Square Enix has picked up the rights to United Front Games' True Crime: Hong Kong, which was cancelled earlier this year by original publisher Activision.
"When we first saw and got our hands on the game we fell in love with it," Square Enix London Studios general manager Lee Singleton told Gamasutra in an exclusive interview about the pick-up.
The game is still under development at Vancouver-based United Front; the project is being managed through Square Enix London Studios, which also worked with Rocksteady Studios on Batman: Arkham Asylum and Avalanche Studios on Just Cause 2.
While the game was originally under development for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, and due out this November, Singleton tells Gamasutra that "We're not talking about release timings or formats at this time."
Square Enix has not picked up the True Crime IP. Says Singleton, "It's too early to say what the name will be." However, he says that -- as far as removing the True Crime title -- "I can honestly say I think this is going to be pretty straightforward," and that the Square Enix branding team is already working on concepts.
He is very bullish on the game itself. Saying that UFG's work on the title so far is "really strong," he describes it as a "great big bucket of fun."
Says Singleton, "It's one of those games where you don't want to put the controller down; it's what we call 'sticky'." He also pointed to the "incredible new game engine, rich new story with deep and complex characters, and gameplay features which have simply never been seen at this level in an open world game" as points in its favor that made the team at Square Enix "jump all over it."
He also has much confidence in the development team: "When we met the team at United Front Games," says Singleton, "it was a done deal in our eyes -- we instantly recognized the huge potential in the game and the team. UFG is an incredibly talented team, who have individually worked on some of the biggest games in our industry, and this talent shines through from the moment you walk in the door."
While development on the game did "scale back" in the immediate aftermath of the cancellation, Singleton tells Gamasutra that all assessment of the game by Square Enix is already complete and the developer has been actively recruiting the talent that worked on the game since talks with the Japanese publisher began.
"During this time, the game has continued to be developed by a core team on a slower burn, but now that we've signed, we're ready to turn up the heat and get the team up to capacity," he says.
"We see this as a fantastic opportunity to create a new and unique franchise which gamers will come to know and love for years to come," adds Singleton.
Square Enix London Studios is an entity that was set up in 2008 by Eidos "with a view to providing a fresh approach to third party game development," Singleton says. Eidos became part of Square Enix in 2009.
"We consist of bespoke internal multidisciplinary game teams made up of design, production and brand and pride ourselves on partnering with the very best external studios and talent," he says.
Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, said in a statement to Gamasutra, "Our team has worked very hard to find a solution where everybody wins. Square Enix gets the benefit of the tremendous investment we've made in the game thus far. UFG gets to stay together and complete their vision. And gamers get to play a great game. We couldn't be more thrilled."
In the company's investor call at the time, Hirshberg said of True Crime: Hong Kong's cancellation, "To be blunt, it just wasn't going to be good enough."
Singleton has a different take on things, of course. "We are committed to working with the team at United Front Games and giving them the time needed to realize the full potential of the game's standout features and create a truly unique open world adventure."