6 Cancelled Superhero Video Games That You Will Never Get to Play
Ask any comic book fan what they want in a superhero video game and the answer is simple: a perfect, mind-blowing adaptation that gets all the details right and whispers sweet nothings in our ear. I don’t see why that’s so hard. Sometimes we luck out and somebody makes Batman: Arkham City. But more often than not, we have to wade through the likes of Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal or every single Fantastic Four game ever made.
Well I’m here to break your hearts even more. I’ve searched the Internet and found six superhero video games that would have been awesome, but for one reason or another, ended up on the cutting room floor.
Some of these entries break my heart. I look at the gameplay footage I found and read about some of the ideas the developers had and I wish I could have played these games. Some are one of a kind. Some are so innovative you’ll be left wondering why were aren’t playing some variation already. Join me after the jump for 6 cancelled superhero games that we will never get to play.
I may be one of the only people in the world who liked the Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck. So sue me. If you haven’t seen the Director’s Cut on DVD, do yourself a favor and check it out. The Director’s Cut is far better than the theatrical cut, apparently because the studio executives wanted more Jennifer Garner and less Coolio. Well along with the movie, there was also a planned video game, which was going to be based more on comic book Daredevil. Developed by Encore Software for the Playstation 2 and X-Box, the game would have been similar to the Spider-Man games of the time, with a 3rd-person Daredevil running, punching and acrobatting around the streets and alleys of Hell’s Kitchen. The game would have also featured a special visual mode that would mimic Daredevil’s enhanced senses, allowing you to follow a path of clues to your next target. So it looks like Daredevil was going to have a Detective Mode nearly a decade before Batman: Arkham Asylum. No word yet if Daredevil would also be able to see bright orange skeletons through walls though.
The video just looks cool, am I right? Looks like there’s a bit of parkour involved, with a lot of emphasis on swinging through alleys and alongside buildings. Perhaps this could have been a forerunner for the Assassin’s Creed games.
What Went Wrong:
In 2004, the parent company of Encore Software, the Navarre Corporation, announced in a quarterly statement that they were closing down Encore’s development projects and changing them exclusively to a publisher. Daredevil was the biggest game in Encore’s production line, and we fans had to miss out on some potentially excellent Man Without Fear action. Marvel had even started running advertisements in their comics for the Daredevil game, cruelly getting our hopes up, only to have them viciously dashed. And as you’ll see from the rest of this list, corporate shenanigans are the weakness of any superhero.
Announced at E3 in 2008, little is known about this Superman adaptation other than it was going to involve computer-rendered graphics and a full 3D environment for the Man of Steel. It also would have definitely had a badass, skyscraper-destroying fight against Doomsday, as you can see in the video below. Developer Factor 5 was working on the game, which would have been released in 2010 for the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360. We only have pre-production designs and the below video to see what might have been, but it looks pretty good to me. Granted, some of that action may be all Quick-Time Event (the bane of all gamers), but who wouldn’t want the freedom to just fly around the city of Metropolis like Superman?
You can definitely see the Quick-Time Events in the above video, but some of it still looks like real gameplay. Who wouldn’t love smashing Doomsday through an office building? Innocent bystanders excepted.
What Went Wrong:
Brash Entertainment, who owned the license to DC Comics games and partnered with Factor 5 to develop Superman, was hit hard by the 2008 recession. As a result, they were forced to lay off employees and start selling or abandoning licenses, Superman included. Once Brash lost the license, Factor 5 as a studio didn’t last much longer either. You can’t make a good video game without good money. Damn you, Great Recession! The one villain that superheroes just can’t punch into submission.
4. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight
What better way to follow up on the success of Batman: Arkham Asylum than by pitting the Dark Knight against Jack the Ripper in Victorian-era Gotham City! Sounds like a no brainer, right? Apparently that was the case for Day 1 Studios, who put together the above footage in 2009 in the hopes of convincing the higher-ups to let them take Batman in a new direction. Gotham by Gaslight is actually an Elseworlds comic book from 1989 that literally reimagined Bruce Wayne as a Victorian-era crime fighter stalking Jack the Ripper. I wasn’t too impressed by the comic, but I love how that game looks. Foggy, old-timey streets. Batman with a big, billowing cape. The game would have played much like the Arkham games, with Batman moving around a full 3D environment. He would have snuck through alleys, jumped from rooftops and no doubt would have socked Jack the Ripper right in the jaw!
Clearly the video is a work in progress, but I still love the atmosphere. It’s dark, it’s Gothic and it’s definitely Batman. Though it looks like the developers spent all their time working on cape physics. If only all capes billowed so profoundly, then everybody would wear one.
What Went Wrong:
The pitch from Day 1 Studios was flat out rejected when collaborator THQ failed to secure the rights. It was only a hopeful pitch, after all, and the game never went into full production. I would feel some degree of sadness at this turn of events if we didn’t eventually get Batman: Arkham City anyway. The only thing cooler than steampunk Batman is regular Batman. Besides, Jack the Ripper has nothing on the Joker. Though now that I think about it, there definitely should have been a Gotham by Gaslight alternate costume in Arkham City. That costume is too good to pass up.
3. The Flash
I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do when I play Grand Theft Auto is to use the cheat code that speeds up the game, then send my character running through the streets or across the countryside at super human speed! Granted, the whole rest of the game is moving at the same speed, but for that brief moment of running, it feels like I’m the Fastest Man Alive. And for a brief period in 2007, someone was actually trying to capture that feeling in a real Flash video game. The below video is one of the most exciting cancelled games I have ever seen! It looks like developer Bottle Rocket had the Flash down pat, from racing through the streets of a fully-realized 3D city to beating up thugs with lightning-quick moves. According to the notes on the video, they were only 6-months into production when the game was cancelled, with a full year still to go. That would explain the rough graphics. But it’s pretty clear they were off to a good start.
There was a lot of pre-production work put into this game. Below is a picture of Kid Flash, the young sidekick, and there were also pictures of villains like Pied Piper, Gorilla Grodd, and possibly even the Dark Flash. The game would have been based on the comics with an emphasis on speed. Seems to me like Bottle Rocket could have taught the makers of the Sonic games a thing or two.
What Went Wrong:
Just like the above Superman game, the Flash license was held by Brash Entertainment, and when they went belly up, Bottle Rocket lost the rights and the game was scrapped. Some blame a string of bad games released by Brash caused it to go bankrupt. There is no shortage of crappy video games out there. But from what I see, looks to me like the Flash would have been pretty awesome. Thankfully, several of the game’s developers have taken to posting videos and pictures online so we can at least see what could have been.
2. The Avengers
You may remember a certain movie that came out last year starring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. You know, the one written and directed by Joss Whedon, the guy who brought us the 1992 Christy Swanson vehicle, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The one that made $2.5 BILLION dollars! The Avengers is the biggest superhero movie ever, and the third highest grossing movie of all time. So why the hell didn’t they make a tie-in video game? Well, developer THQ Austalia tried, and it looks like it would have been awesome.
That video is gorgeous. The game looks almost completely done. The physics, the movements, the animation; it’s startlingly good. Surely somebody owns a semi-working copy of this game somewhere, right? I think I heard they gave Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis a copy. Lucky bastard. The game looks brilliant. And as you can see, they were developing a first-person superhero video game. Has that ever been done before? It looks fantastic! Word has it Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk were all going to be playable characters, each with their own fighting styles and first-person action. And I know who I would have picked. It may as well have been called ‘Hulk Hands: The Game’.
Obviously it wasn’t going to follow the movie’s storyline too closely, but I’ve never heard of a first-person superhero game. Have you? Especially not with heroes as familiar as the Avengers. This game would have combined a groundbreaking new gameplay style with the stars of the most popular superhero movie of all time, how could that possibly go wrong!?
What Went Wrong:
Developers can’t exactly make a game if they’re out of a job. In August 2011, the THQ parent company decided to make some money the old fashioned way: layoffs. They closed down several studios and fired nearly 200 employees, including those at THQ Australia. Perhaps as an act of defiance, some of those former employees started leaking videos and pictures to the Internet. According to the THQ CEO, the company wanted to switch away from kid-friendly games and movie licenses and focus instead on social media and games that you could play on your mobile phone or tablet. And how’d that work out for them? Well, THQ filed for bankruptcy in December and no longer exists. Maybe they should have stuck with the multi-billion dollar superhero franchise.
1. Marvel Chaos
How do you top a game like The Avengers? How about a 3D fighting game pitting Marvel heroes and villains against each other in a fully destructible battlefield? Unlike traditional fighting games, like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, fights in Marvel Chaos were going to take place in wide arenas, and would include fully-destructible landmarks like buildings, train tracks and more. You would be able to hurl cars at your opponent or smash each other through walls, which might then bring the whole building down! And some of the arenas would have innocent civilians running and screaming for safety as you duke it out. This game, by developer EA Chicago, looked like no other fighting game I’ve ever seen. It was going to combine freedom of movement and large, creative arenas with some of the coolest characters in pop culture. Tell me you wouldn’t love to play the Hulk punching Captain America through the roof.
Unfortunately, the videos I found aren’t that great. I know there was a really good demo video I saw online once, but it appears to have been scrapped from the Internet. So check out the follow two videos to get an idea of what this game would have looked like.
And this one is strangely in German.
Along with Hulk and Cap, the game was also going to include characters like Doctor Doom, Spider-Man, Phoenix, Thor and Juggernaut, so it wasn’t just going to be a brawler. No doubt they would have found a way to include web-slinging and other magical powers. EA Chicago also planned to have alternate skins to unlock even more characters, like USAgent or Grey Hulk. The roster alone would have been impressive. Click here to view some more pictures of the game. Just thinking about this game and everything it could have done right has me wishing we lived in a more perfect world.
I think I’m in love. That Dr. Doom picture looks like a cut scene, but that Cap vs. Hulk picture I posted looks like real gameplay. This game would have been a thing of beauty.
What Went Wrong:
Well…the game’s development was kind of plagued by glitches and quality issues. I guess when you’re trying to make something that’s never been tried before you’re going to run into a few problems. The game was first announced at Comic-Con in the spring of 2007, but by November 2007, Electronic Arts announced it was closing down it’s Chicago studio and firing all 150 employees. This was part of a larger effort to trim about 350 jobs and return to profitability. EA Chicago was chosen because it apparently couldn’t meet the quality standard demanded by Electronic Arts. Along with the Marvel fighting game, EA Chicago was also working on the Def Jam franchise. Then in January 2008, Marvel decided to break away from Electronic Arts completely. Not that I can really blame them. After all, EA was responsible for Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects.
Which means we live in a world were Rise of the Imperfects got made but Marvel Chaos did not. Where is the justice in that?