A few days ago, details about a now-defunct game based on Marvel Comics’ The Avengers leaked on the Internet. Not to be outdone, Marvel’s cross-town rival DC Comics is making waves in a similar way, with new footage and concept art from a cancelled fighting game based on the publisher’s flagship franchise, the Justice League.
Unlike Marvel, of course, DC’s had a strong presence in the triple-A video game space over the past few years. Rocksteady Studios’ acclaimed Batman: Arkham titles aren’t just good comic book adaptations, they’re great games in their own right, and next summer’s conclusion to the “trilogy” (Arkham Origins was developed by a different studio, and technically counts as a spin-off) is one of 2015’s most anticipated titles. Two popular fighting games, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and the well-received Injustice: Gods Among Us, pitted DC’s iconic heroes against one another in dark and gritty brawls that the evoked Mortal Kombat titles of old.
That’s why this cancelled title, simply called Justice League, seems unusual. It was being developed by Double Helix, who went on to revive Killer Instinct for the Xbox One, and not NetherRealm Studios, the company behind Injustice and Mortal Kombat. Further, Justice League was actually in development between NetherRealm’s two contributions. That sounds strange, but there’s a good reason why.
In 2007, Warner Bros. was developing a Justice League film, set to be directed by George Miller, the man behind Mad Max and Babe. Warner Bros. got as far as casting the movie, which was going to star Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Batman, G.I. Joe Retaliation star D.J. Cotrona as Superman, Australian model Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, and The O.C.’s Adam Brody as The Flash. The cast even did some costume tests. However, the movie fell apart due to the rising costs of production in Australia, where the movie was going to be filmed, as well as the Hollywood writer’s strike.
Double Helix’s Justice League title was supposed to tie-in to the film. When the movie fell apart, the game was cancelled. Honestly, that might be for the best. The leaked 90-second video, which depicts a battle between Batman and Superman, is just as brief as it is underwhelming. A fight between DC’s two biggest heroes should feel epic, while the combat mechanics look solid enough (if a little stagnant), the fight doesn’t have the scope one would expect from a clash between two titans.
Of course, this is early footage; it’s possible that, with more development time, Justice League could’ve become not just the fighting title that fans need, but the one they deserve.