Developer United Front Games had quite the task in front of them over the last couple of years, rebooting Activision’s True Crime franchise for the modern crowd, but things went south back in February when the publisher abruptly decided to axe the project after months of radio silence.

Activision execs cited quality concerns and that True Crime: Crime Hong “just wasn’t going to be good enough” to compete in the open-world genre as reasons for the move, and United Front went on to suffer lay-offs shortly after. Rumors that other unnamed publishers had been eyeing the title — and potentially the IP — swirled leading into E3, but nothing surfaced.

This week, Square-Enix has announced that the True Crime: Hong Kong project is back on, and will released under their banner supposedly sometime in 2012.

“When we first saw and got our hands on the game we fell in love with it,” said Square Enix London Studios general manager Lee Singleton. “When we met the team at United Front Games, it was a done deal in our eyes — we instantly recognized the huge potential in the game and the team. UFG is an incredibly talented team, who have individually worked on some of the biggest games in our industry, and this talent shines through from the moment you walk in the door.

Interestingly, the True Crime property remains at Activision and this game will seemingly be retitled. “It’s too early to say what the name will be … I can honestly say I think this is going to be pretty straightforward,” he says.

It’s one of those games where you don’t want to put the controller down; it’s what we call ‘sticky’.” … [The game has an] incredible new game engine, rich new story with deep and complex characters, and gameplay features which have simply never been seen at this level in an open world game.

Singleton goes on to say “During this time, the game has continued to be developed by a core team on a slower burn, but now that we’ve signed, we’re ready to turn up the heat and get the team up to capacity. We see this as a fantastic opportunity to create a new and unique franchise which gamers will come to know and love for years to come.

Chiming in on the news, Activision Publishing’s Eric Hirshberg comments: “Our team has worked very hard to find a solution where everybody wins. Square Enix gets the benefit of the tremendous investment we’ve made in the game thus far. UFG gets to stay together and complete their vision. And gamers get to play a great game. We couldn’t be more thrilled.

As for a release date? “We’re not talking about release timings or formats at this time.” True Crime: Hong Kong was in the works for PS3, 360 and PC.

This is a story I’ve been quite close to over this past year, and it’s great to see that things have finally wound up working out for the better. Hopefully the extra development time, better marketing support and right release window will do wonders for what had been a potential-filled title.

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