New Footage of Canceled Marvel Fighting Game Resurrects Feelings of Sadness It Will Never Exist
Way back in the long, long ago, Marvel and EA Games forged a partnership to create fighting games set in the Marvel Universe. Marvel: Rise of the Imperfects was not a great first effort. In 2007, EA announced its Chicago studio, the developers of the acclaimed Fight Night boxing series, would develop an entirely new Marvel fighter. Unfortunately, just one year later the partnership was dissolved, and EA Chicago's in-development title was canned.
Many wondered what could have been, but thanks to some solid digging by numerous gaming outlets, brief glimpses of the game escaped for public view. In the years since, most have all but forgotten about Marvel, but new footage from a prototype of the title was unearthed this week. The video comes courtesy of PtoPOnline (via Kotaku), a YouTube channel focused on the preservation of games, and in particular, prototypes of games that were either never released or different from their retail release counterparts.
You might recall a few years ago, the "X Video," the internal video developed to show a proof of concept, leaked. In it, Spider-Man faces off against Dr. Doom on a New York City street populated by the many denizens of the metropolis. In addition to fighting one another, the environment was supposed to pay a large part, not just in buildings collapsing and cars exploding, but in the crowds needing saving from all the chaos, too. Even this early in development however, things were already starting to stack up against EA Chicago as this concept video, which typically would take a few months to develop took well over half a year to create.
According to Polygon, the development team originally went way out there with its character concepts, which Marvel then balked at, forcing the team back to the more traditional versions we all know and love. EA Chicago still wanted to put its own little spin on the characters though, and attempted to do so by hiring David Faustino (Spider-Man), Steve Blum (Captain America) and Greg Henry (Wolverine) to inhabit the roles of the iconic characters.
Reworking the characters wasn't as much of a challenge as creating a world that would react properly to all the different characters and abilities however. With the simple punch and attack mechanics, things worked really well. The open environments, abilities and destruction really played havoc with the game's performance though. "When you are in a big play environment, and say you have the Thing over here and Beast over there, and they're two blocks away — they're just kind of running towards each other on a street," designer Michael Mendheim told Polygon. "It wasn't very compelling."
As you can see in the prototype footage PtoPOnline uncovered, the openness of the world is a bit of an issue for the fighter. When Hulk and Captain America are near enough to actually fight, Marvel doesn't look half bad, even in this very early, rough form. As they move farther apart, the world instantly seems too large, even for these superheroes. The prototype here is also missing some of the planned crowd control ideas. In concept, the idea of having people around to save and interact with heroes and villains while they fought was a solid one. In execution, it just wasn't possible. The AI had to juggle too many variables, and the main attraction (combat) was muddled and diluted as a result.
Video games get canceled all the time, but the story of Marvel's ambition is what makes it such a compelling tale despite that its failure to launch also led to major shake-ups at EA Chicago. It wasn't all the fault of this impressive take on superhero fighting games, but the amount of money EA was investing and not seeing a potential return on certainly didn't help matters. Seeing footage of the game in action reminds us of what could have been, not just for Marvel, but for EA Chicago as well, if things had worked out just a little bit differently.