about the sad fate of Captain Blood's Adventures last year, I mentioned Axle Rage, another potential domestic hit we never saw. Well, it seems that the time has come to talk about his difficult fate. And I would like to open the story with a quote from the book "Game Time!" Andrey Podshibyakin: "If the reason for the absence of Captain Blood can be called the victory of business over gameplay, then in the case of Axle Rage the wording will be different, more prosaic and widespread: the victory of technology over dreams"
Race, Bat, Fight: Axle Rage We Lost

Mad Axel

Work on Axle Rage began around the same time as Captain Blood, in 2002. "Akella" was then on horseback and could afford daring experiments. In one phrase, her new project could be described as follows: "The coolest game about bikers in the world." The concept included an open world, and an unpredictable plot, and the development of the hero, and the pumping of his iron horse, and a shock dose of two-wheeled romance, and God knows what else. In different periods of its life, the game combined elements of a wide variety of works: from "Mad Max" and "Escape from New York" to Cyberpunk 2077 and the neo-noir Max Payne.
The authors called the film "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Cowboy" and even "Akira" as sources of inspiration.
The futuristic metropolis of Neilsdale, where the events of Axle Rage were supposed to unfold, would have plugged Night City into the belt. And not so much by the scale (the head of development, Andrey Belkin, spoke in an interview about six to eight square kilometers), as by interactivity. For example, it was assumed that much of it could be destroyed. True, I have little idea of ​​how this can be implemented even today - let alone 2002. But it was also supposed to be a simulation of life: with cars, pedestrians and changing the time of day! And, of course, it would not have been possible without evil corporations, corrupt police, and drug wars. How do you like that, CD Projekt RED?
Moreover, "Akella" planned to do a thing that the Poles did not succeed in normal driving. They promised to give a ride in cars, but the main entertainment, of course, was to be motorcycles. They were promised a lot: very different, from classic choppers to slick racing soap dishes, but equally well-designed. Of course, it would not have been without racing and all sorts of stunts like "wheelie" or blowing smoke from under the wheels.
The story of the death of Axle Rage.  How PlayStation 3 killed the Russian Cyberpunk 2077
The developers called the bikes in Axle Rage the same fetish as the ships in the CorsairsAccordingly, it was supposed to improve them in every possible way. And the analog of sea battles was supposed to battle on motorcycles - just like in Road Rash, only cooler. For example, a normal fixation on the target would allow you to comfortably steer and shoot at the same time, and in addition to weapons, various improvised means like garbage cans would be used.
Moreover, it was assumed that it would be possible to knock out the brains of enemies on foot, and in the saddle, not only with bare hands, but also with weapons (the baseball bat was supposed to be the favorite of the protagonist), and indeed any improvised objects. They promised to pay special attention to close combat. The dynamics are "somewhere between Devil May CryLotR, and Dead To Rights ." Several types of punches and kicks, throws, blocks, combinations, finishing moves, repetitions of especially cruel moments in a spectacular slo-mo ... Of course, all this fit only in the Mature rating.
The story of the death of Axle Rage.  How PlayStation 3 killed the Russian Cyberpunk 2077
Moreover, the story was promised no less adult than the gameplay. The plot of all this was quite in the spirit of the GTA series (or, if you preferDeus Ex). Everything revolved around a mysterious substance called "miro" - not some ordinary drug, but a real biocomputer, which endows the consumer with superpowers. The main biker Axel was supposed to become his dealer, who suddenly became interested in where this world came from, what was his catch and how to make more money on it. Naturally, where illegal substances are, there are gangs of bikers. It was assumed that these factions will get complex relationships with each other, will fight for territory, and periodically throw us tasks. In addition, the hero would receive his own No Dice gang, which was supposed to develop and then crush competitors. Sounds like a mixture of San Andreas and The Lost and Damned.
Only freedom was supposed to be less: at the level not GTA, but rather MafiaThe main feature, after all, was not supposed to be variability (although the plot forks were supposed to be), but a powerful main story.
Axle Rage Art by Any
The art was created by such artists as Andrei Ivanchenko, known under the pseudonym Anry (maybe you remember the covers for Nick Perumov's novels from about the same time?) And Vadim Bakhlychev (aka Molotov). Before that, they had already worked on the "Corsairs". And the soundtrack is a separate topic altogether, I highly recommend listening to itDo you feel the scale? Yes, the beginning of the 2000s was something like that for the Russian gamedev - the time of "dream games".
Tellingly, the developers did not use any 3D action, RPG with an open world, or, at worst, a motorcycle simulator as a game reference. Nothing like this. According to Dmitry Arkhipov, vice-president of Akella for development and development, Axle Rage was supposed to become ... Full Throttle in 3D.
I do not promise listening pleasure, but it helps to imbue the atmosphere
If you do not know what Full Throttle is and what it was for gamers of the nineties, then I will call you a happy person. After all, you can play the LucasArts masterpiece for the first time! Formally, this is a common point'n'click quest. But this is formal. In fact, Full Throttle is dusty highways, chrome shine, skin crunching, and the most masculine adventure in history. The notorious biker romance was above the roof, even for fights on motorcycles there was a place - not very interesting, but still. It was the combination of artistic style, good humor, harsh brutality, elaborate narrative, and that elusive substance that is commonly called "atmosphere" that made Full Throttle what it was. In general, this game became a legend thanks not to technology (although for 1995, with this, Full Throttle was also in perfect order) - and for some reason, we forgot about this. Devilishly unusual for a country where it is customary to rely on such ephemeral matters as "soul", "atmosphere", "love" and other bonds, and not cold dead polygons with godless shaders. And in the end, it turned out that it was the technology that ate this game.

Where Dreams May Come

The point is this: now any schoolchild can master some free Unity 3D or Unreal Engine in a week, so for most developers, the problem of technology is not so acute. Self-written engines are used less and less often because their disadvantages often outweigh the possible benefits. But at the beginning of the 2000s, everything worked a little differently, and Axle Rage was done on its own motor ... with which the programmers simply could not cope. The project had just a brilliant picture - the developers really did a great job on the graphics - but the engine simply could not chew it.
The story of the death of Axle Rage.  How PlayStation 3 killed the Russian Cyberpunk 2077
However, the team was not going to cancel the project and throw the work done in a landfill. Akella made a truly Solomon decision and licensed RenderWare from Criterion Studios, the creators of BurnoutOn this engine, it was not just anything that worked, but, say, the second part of the already mentioned Max Payne, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, and the almost forgotten The MoviesBut the main thing - as many as three Grand Theft Auto: numbered third part, Vice City and San Andreas. As you can imagine, it is difficult to find a more suitable engine for an action game with transport in an open world.
No wonder "Igromania" back in 2003 christened Axle Rage "our GTA 3 ". Moreover, in a large preview, released a year later, it was said that "at the time of Akella's decision to license RenderWare, no one had heard about GTA 3!" Although this, of course, is a controversial issue, because GTA 3 was released in 2001, and the active stage of development of Axle Rage did not begin until 2002 ... Well, okay, let's write it down to the enthusiastic style of the then game journalism.
At first, the working title for Russia was "Night Wolf", and the first unadorned version was simply called "Biker" and was a combat motorcycle arena
One way or another, Akella's programmers had to teach RenderWare physics on their own. They also created a model for the behavior of two-wheeled vehicles: in GTA 3, if you remember, there were no motorcycles at all, and then “it took Rockstar 11 months to just introduce motorcycles into Vice City! Eleven!", as the same Belkin happily reported.
Moreover, according to eyewitnesses, the game looked just fine, especially in the PC version: there were realistic fog, shadows, and high-resolution textures. And the motion capture technology and professional actors, whose movements were filmed based on "Mosfilm", were responsible for the reliability of the animation.
Cover of "Gambling Addiction" with Axle Rage
However, despite all the tricks of the developers, the engine was counting down for the ninth year, and in terms of technology, the game was hopelessly stuck in the past. This is apart from the fact that moving an almost finished game to a new engine always means actually restarting development and nullifying most of the achievements.
The game was expected in 2004. Then - in 2005. Then it changed its name to Rage Rider, moved to 2006, and underwent a conceptual transformation into a post-apocalyptic action RPG. The events of the game were transferred from a fictional metropolis to a completely ordinary Nevada, albeit ravaged by the war. It was not so much Cyberpunk 2077 as Days Gone - with scattered settlements, motorized gangs of marauders, and other anarchy on wheels. And even then, Rage Rider looked very, very old.
But outside the studio, time continued to run its course. The industry developed, game series was born and died, console generations were replaced. And it was the last fact that finally finished off Axle Rage. While working on the game, Akella, of course, did not forget about the PC, but it considered home game consoles as target platforms - it was even called “the first real multi-platform game project in Russia”.
The first minute of the video is rare footage of Rage Rider gameplay in its second incarnation
In the early 2000s, the PlayStation 2 rules the world over: developer-friendly, inexpensive, and simply the best console ever. According to the authors, the console and PC versions of Axle Rage were developed in parallel, but it was on the PS2 that the release should have taken place earlier. If the game was created specifically for the second "curling iron", then, most likely, it would still be born, albeit in a very premature form. It's just that Sony, known for its cunning, decided not to wait for the stupid gaijins to give birth to their opus magnum, and released the PlayStation 3. And that was already fatality: developing a game for a completely new platform, and even known for its whims, was like death.
Then, apparently in despair, the developers promised a release on the PSP. And in 2006, the project was completely closed - for reasons of expediency: the next restart cost the publisher too much. The gambling addiction in the material about promising games that never saw the light of day wrote literally the following: “” Akella ”really wanted to release Axle Rage / Rage Rider on PS2. When Sony representatives came to see the game ... well, they never gave permission to release it on PS2 ” (# 2 2007). I don't know if this is true or just an artistic exaggeration of the authors, but it sounds quite plausible.
By the way, the Urban Dictionary defines the phrase "rage rider" as follows: "A badass motherfucker who will knock you out for pissing them off in the least bit"
Perhaps, if the game had a Western publisher, he would not let it drown in the production hell, the ambition of the developers and their self-pity. This is how THQ pulled out "STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl", another long-term construction from the CIS of the 2000s. But what happened: “Akella” never found a foreign savior. There was no one to pull the next hope of the Russian game devout of the swamp.
Dmitry Arkhipov in Podshibyakin's book said the following about this: “It's just that the team failed. They declared a big serious brand, mastered the money, and got into a puddleA very capacious characteristic of the entire domestic gaming industry.
The decision to change the name of Axle Rage to Rage Rider "Akella" and 1C were made independently. Why it was needed is a mystery
In total, Axle Rage has been in agony for almost ten years. With her death, as Andrei Podshibyakin notes, the "romantic period of Russian game development" ended. The time of the dreamers is over - the time has come for the pragmatists with their session free-to-play MMOs and mobile, excuse me for being straightforward, milking machines.
And based on the achievements of Axle Rage, they made "Shadowboxing" and a lot of other trash, including the infamous Postal 3Moreover, in the same "Fighting with the shadow", the fights (the central element of the gameplay in a boxing game!) Have been screwed up so that you involuntarily ask yourself a question: maybe it's good that Axle Rage never came out? Anyway, a beautiful legend is better than another lousy game with giant ambitions.

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