A new report claims that the now-closed Sony Manchester studio was working on a PSVR-exclusive game in which players would pilot a helicopter.
The UK-based developer was first established in 2015 and was constantly hiring, with job listings outlining a studio exclusively focused on making AAA PSVR titles. But, in February 2020, Sony announced it was closing the studio before it had even revealed the game it was working on. At the time, Sony said the decision was made “as part of our efforts to improve efficiency and operational effectiveness.”
In a new report, Polygon spoke to former members of the team under conditions of anonymity. Those sources revealed that Sony Manchester was working on a helicopter action title named CSAR: Combat, Search, and Rescue. It was being called Rescue for short. The game was reportedly first envisioned at Evolution Studios, the Driveclub and Motorstorm developer Sony was also set to close before Codemasters took the team on in 2016.
CSAR would have players sitting in the cockpit of a helicopter and fighting enemies whilst saving others. You’d take off from an aircraft carrier and have the help of a co-pilot.
But, while the idea seemed solid for a VR game, Polygon’s report outlines a project that would suddenly change directions based on decisions from management, which included Eric Matthews, vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios and Mark Green, who headed up Sony research, both based in London. According to the report the pair’s hands-on approach, combined with remote work (they made weekly visits to the studio), frustrated the game’s progress and staff morale.
“New enemy types would take months — and we’re talking blocky tanks,” one source reportedly said. “It was all just a pre-production concept. It was just a graybox for years.”
Other sections of the report point to issues like working out of rented workspace with other businesses and a decision to bring the design team to London, effectively splitting the studio in two. When Sony shook up its executive leadership in 2019, putting Herman Hulst in charge, the company started to pay more attention to what Sony Manchester was making. With little progress to show after five years, Sony made the choice to close the studio early in the following year.
And so Sony Manchester went the way of many UK-based, PlayStation-owned developers that had worked on PSVR titles. Guerrilla Cambridge shut after the launch of RIGS: Mechanized Combat League in 2016, Evolution left Sony before Driveclub VR was even released, and Wipeout developer Sony Liverpool saw its work refashioned for VR in the optional Omega Collection support a long time after it shut its doors. Blood & Truth developer Sony London is still open, though it’s unclear if its next project will be for Sony’s upcoming PS5 VR headset or something else.