The Vanishing of Shrapnel: Urban Warfare

The popularity of military shooters like COD and Battlefield isn't a modern phenomenon. The tactical (or not so tactical) shooter featuring hard-as-nails military types shooting big guns and blowing stuff up is a trope of games as old as the hills, and the Dreamcast also played host to its fair share of similar titles. Soldier of Fortune, Rainbow Six and Spec Ops II: Omega Squad all followed the familiar template of the genre...and for the most part they all did it well. I say 'for the most part,' because Spec Ops was an unfinished mess of a game that could probably have done with another six months of development time before being pressed to GD...but that's another story. Or is it? Spec Ops was developed by Ripcord Games and Zombie Studios and their series of military shooters enjoyed moderate success on the PC and PlayStation, and more recently on the Xbox 360 and PS3 under the Spec Ops: The Line moniker. However, the Spec Ops connection goes slightly further on the Dreamcast...but ultimately leads down one of my favourite avenues - cancelled games.


I was flicking through the August 2000 issue of DC-UK when I spotted a news article about a game I'd previously never heard of: MOUT 2025. MOUT stands for Military Operations in Urban Terrain, and the title intrigued me. I did a little bit of research into the game and discovered that MOUT was a military shooter with an extensive single player campaign and an 8-player online death match mode, and was being developed by Ripcord and Zombie. Putting two and two together (and coming up with four, rather than the usual five), I discovered that MOUT 2025 was the work-in-progress title for what was to later become Shrapnel: Urban Warfare. It seems that at some point along the line, the Dreamcast-planned Spec Ops 3 became MOUT...which then became Shrapnel...which was then cancelled, never to see the light of day. During my investigating I also discovered that Zombie Studios trademarked the MOUT 2025 title (you can view the application here) in 2000 but that's as far as it went - all development was switched to the new title at some point after August 2000 and the rest is history.
In the near future, terrorists are threatening some of the biggest cities in the US. As part of the M.O.U.T. special tactics unit, it's your job to take them out. Ripcord's Shrapnel was running on a PC at the E3 show, but a version is on its way to the Dreamcast. The game essentially has two modes of play: a single-player, mission-based mode and an online, "every man for himself" battle for up to eight players.

A very small section of one of the game's levels, in a nighttime setting, was playable at the E3 show. This urban area was cluttered with trash cans, elevators, and alleys. In terms of weapons, there wasn't much variety. Perhaps because the game was presented in a limited setting, the only weapons that were readily available were a straight machine gun and a short-range rocket launcher. Also, the only real power-up was an ammo recharge. According to a Ripcord representative, however, several new weapons and power-ups will be added to the finished product. In fact, according to the rep, most of the munitions in Shrapnel are based on real-life, experimental military artillery.

Naturally, being a traditional FPS, the game controlled extremely well on the PC platform it was running on at the show. Ripcord could not confirm the use of the Dreamcast mouse, but a combination of the keyboard and controller may be used. Shrapnel from Ripcord will be available for the Dreamcast in November 2000.
- Gamespot Preview of Shrapnel, August 2000

There isn't really much information online regarding what happened to Shrapnel. There are plenty of archived previews on Gamespot and a couple of IGN videos showing very early test footage of the game (see below), but nothing really detailing the reasons for the cancellation or indeed how complete the game was at the point the plug was pulled. The screens available online do hint at a fairly good-looking game featuring some impressive futuristic city-based environments and colourful graphics, and it is a much better-looking title than Spec Ops II ever was. I guess we'll now never know how well Shrapnel could have turned out as it seems to be another Dreamcast title lost to the mists of time.

Naturally, if you know more about the fate of Shrapnel please let us know in the comments section.

6 comments:

pcwzrd13 said...

Great article man! I've never heard of this game! I'm currently working on the script for the second episode of my video series on cancelled Dreamcast games and I may just include this one.

Tom Charnock said...

Hey man, thanks for reading! It is an interesting story - I'd love to know how complete the game was when it disappeared. Looks like a decent area-style shooter in multiplayer. Would be interested to see your take on the Shrapnel story!

Aaron said...

I remember seeing a listing for this game on an online game store (I can't remember which one though) not long after the DC was discontinued here in the States. I wasn't too familiar with the DC scene, or videogames in general, back then and bookmarked the site in hopes of it coming back in stock. Obviously that never happened. They had box art for it, but I could never tell if it was official or not.

pcwzrd13 said...

You can still pre-order it Aaron! Haha! http://www.lukiegames.com/Shrapnel-Urban-Warfare-2025-Dreamcast-Game

Tom Charnock said...

Haha! That's brilliant! :D

Aaron said...

HA that's awesome! And it's on sale!