Publisher Ignition Developer Digi-Guys Format 360, PS3
You want to be optimistic when writing a preview. Given the horrors of developing any new franchise, especially in the UK, a shot in the arm is better than a smack in the face. Were we duped by Digi-Guys? If you believe what you read on the Internet – an almost-credible rant by a supposed former investor, for one, or the vandalism of the project’s Wikipedia page – then WarDevil deserves mention alongside Infinium Labs’ Phantom console in the list of gaming’s most notorious vapourware. But of course it’s not that simple. Villainy and chronic mismanagement are often confused, and no one we’ve approached has suggested the latter. Then again, no one’s agreed to go on record, either.
When we saw this nebulous game/movie at its home in Pinewood Studios back in E207, there was little of it to speak of. Desks were lined with animators; motion capture data was being piped from a facility downstairs; and the company’s CV consisted primarily of TV idents, pop promos and CG ephemera. Founder Andy Whitehurst was full of ideas that technically made sense and creatively weren’t very good. We generously compared WarDevil with a grandiose B-calibre space opera.
The hero was a swashbuckling blend of Kratos from God Of War and Voldo from Soul Calibur. His nemesis, called simply The General, wore higher-res textures than we’d ever seen on a console. The dialogue, whether printed in the screenplay or published in trailers, was cringeworthy. Target platforms at that point were 360 and PS3, Whitehurst keen to stress the huge untapped potential of the latter despite everything we’ve come to learn since. The 1080p, 60fps PS3 game with Blu-ray movie sidecar is just a fiction spun from Sony’s own dubious forecasts.
It was enough to secure plenty of funding from Digi-Guys’ eventual parent company UTV, the Indian media giant with close ties to Disney. With no evidence of actual game development whatsoever beyond an unconvincing combat demo, though, it was no surprise to see the project fall into limbo, Whitehurst depart, the studio get rebranded into Ignition London, and WarDevil be reinvented as Project Kane. References to Unreal Engine 3 and CryEngine would start appearing on people’s CVs, but the studio was shuttered in September 2010.
A studio staffed almost entirely by CG engineers and artists, Digi-Guys was great at churning out cinematics, concept art, and a compelling realtime rendering demo for the first Xbox; it wasn’t so great at emails or phone calls, though, as those investigating WarDevil have discovered. The vandalised Wikipedia page can be revisited upon request and slanderous forum posts are still around online, but the originals were taken down after legal threats. We’ve spoken to one insider off the record and it wasn’t terrifically revealing, although it’s alleged the game’s management was indeed in cloud cuckoo land – or somewhere in the vicinity. If the saga of WarDevil tells us anything, it’s that games pitched largely on the promises of console manufacturers should be treated with caution by consumers and investors. If it sounds too good to be true…