The story behind Marvel’s cancelled Daredevil game

By Shabana Arif, Monday, 27 June 2016 12:13 GMT

Not everyone deserves a happy ending.

Development of the Daredevil game began in 2002 and the concept went through a number of iterations before the plug was pulled, but it makes for one hell of a story. Liam Robertson fleshes out the events behind its demise.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear was going to be a relatively small third-person action game for the PS2 with the intention of recreating certain key scenes from the comic book. Tim Page, the former president of the studio developing the title, described it as “a series of vignettes celebrating some of the most notable moments of daredevil’s superhero career.”

After the first prototype was put together, Marvel liked what they saw, and stepped in to oversee the project, and as they held the rights, they wielded the power of final say over all decisions.

When news of the Daredevil film came from Sony Pictures, the game had the potential to be even more successful, and the publisher, Encore, wanted to expand the platforms it would be available on to include PC and Xbox. The tie-in also meant that the budget got a significant cash injection, and the overall direction changed. It would now be an open-world action game with a February 2003 release window to coincide with that of the film.

As they were now developing for both PlayStation and Xbox, 5000 ft had to answer to both Sony and Microsoft as well as Marvel, and while Microsoft were happy to let the studio do what they pleased, Sony became heavily involved, and their demands often conflicted with Marvel’s view of the game.

Marvel was keen to stay true to the comic. Sony, on the other hand, wanted to explore new game mechanics, insisting that Tony Hawk style grinding be introduced, with Daredevil sliding along telephone wires and building edges. Marvel was not amused.

On top of that, Encore were unwilling to pay the fees for Renderware, a third party engine also used for GTA 3 and Burnout, so 5000 ft were forced to build their own, further complicating matters.

After a delayed release date and even more drama stemming from employees’ drug abuse, conflicting directions, and technical issues coming out the wazoo, things weren’t looking too good.

In the last six months of development, long-serving members of staff left en masse, and the project was left in the hands of hired consultants. The game was pretty much finished at this point but Marvel refused to approve it. In their efforts to appease Sony’s vision, 5000 ft had veered away from essence of the comic. Marvel didn’t like what they saw and pulled the license.

The studio was a shadow of what it once was and went on to make a few gambling games before eventually shutting down. Meanwhile the publisher was down by six million dollars with nothing to show for it.

After getting a look at snipppets of gameplay and some of the ideas that were being batted around, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear could’ve been a hell of a game, with Batman-esque sonar abilities, and traversal that rivalled 2002’s Spiderman. 5000 ft had even convinced Marvel to let them use The Punisher and Black Widow. Imagine that.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, the video is worth a watch and is far more interesting that my abridged version of events.

Considering the success of the Netflix series, do you think we’ll see another attempt at a Daredevil game anytime soon? Chime in below.

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