In the early 2000s a small developer named 5000ft Inc. started work on a modest PlayStation 2 game based on Marvel Comics' Daredevil. Unseen64 historian Liam Robertson explores how that modest project blossomed into something much bigger, before being unceremoniously canned.
Comic book movies were on the rise and pre-movie making Marvel needed money, so around the turn of the millennia the company was handing out video game licenses cheap. According to the latest Unseen64 video from DidYouKnowGaming, American publishing group Encore acquired the rights to several Marvel characters, including Captain America, but it was Daredevil that caught the eye of 5000ft Inc., a small developer that had only worked on a couple Army Men games in 2001.
5000ft Inc. wanted to make a small Daredevil game made up of a series of vignettes showcasing important moments in the blind crimefighter's history. That might have been a lovely game, but when the Daredevil live-action movie was announced with a planned 2003 release, the scope of the project changed. Encore wanted the game on more platforms — Xbox and PC as well as PlayStation. And instead of vignettes, Daredevil's game would be an open-world affair, similar to Spider-Man games.
5000ft Inc. found themselves attempting to please two different major players in Marvel and Sony (Microsoft was like, whatever, cool.) Marvel wanted to create a game that captured the essence of the character. Sony wanted to focus on innovative new gameplay mechanics. At one point Sony suggested the developer incorporate the grinding mechanic from the Tony Hawk's Pro-Skater series. That was a stupid idea, and Marvel hated it.
Direction agreements aside, the game 5000ft Inc. were creating sounded really interesting. Daredevil traversing a vast open world, able to use his hypersenses to detect crimes from great distances, dodge bullets and perceive enemy weak spots and behaviour changes. On paper it sounded like they had the character basics down.
While initial development went smoothly, a huge influx of fresh talent required by the changing scope of the game caused friction in the studio. According to developers that had worked on the project, clashing personalities and drug use. An engineering team brought on to create a game engine for the project began exerting control over development.
The engine being developed couldn't quite handle the game's open-world ambitions. Assets were regularly recreated and the scope of the game began to shrink. The Daredevil game slowly transformed into a more mission-based affair with smaller levels. Smaller levels meant the extrasensory mechanic was no longer useful.
Despite all of these hurdles the game, now called Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, started coming together. Levels were built, a story revolving around the Kingpin faking his death in order to pit his rivals against one another was in place. Towards the end of development many of 5000ft Inc.'s oldest staff had left the company, but they had a nearly finished game.
A nearly-finished game that Marvel refused to approve. Welp.
Check out the video below for more details on how the Daredevil game came to be and then went away.