Genepool Iron Man
Image: Dave Anthony

With Marvel Entertainment and EA Motive recently announcing their intentions to make a new Iron Man game, it got us thinking back to a topic we looked into last year: Genepool's canceled Iron Man game for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube that was in development between 2003-2004.

Activision was the publisher responsible for the game, with the Greater Manchester-based studio Genepool Software developing the title to loosely tie into a film project that was in development at the time.

The team at Genepool had previously worked on X2: Wolverine's Revenge for the publisher, a multi-platform action game that was loosely related to the plot of X-Men 2, and got the job on Iron Man after Activision's Executive Vice President of Worldwide Studios Larry Goldberg saw how much the team had put into that project, despite its lukewarm response.

Dave Anthony, one of the co-founders of Genepool, told us last year (in an article for Fanbyte):

"The reason we got the Iron Man contract was the guy who was running studios at Activision at that point was called Larry Goldberg…and he knew that we had given that project our all. He knew that it didn’t work out as well as anyone wanted. But he really appreciated the effort we went to, and I think he knew that we’d grown from going through that process, and he gave us another shot."

Justin Heyes-Jones, a programmer at Genepool also added:

"There was a lot of work done on the game engine and tools [for Iron Man]. After Wolverine’s Revenge, we had hired a number of people that all came from another studio that had shuttered. These included Tony Crowther and Stephen Robinson who are both very distinguished in the industry and are now technical directors at Sumo Digital in Sheffield.

"They had very similar ideas on how to build a development platform that would speed up development by letting game designers have more control over how to build and script the game. I was leading the AI team and we had a similar focus on tools for describing behaviours and realistic looking path-finding."

Last year, Dave Anthony sent us some concept art for the game that appears to show Black Widow and the villain Ghost. The latter is an inventor and hacker in the Marvel Comics Universe who wears a suit that can turn him invisible and intangible (though not at the same time). The character debuted in Iron Man #219 in June 1987, with Bob Layton and David Michelinie responsible for his creation.

In addition to concept art, Genepool also produced a demo, which is seemingly lost to time now (though we're still actively looking). From what we were able to gather from former Genepool developers, it featured Iron Man attacking an underground base, flying around, and fighting off a number of robots and machines. Those who saw it, including Richard Browne (who was then at THQ) called it "impressive", but sadly it would never see the light of day.

It's at this point, you're probably wondering why it was canceled and the reasons frustratingly are still unknown. Some suspect that the Iron Man film the project was tied to had entered development hell, causing Activision to change its plans. But, around the time, the publisher was confusingly also working on another Iron Man game with Dave Mirra: BMX Freestyle developer Z-Axis, which was in development for a year longer before being canceled.

Genepool Iron Man
Image: Dave Anthony

Regardless of whatever the reason was, the news was devastating for the studio. Genepool had spent six months working on the project and had no chance to repurpose the material due to the specificity of the license and the tools that had been created, most of which had all been tailored around Iron Man’s flying abilities. Genepool tried to use it to get other work, but eventually, the studio ended up shutting down in 2004. Iron Man, on the other hand, wouldn't star in his next solo game until 2008's Iron Man, from Sega.

Are you excited for EA Motive's new Iron Man game? Let us know in the comments!