Sam & Max: Freelance Police (lost build of cancelled Lucas Arts PC adventure game sequel; 2002-2004)
Sam & Max: Freelance Police is a cancelled point-and-click adventure game that was developed by LucasArts from 2002 to 2004 for the PC. The game was intended to be a sequel to the 1993 PC game Sam & Max Hit the Road and before the game's release was cancelled, the game received a Teen rating from the ESRB for "animated violence".
The project was preceded by Sam & Max Plunge Through Space, a game which was to be developed by Infinite Machine, a small company consisting of former LucasArts employees. After that game was cancelled in 2002 due to the bankruptcy of the company, LucasArts acquired the rights to Sam & Max and attempted to develop Sam & Max: Freelance Police, which was also abandoned later.
Sam & Max began life as a comic strip by Steve Purcell, that chronicled the many misadventures of Freelance Police officers Sam, a six foot tall brown anthropomorphic dog with a grey suit and fedora, and Max, a three-foot-tall white rabbit with no clothes. In 1992, being an employee of LucasArts at the time, Purcell approached LucasArts to develop his comic strip into an adventure game with him as one of the lead designers. One year later, Sam & Max Hit the Road was released to critical and financial acclaim.
For nine years the video game series laid dormant, though Purcell continued the comic strip for another three years and a critically acclaimed television series was produced in that time. On August 27th, 2002, fans' waiting seemed to pay off as LucasArts announced a sequel to Hit the Road, titled Freelance Police, was being produced alongside the Full Throttle sequel, Hell on Wheels (which also ended up being cancelled).
Development and Cancellation
Over the course of its development, LucasArts gave the game as much media as they could for an adventure game in a declining adventure game market. An E3 2003 trailer (see below) confirmed that Sam and Max's original voice actors Bill Farmer (the then and now the voice of Goofy) and Nick Jameson (who voiced Palpatine in Star Wars: Clone Wars) were set to reprise their roles. Very little is known about the game's plot, though an interview with game director Michael Stemmle described the plot as "really six stories, loosely held together by a thrilling uber-plot." Flint Paper, a character who cameoed in Hit the Road, was also confirmed to return alongside the titular characters.
However, on March 3rd, 2004, less than two months after Semmle had given the aforementioned interview, LucasArts announced that Freelance Police had been cancelled, citing the falling sales of adventure games as the culprit. Many game journalists, as well as many LucasArts employees (including Steve Purcell), were disappointed by this turn of events. As a result of the cancellation, the game would end up as the last adventure game LucasArts would develop before closing the doors on it's adventure game industries.
In 2005, LucasArts' ownership of the Sam & Max franchise would expire, allowing creator Steve Purcell to take his franchise to the fledgling TellTale Games studio, made up of former LucasArts employees. The end result was an episodic game series released in 2006 called Sam & Max Save the World, which would last six episodes and spawn two sequel seasons (Beyond Time and Space and The Devil's Playhouse). Very little of Freelance Police was carried over into these games, however, as TellTale was wary about using similar design patterns. The extent of things carried over from Freelance Police seem to be the six stories loosely strung together to form an uber-plot, and what appear to be the character basis for Hugh Bliss and Sybil Pandemic (the former of which seems to appear in early screenshots, the latter appearing in an early animation test -one of four- found on YouTube).
As for Freelance Police itself, the chances of it getting an official release anytime soon are between slim and none. It is possible that enough of the game was completed to warrant a release, seeing as the game was cancelled right around the time it was supposed to be released; that and the fact that quite a selection of gameplay screenshots and animation tests have since been made available. Even if an official release never occurs, it is possible the game could be leaked as a ROM online. For now, though, this game remains one of the many unreleased games people are still clamoring to see to this day.
- GameSpot's article on the game's announcement. Retrieved 19 Jan '18
- Early 2004 computerandvideogames.com interview with Michael Stemmle. Retrieved 16 Oct '13
- IGN's article on the game's cancellation. Retrieved 19 Jan '18