers in Arms, and I can see why fans of the latter utterly condemned Furious 4.

However, this did not spell the end for the project. After Ubisoft jumped ship, the rights to both Furious 4 and the Brothers in Arms series were handed over to Gearbox, who would initially go on to state that the game would become its own IP, free from the historic confines of the Arms franchise. Yet after several years wallowing in the foreboding realm of development limbo, Furious 4 was cancelled, never to see the light of day again.

Now, even though the game was effectively terminated, elements from Furious 4 would live on to influence the development of Gearbox’s latest game Battleborn. The former featured a squad of highly stylised and unique individuals: Chok, a hatchet-wielding Native American soldier; Crockett, a crazed Texas cowboy; Stitch, an insane Irishman armed with a custom made taser, and Montana, a hulking lumberjack who mows down Nazis with a gigantic machine gun. Each squad member oozes their own distinct personality and playstyle, something with undoubtedly influenced the creation of the heroes in Battleborn. In fact, the character of Montana even found his way into the MOBA-esque hero shooter, resplendent with his signature mini-gun and colossal stature. While Furious 4 will thankfully forever be lost to the sands of time, its DNA can still be found today, providing an intriguing insight into the often clouded world of game development.

But with Furious 4 dead and buried, the future of the Brothers in Arms franchise now looks uncertain. As yet, nothing official has yet to be revealed, though it is firmly believed that Gearbox Software are working on a new entry in the series. When this will come however, none can say.

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