Back in 2016, new 2K Games studio Hangar 13 released Mafia III to muted critical reception. Critics liked the story the studio was trying to tell, but the game itself was plagued by repetitive mission loop and a host of bugs. As I said in our review: "I liked enough of what I saw here to want more from Hangar 13. I want the studio to get sequels and continue to explore the world of organized crime. With more time, this team could be onto something great. As it stands, Mafia 3 is just good."
Hints of that next game never appeared and Hangar 13 went through a series of layoffs earlier this year. According to a new report by Kotaku, we haven't seen the next game because Hangar 13 has no clue what it's going to be yet.
According to Kotaku's sources, the original plan was for Mafia IV, moving the series to Las Vegas in the 1970's. Eventually, Hangar 13 studio head Haden Blackman spoke with his Take-Two Interactive and 2K Games bosses, who gave the studio two options: Mafia IV or a new game. The team chose the new IP instead.
That IP was called Rhapsody, a game about espionage set in the 1980's. Players would have played a Russian Jew in Berlin, who was saved by Americans and then recruited into the spy organization that shared the game's title. The main character would be doing missions for the greater good while also attempting to get revenge for his parents, who were killed in a Soviet labor camp. It was a full-on spy game, with gadgets, smuggling, and the meaningful storytelling Hangar 13 showed off in Mafia 3.
One facet of Rhapsody was a connection with music. The main character had an affinity for music, via a piano his parents bought him as a child. The game's version of the popular "Detective Mode" mechanic required listening to music. Hangar 13 management decided music would be the focus of the game, but not with the spy concept. Instead, Rhapsody became a superhero action game.
"The concept was using music as a weapon," one source told Kotaku. "You could use music to inspire you, channel it into weird effects."
The idea was that our hero could use licensed songs to summon different abilities. Hangar 13 prototyped this idea for a year, but ultimately they couldn't get a solid grasp on it. Eventually, the concept evolved into a straightforward superhero action title, partially because the cost of licensing songs was prohibitive. These days, Hangar 13 is still hammering away at the game, adding in cooperative play and determining if they can potentially make it a games-as-a-service title.
Who knows when we'll see Hangar 13's next game. Game development is hard. I'm still looking forward to it, even if this report paints a picture of a meandering studio that's left behind some great ideas. I also urge you to read the full Kotaku report for more details on Hangar 13's struggles.