FoxNext VR Phosphor Studios Predator Hunting Grounds Predator VR

Predator VR: What On Earth Is Going On?

Many near-complete video games never see the light of day. Though companies spend years of development time and mountains of money working on these games, projects sometimes slip through the cracks for a variety of reasons and are never released. Knowing about one of these projects – and not knowing what happened to it – can be maddening. But it can be even worse when a lost game continuously resurfaces, just to sink back into the murk once again. For me, that game is Predator VR.

What’s going on with Predator VR?

I watched the original airing of the Star Wars Holiday Special as a young boy. There was a long period between the Star Wars Holiday Special and the advent of the internet, and during that time I engaged in an endless number of passionate arguments with friends and strangers, trying to convince them that the madness I had seen was real. No one believed me, and it was beyond frustrating. It was a welcome relief when the first grainy videos of the Star Wars Thanksgiving Special started showing up online, so I could point to them and scream “Ha! It’s real! It’s real!”

I’m starting to feel the same way about Predator VR. I know that Predator VR real. I know that this unknown PSVR game is floating out there in the ether. And while I’ve kept quiet about it and haven’t tried to convince anyone of its existence, I have maintained the faith that Predator VR would eventually emerge. And now, grainy videos are finally starting to appear online, making Predator VR seem closer to reality.

“Ha! It’s real! It’s real!”

But whether Predator VR ever sees the light of day is another matter entirely. The game seems to be lost in a morass of legal and ownership complications, and only time will tell if it ever appears in any sort of playable form.

A Bit Of History On Predator VR

About 18 months ago, I was speaking with some executives from FoxNext VR about the development of their new franchise tie-in, Crisis on the Planet of the Apes. FoxNext, as I understand it, is a videogame-based subsidiary of the 20th Century Fox conglomerate. FoxNext VR was an experimental arm within FoxNext that was devoted to creating VR experiences based on the many exciting properties under 20th Century Fox’s entertainment umbrella.

At the time of our conversation, FoxNext VR was coming off the moderate success of The Martian VR Experience, its first foray into VR adaptations. Though the “experience” sold moderately well, FoxNext VR felt it was a little disappointing in terms of gameplay, and wanted to evolve its VR games into something better.

FoxNext VR was attempting something new for itself with Crisis on the Planet of the Apes, trying to create a true narrative game, with new mechanics aimed at allowing the player to feel like they were truly in the Apes universe. Whether they were successful or not is another story; though I’ve gone on record with my opinions regarding how Crisis’ original mechanics were aped by Sony’s action hit Blood and Truth).

Toward the end of our conversation, the FoxNext VR executives revealed to me (off the record) that they were working on several other VR titles based on 20th Century Fox properties. One of these titles was Predator VR. Seeing as how trailers for this game have somehow started appearing online, I feel comfortable now revealing that I’ve long known about Predator VR. But for the longest time, the existence of the game was a burning hot secret that I excitedly sat on, waiting for the eventually reveal.

A reveal which – for the most part – never came.

The execs at FoxNext VR were deeply excited about Predator VR, becoming very animated when discussing the game. They told me that Predator VR was designed as a 4v1 shooter experience, with one player taking the role of the overpowered Predator, and the others taking the roles of marines in a jungle. According to the Fox Next VR folks, most in-office matches ended up with everyone screaming and laughing. They felt that they were on to something great.

Though I’ve obviously never seen it in action, some of the screenshots that have surfaced from Predator VR do look an awful lot like the gameplay from Crisis on the Planet of the Apes…

At the end of our conversation, we made promises to talk again as Predator VR neared completion. I was very interested in reporting about the making of Predator VR, as I found the work done on Crisis on the Planet of the Apes to be fascinating.

Then FoxNext VR went silent, and Predator VR was never revealed. At least, not in the traditional manner.

There Actually Is A Predator Game Coming….

A lot has happened at 20th Century Fox since the release of Crisis on the Planet of the Apes. When I spoke to FoxNext VR, the first rumors of an eventual Disney buyout were just starting to bubble to the surface – rumors that obviously panned out. Disney did indeed buy 20th Century Fox, and along with that purchase came FoxNext and FoxNext VR.

After the release of Crisis, FoxNext VR seemed to undergo a shift in priorities. The studio released Alien Covenent: In Utero, a destination-based interactive VR experience that they took on tour, eventually releasing it on Steam as a free game that was immediately drubbed by user reviews. After that, the company went quiet. The FoxNext VR website is still active, but hasn’t been updated for ages. All traces of Crisis on the Planet of the Apes have been scrubbed completely from the site.

But as all of this was happening, it seems that others were working on a Predator game.

On May 9th of 2019, a surprise announcement was made regarding the development of a Predator game by IllFonic (makers of the successful but legally fraught Friday the 13th:The Game). Set to be released on PS4 in 2020, Predator Hunting Grounds was announced as an online multiplayer experience with one player controlling the Predator, while a team of four other players take the roles of marines in a jungle….which sounds a bit familiar.

At this point I assumed that IllFonic had somehow ended up with the code base that FoxNext had been working on, and had stripped out the VR elements, converting Predator VR into a more standard 4v1 “flat” game. Sometimes, games change hands between companies behind the scenes, often before anyone outside of the industry is even aware of their existence. I felt that this was likely what happened to Predator VR.

Predator VR Resurfaces

But then on May 17th, 2019, just nine days after the surprise announcement of Predator: Hunting Grounds, a Trophy list for a PSVR version of Predator VR appeared online, first showing up on Reddit, then eventually being picked up and reported on by UploadVR.

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UploadVR stated that Exophase, a Trophy listing site, had suddenly listed Predator VR, along with a logo and icons for the individual Trophies.

“Our guess is that this is an adaptation of a location-based Predator VR game that was first spotted last year (video below). That was developed by Foxnext, VRsenal and Brookhaven Experiment developer, Phosphor. It seems like a pretty simple wave-based shooter in which you kill Predators. No, you don’t actually play as one, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity,” reports UploadVR’s Jamie Feltham.

This description makes Predator VR sound as though it is at least a real game, but emphatically does not sound like the game described to me by FoxNext VR execs, who referred to gameplay that had players hiding up in trees and blasting each other off cliffs with sci-fi weaponry. It wouldn’t be unusual for a game to scale back on scope from an original prototype, but the game I remember hearing about seemed much more in line with the “flat” Predator: Hunting Ground.

Were these all separate games? Were there three different Predator games floating around out there?

Wait, What? A Steam Page?

On September 10, 2019, Disney announced their intent to sell off FoxNext in its entirety. The VR division of FoxNext seems to have struggled to the point of disappearing entirely (their presence on Twitter, for example, has been completely scrubbed of content). The primary FoxNext division found a great deal of success with their Marvel Strike Force and Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow mobile games.

I don’t want to even consider the legal complications involved in selling off a division of Fox that has permission to work with Disney’s Marvel characters – from before the merger. It feels very much like they might be heading for another Marvel Heroes Online debacle. Nonetheless, it seems that FoxNext will soon be sold off, as Disney continues to distance themselves from the game publishing business.

A lot of the screenshots on the Steam page seem to be blurry captures from the trailer…which does not bode well for Predator VR’s authenticity.

“We’re obviously mindful of the size of that business but over the years we’ve tried our hand at self-publishing … and we’ve found that we haven’t been particularly good at the self-publishing side,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger about the sale. So with this announcement, I again assumed that Predator VR was dead and gone for good, a victim of corporate shuffling. It seemed likely that the game just didn’t hold enough cache to ever struggle its way out of development hell.

But then, on October 08, 2019, UploadVR reported on the appearance of a Predator VR game on Steam, listing the publisher as FoxNext VR – with development by Phosphor Studios. Additionally, a trailer started making the rounds online, but with no real PR push behind it. This, as you can imagine, is highly unusual. Games from franchises of this stature typically don’t just have trailers that quietly appear online.

The content on Predator VR’s Steam page is as follows:

“Predator VR drops you into the explosive action of the 1980’s blockbuster movie in the ultimate VR showdown between an overpowering Alien hunter and an elite soldier.

“In the single player campaign, fight through intense action movie moments in a hunt through the jungles of Panama, and the claustrophobic maze of a Siberian secret base. Playing as an elite soldier, lead a squad of two NPCs and utilize an arsenal of deadly ballistics boasting the best of 1980s firepower including assault rifles, shotgun, .50-cal Desert Eagle, and a chain gun to destroy The Predator.

“As The Predator in Rampage Mode, hunt down your prey using advanced alien technology: thermal vision, cloaking, a plasmacaster cannon, and blade gauntlets to impale enemies and rip out their spines.

“In Multiplayer, get immersed in the hunt as a soldier or The Predator to find your target and take them down. Survival is up to you: Will you be the hunter or the hunted?”

A lot of the environments shown in screenshots look appropriately jungle-like and foggy, but there isn’t much going on in them….

Along with this description is the “mature content description,” which was too great not to include:

“Playing as the soldier, you will hear foul language and see blood while fighting against armed opponents and a Predator who like to decapitate humans. Playing as the Predator, you will be attacking humans with a shoulder cannon and wrist-mounted blades with additional rewards for pulling their heads off.”

All of this adds up to a game that sounds much like the one originally described to me by FoxNext VR execs, and nothing like the “wave shooter” that seemed to surface at trade shows in 2018.

Phosphor Studios, the company listed on Predator VR’s Steam Page as developers are the Chicago-based team behind The Brookhaven Experiment – the VR horror title released in 2016. Much like FoxNext VR, their Twitter account seems to dwindle out some time in late 2018, as does their LinkedIn page and their Facebook presence.

Predator VR – The Great White Buffalo

So, with a Steam page listing the release date of Predator VR as “In the future,” a trailer with no real information in it, a list of PSVR Trophies, and two seemingly defunct companies behind the game’s development, the question becomes “What the hell is going on with Predator VR?”

Is there a rogue FoxNext VR employee out there somewhere keeping the dream of Predator VR alive? Is this a real game that will eventually appear in digital stores, and the publishers are just trickling information out in some weird teasing PR campaign? Has Predator VR been cancelled, and everyone forgot to tell the person that has been quietly setting up the game for release? What exactly is happening here?

Much like the Star Wars Holiday Special was in years past, Predator VR has become my “great white buffalo,” an object of interest and unrequited curiosity. I would say that I’m the only one that cares, but obviously someone else out there cares too, and they have been quietly leaving breadcrumbs for the gaming community to follow.

I would love to say that I have the answers to what is happening with Predator VR, but as of right now, all I have is a gaping Google-hole that I keep rappelling down into. I would say that the gaming community could make a lot of noise demanding the release of Predator VR, but at this point, I don’t even know who we would approach about it. Hell, I don’t even know who to reach out to for a comment.

Predator VR exists in a tangled web, and I’m not sure it will ever see the light of day. But the release of the game does seem to be inching forward somehow. Maybe one day it will just show up online and offer some sort of resolution. Until then, all we can do is sit and wonder about this mysterious PSVR game, and dream of “pulling humans’ heads off.”