Before the crossover movies from Marvel, superheroes populated video game consoles in quite the number on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube in the early 2000s. But for every Ultimate Spider-Man or Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, there were canceled games which never saw the light of day. One of them was Marvel’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, an original game starring the vigilante of Hell’s Kitchen for PlayStation 2, and it’s been detailed at length for the first time on DidYouKnowGaming?’s amazing webseries on unfinished games, Unseen64.
First conceived as a small-scale tribute to the character’s history told in vignettes, the size and scope of Daredevil (later Daredevil: The Man Without Fear) increased when production began on the the somewhat less ill-fated 2003 Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck. While the game didn’t retroactively turn into a tie-in with Affleck and Jennifer Garner, the size of the game increased, aping after the open-world sandbox popularized by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Work on Daredevil was shouldered by the now-closed 5000ft, a studio based in Reno that made poker games until it closed in 2012. The two masters that tore 5000ft apart was, remarkably, Sony and Marvel, who today are working together on Spider-Man: Homecoming. But in 2003, Sony wanted Daredevil as a PlayStation 2 killer app while Marvel sought to retain the integrity of its character, who was on the verge of mainstream popularity.
What Unseen64 reveals is a Daredevil game that was pretty much Batman: Arkham Knight for a primitive platform. Set to be a third-person action game in an open Hell’s Kitchen, players controlled Daredevil (who else?) caught up in a power vacuum following the death of his arch-rival, Kingpin. The game would also feature other Marvel characters like Black Widow and The Punisher in extensive cameos.
As Daredevil, players could swing from building to building using his billy club (just like the comics!) or “grind” on wires and poles (which is nothing like the comics). I guess this mechanic was meant to emulate Matt Murdock’s acrobatics and parkour, but it was taken from the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games and it looks as bad as it sounds.
Adding to the Arkham similarities is a mode where Daredevil could “read” heartbeats and heat signatures of enemies from far away or around corners, which is exactly a feature in Rocksteady’s amazing Batman games.
According to Unseen64, the largest nails in the game’s coffin were the unprofessional conduct of the development staff and 5000ft’s attempt to please both Marvel and Sony, who wanted opposing things.
Today there’s a solid Daredevil TV series on Netflix, which is arguably better than any open-world video game that could have come out in 2003.