The Games that Weren’t: Project H.A.M.M.E.R.

April 11, 2012

At E3 2006, the Wii made its playable-demo debut in anticipation for its launch later that year. A lot of solid titles were previewed in one form or another, including a five-minute demo of a game being developed by Nintendo Software Technology (Metroid Prime: Hunters, Mario vs. Donkey Kong) that looked unlike anything else Nintendo had published to that point.

Instead of any of the established characters that would eventually make up the roster for the then-unfolding Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it starred a hulking cyborg known as M-09 as he made his way through a series of robots armed with only one weapon: a titanic hammer that smashed robots as easily as it smashed everything else. Cars, walls, crates, whatever.

What It Was: Project H.A.M.M.E.R., a third-person beat-’em-up starring a dude with a giant hammer.

What Happened: Possibly a victim of a shift towards a more casual fanbase and/or limitations of pre-MotionPlus Wii Remotes.

Why We Wanted It: Untapped potential. Just imagine how much fun a game that uses your Wii Remote as a surrogate sledgehammer would be!

Project H.A.M.M.E.R., as the title was known, used the Wii Remote to swing the giant mallet. Chargeable overhead “power smashes” and crowd-clearing spinning side smashes were on display, crushing robots into scrap metal. The potential for more advanced moves as the character powered up wasn’t out of the question, either. There were even times when the carnage caused oil to splash on to the camera, where it would stain the screen for quite a while. The demo didn’t look like much— a few waves of enemies, a minor obstacle or two, and various non-robot objects to smash up— but clearly the potential for something great was there. If nothing else, being able to swing around a crazy sledgehammer promised to be a more cathartic experience over your typical third-person beat-’em-up.

There were so many questions. How did these robots seemingly take over America? What was M-09’s role in all of this? What the heck did “H.A.M.M.E.R.” stand for? Why won’t this demo let us fight that gigantic robot that busted through the wall right at the end?

Following that demo, Project H.A.M.M.E.R. was definitely a game to watch. Unfortunately, there was nothing else to watch. Ever. For about a year, we heard nothing. Then, in the first half of 2007, the game was “paused,” and that’s the last we’ve heard about it.

There was never even an official explanation for why, although some suspect that Nintendo’s shift towards a more casual gamer might have been one reason. Having played a number of Wii games since then, there might have also been an issue with getting the Wii Remote to do everything they wanted it to do. At that stage in the console’s development, everything was done via IR pointer, and a red dot even appeared in the H.A.M.M.E.R. demo to help you aim and lock on to enemies. Presumably this title could have been an ideal fit for the MotionPlus, but we’ve had that technology for years now and still no H.A.M.M.E.R. anywhere.

Ultimately, Project H.A.M.M.E.R. could have been a sign that the Wii would cater to the hardcore as well as the casuals. Sure, the console eventually received several titles in the same vein as H.A.M.M.E.R., notably Sega’s MadWorld and Ubisoft’s two Red Steel titles, but the closest Nintendo themselves got to this type of title was Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which was really just Retro’s continuation of what they had already been doing on the GameCube. Developer NST is still active, largely working on miscellaneous DSiWare and adaptation tasks.