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‘Hell Unbound’: The ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ Video Game That Almost Was

‘Hell Unbound’: The ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ Video Game That Almost Was

Unlike Alien vs. Predator, which sated fans with tons of tie-in merchandise during its years in development hell, Freddy vs. Jason never really had anything to hold the hungry fan base over during the ten-year period that it took to get made. All we really saw was a KB Toys exclusive “Jason vs. Freddy” set of the Movie Maniacs toys, but even that was incredibly exciting for a young fan like me. In some ways, this might have actually turned out better for the eventual crossover. One of the struggles of Alien vs. Predator was that, by the time it finally came out, fans had already seen multiple versions of the match-up in novels, comics, video games, etc.

It definitely worked out better for Freddy vs. Jason—at least in terms of box office—that fans had spent years anticipating the fight without actually seeing it depicted in any other medium. The crossover was truly the result of over a decade’s worth of build-up and anticipation. Fans were hungry for it. What is surprising, though, is that while the marketing campaign for the movie was on fire, we never really got many tie-ins when or even after it came out. There was a novelization, then the two Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic series’ several years later, but that was it.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying. While the film was entering what would turn out to be its last few years in development hell before the movie’s actual release, a tie-in video game was also attempting to get off the ground. David Bergantino came up with the concept for a game that would ideally start on arcades, with eventual platform releases on PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast, as well as PC. Xbox was also considered as a replacement once the Dreamcast went the way of the dinosaur.

Dustin McNeill’s incredible Slash of the Titans book, chronicling the entire history of Freddy vs. Jason, goes into detail about what this game would have looked like and why it didn’t happen. But when you step back even further and look at the time in which it was being conceived, the story of Freddy vs. Jason: Hell Unbound is also truly the story of how Grand Theft Auto III changed the world of video games forever.

It might seem hilarious now, but when the first two major horror franchise games were released, they caused an insane amount of controversy. Parents were horrified that games based on Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween allowed their kids to step into the role of the killer and hack up any random passersby. Of course, actually trying to see any of that violence within those games was like looking at a Rorschach test because the characters were barely recognizable blocks with little dots for eyes, as that’s what the technology allowed at the time.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Atari

The outrage of that time still had a lasting impact, affecting both the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street video games of the late eighties. As soon as those things were given the green light, it was made clear that under no circumstances were players allowed to take on the role of either Jason or Freddy. That’s why both games are about battling the respective icons, not being them.

Believe it or not, this still had a hold on Hell Unbound when it was being considered in 2001. David Bergantino was no stranger to these franchises, as he had penned the novelization of New Nightmare (one of the best horror novelizations out there, for the record) and several of the Freddy Krueger’s Tales of Terror YA books. Now working in video games, he knew that fans would absolutely devour a Freddy vs. Jason game. But he also knew the rules: no video game could let the player simply hack their way through unsuspecting victims.

Because of that, Hell Unbound was going to pick up directly after the end of Jason Goes to Hell. As either Freddy or Jason, players would have an encounter with Death itself, who would show them a glimpse of what the world would look like if either of them were to make it back at their full, indestructible capacity. Freddy would be able to manipulate the entire world with his dream powers, while Jason would be at the center of a post-apocalyptic landscape, slaughtering people by the hundreds. But they would have to work for it. Only one of them could make this vision a reality, and so the game becomes a race to the surface with both Freddy and Jason battling to beat the other out of Hell.

Freddy Vs. Jason

Given that the game would have taken place in Hell, players would have fought demons and monsters, not humans. When playing as either character, the boss of each stage would have been a different version of the other. Examples given in Bergantino’s treatment (and backed up in McNeill’s book) include things like fighting the Freddy Snake from Dream Warriors when playing as Jason, or fighting Pamela Voorhees and Part 2 Jason if playing as Freddy. The idea would be to almost fight chronological versions of the characters throughout the game, as they seemed to only get more powerful as the movies went on.

As can sort of be determined from the concept, the game was designed for multiplayer. Even two players, one as Freddy and one as Jason, would make for an exciting time. But with the advent of online PC gaming, people would have actually been able to play with up to 50 people at a time. Each version of Freddy or Jason would be totally customizable and would adapt to fit the gameplay of each player, with the idea in mind that every individual player’s selected Freddy or Jason would be unique to them.

Freddy vs. Jason: Hell Unbound was a solid set-up. Bergantino seemed to know exactly what the game should be, all of the necessary people involved with the franchises and the licensing signed off on it and it would have been a huge hit with fans. So why didn’t it happen?

Well, the answer’s pretty brutally simple: the movie didn’t come out fast enough.

Once again, unlike the several Alien vs. Predator video games that saw release throughout the nineties and early aughts, Freddy vs. Jason had to be released day-and-date with the movie itself. This one thing was absolutely non-negotiable. That proved to be tough when the game was being developed before the movie had any kind of green light.

Truth be told, even if the game was released when it was being developed in 2001, it might have been too late. It was designed for an era in which you simply could not have your players cutting down innocent people. It had to jump through hoops to get around that by having Jason and Freddy slash their way through demons and goblins and all sorts of monsters instead of depicting them actually killing human beings. That’s no fault of Bergantino or anyone else involved in planning the game, those were simply the standards of the time.

But then a little game called Grand Theft Auto III came out later that very same year and absolutely shattered the strict rules of censorship that had remained in place for decades, and they’ve remained shattered ever since. Adopting the Aleister Crowley principle of “Do what thou wilt,” players of GTA III were able to do virtually anything to anyone, whether it had anything to do with advancing the story or not.

The happy epilogue here is that because of that radical change from the same time as the attempted Freddy vs. Jason game was trying to get off the ground, fans are now able to play as both of the major icons in brand-new games. Friday the 13th: The Game is a love-letter to the franchise on every conceivable level, from the look and feel to especially the staggering variety of kills. Freddy may have to obey the rules of Dead by Daylight rather than starring in his own game, but the developers managed to recreate the dichotomy between the real and nightmare worlds within that franchise staggeringly well.

The point is, Freddy and Jason are at the center of video games at this very moment, and they’re killing a lot of people. The two icons have always been at the forefront of changing tides in film censorship, given their—especially Jason’s—frequent battles with the MPAA over the years. But the fact that they’ve even been able to track the evolving standards of video game censorship only goes to show what a long-lasting impact on pop culture they’ve truly had.



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COMMENTS

22 Comments
  • Netherrealm Studios needs to make a full-on slasher fighting game.

    • Rohan

      You ever heard of Terrordrome?

      • Yes, but that’s a fanmade project. I’d like to see a professionally made one with a budget.

        • Rohan

          That would be cool, but probably not possible. The closest you’ll come to something like that is MKX. Terrordrome is really good though, I highly recommend it.

          • Even if they only use characters owned (or soon to be owned) by Warner Brothers, I think they at least have enough characters to make a Mortal Kombat vs. The Slashers game. Freddy, Jason, Ash, Pennywise, Pazuzu, Leatherface (not from WB, but still in MKX), John Constantine, Dracula and Frankenstein (public domain), ETC.

            Developer Ed Boon has also stated that there have been discussions about including Michael Myers and an entire group of classic slashers in MK, but never got a grip on how to do it until Freddy was included as DLC in MK9.

            I don’t think that a full-on slasher game, or a MK crossover, is out of the question. Getting the game licenses isn’t as difficult as getting the actual movie rights.

          • Rohan

            We’ll see, but I don’t think they would put in the time and money for a game like that. Let’s hope so.

          • ChampionOfLight

            I don’t believe Ash is owned by WB, either. And they’d never get Dracula or Frankenstein without opening themselves up to legal battles (despite being public domain) or visually making them so different that no one cares about them even being in the game.

            Game licenses are still pricey and require some amount of back and fourth with the rights holders on what can or can’t happen to their characters or how they can be featured, etc. It’s possible but still unlikely and, honestly, I’d rather not see it from WB – they only use the Remake Freddy these days (and Jason in MKX) as opposed to the original variations. If they were to do it I would want skins or DLC that could allow you to be many different types of the character (like new Pennywise or Tim Curry’s Pennywise) but I imagine the perfect version of what I am imagining is simply unrealistic right now.

          • They can easily get Ash. The reason the Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie didn’t happen is because the rights holders, who are close to WB, couldn’t agree on who would win. They are 100% free use Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. All they have to do is adapt their appearances in the novel or do their own thing. The only “trouble” they would run into is if they copy another studio’s version. And as mentioned, Warner Brothers has a lot of horror characters of their own regardless. If they go the crossover route, they would only have to obtain the rights to a few other key players to fill the slasher side of the roster. Still, I would prefer a full horror fighting game; hopefully it happens in some form or another.

          • ChampionOfLight

            Where did you hear that? Because that is not what I’ve ever seen – Raimi claims he said no because Variety had reported he agreed before even seeing the outline. New Line confirmed (in leaked emails) the plan was that Ash would kill Freddy so Robert England would have a fitting end to the character that he was getting tired of doing. The final outline matches the eventual comic (minus the altered ending to suggest Freddy could come back which was only added in the compilation of the comic because they wanted to do the more fan fiction style third one).

            And no, they aren’t 100% free to use Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster – but we’re both touching on the same point here. Certain visual traits we associate with the monster are owned specifically by Universal so, yes, they could call the character Dracula or Frankenstein (although it’d likely end up being “The Monster”) these characters would have to be visually unrelated to previous incarnations of them (either Universal’s or Konami’s) which is more effort then worth as if I’m going to play a fighting game with classic monsters like that in them you would generally want them to resemble the appearance of the classic Universal monsters. It would simply make more sense to spend the money it would cost to create them to instead get other licensed characters instead of obvious non-film knock-offs in a game loaded with cinematic monsters. If we were discussing a new game unrelated to any movie license then – yes, I see that being a very possible thing to do since you’re already creating a whole new cast of characters for the brawl.

            Personally, I think I would prefer facing off against these monsters in their own unique (not Dead by Daylight) type of game that does justice to the license more then a fighting game. I like fighting games and I’d certainly play it if it existed but like Terrordrome (which has some great fan service) I think the novelty would wear off and restrictions from rights holders would prevent it from ever being what I would want it to actually be.

            EDIT – One bit I forgot… regardless of what sunk Freddy vs Jason vs Ash (as Raimi did claim what he I said above but over the years they’ve also associated the decision to the reboot which I can’t recall if that was publicly announced at that time or not) it is worth noting that now the character is revived on a TV series so it may actually be HARDER to get the character now because of that. The biggest issue with licensing isn’t the cost – it’s the right holders have certain restrictions or desires that may conflict with the developers desires especially if the IP is currently active (but this is even the case with inactive ones).

          • Exactly. The plot outline said that Ash would kill Freddy, while New Line Cinema didn’t want Freddy to lose twice. The film ended up not happening at all.

            And no, the traits YOU most commonly associate with Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster are owned by Universal. The Universal designs are not the original designs described by the books and many, many studios have used those characters without paying any regard to Universal. They are absolutely free to use those characters, as Universal does not own them.

          • ChampionOfLight

            Uhhh I think you misread part of that or heard something inaccurate somewhere – this very site posted emails from New Line confirming that they WANTED Ash to kill Freddy as they knew England was going to retire from the role and audiences didn’t like the virgin teenage girl always killing him in the end. So – no, New Line most certainly didn’t have an issue with Ash killing Freddy. And that had nothing to do with the film not moving forward…

            No, the traits that the public associates with these monsters come from the Universal versions. You keep ignoring the actual point – no one would care to play as variations of those monsters that wouldn’t resemble any film version in a game primarily selling itself on featuring film based monsters.

          • That wasn’t New Line Cinema. You are referring to the unused pitch that was presented to New Line.

            http://bloody-disgusting.com/movie/3451744/rare-internal-memo-reveals-ash-kill-freddy-good-freddy-vs-jason-vs-ash/

            And you forget that the Dracula and Frankenstein novels are classics in their own right, and they don’t owe that to the Universal movies. In the books, Dracula had a mustache and hairy palms, while there is no mention of the monster having green skin and a flat head. You are also forgetting all of the major motion pictures that don’t use the Universal designs. Hell, even Universal didn’t use their classic design in that dreadful prequel.
            No, using the designs isn’t a necessity as long as whatever design they come up with fits the characters and they are genuinely frightening.

            http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/709071/27310505/1492116286217/bramstokersdracula-draculaemergeswithlamp.png?token=5OcnDyHSDgaVHOCVeZ8uhCmsreI%3D

            https://serendipity3864.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/1970.png

            https://static.rogerebert.com/uploads/review/primary_image/reviews/nosferatu-the-vampyre-1979/hero_EB19791005REVIEWS908319998AR.jpg

            http://hollywoodmetal.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/1005-curseoffrankenstein.jpg

            https://fpdorchak.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/dracula-cover-best-crop.jpg

            http://lexfridman.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Frankenstein_MCHS_book_cover.jpg

          • ChampionOfLight

            I’m referring to the exact article you linked that specifically calls out support from New Line and nowhere in that says New Line opposed that idea.

            AGAIN – we’re saying the SAME thing about the Universal popularized movie monsters but you KEEP missing the point. We are discussing the possibility of a game full of movie icon slashers, yes? They would not waste time and effort re-inventing non-movie based versions of these monsters for a game like that which would be sold strictly on the licensed killers fighting each other.

            Again – if we were talking about a game featuring no licensed (or limited guest license character) and primarily original monsters then, yes, they’d likely include variations of those monsters. But it’d make no sense in a game with Pennywise, Freddy, Jason, Ash, etc to feature knock off non movie based monsters in the roster.

  • I had no idea it that this was ever in development, to be honest. It sounds like it would have been a fascinating experiment, at the very least.

  • Flu-Like Symptoms

    I remember reading about this back in 2003 right around when the movie was about the come out. Not sure if what I read was referencing this specific game or some other idea, but I absolutely remember at one time being excited for a Freddy vs Jason game for the PlayStation 2. I watched for news about it for probably about two years after that and nothing.

    I voiced my opinion for years about never understanding why none of these great horror characters, Jason and Freddy specifically, were getting a shot to slice up players in video games when the technology had gotten tons better since their last outings on the NES. Always seemed like it’d be great fun for the fans and ultimately tons of cash for any developer with the balls to take the project on. Finally in 2011 Freddy was released as a downloadable character for Mortal Kombat (9) and fans ate it up. Then Jason and Leatherface were added to MKX along with the Predator and Xenomorph among others and people loved it.

    Now that Gun Media has delivered the game Friday fans have dreamed about for years, seems like everyone wants to hop on the bandwagon and get these characters in their games. Fine by me, and it’s about damn time. What I’d like to see now is Ed Boon’s idea of an all horror-themed fighting game. Yes, I know about Terrordrome. But a triple A, MK-style fighting game with an all-star roster of horror icons would be glorious.

  • NixEclips

    Even though the premise was designed specifically to avoid killing people, the version he came up with sounds infinitely more interesting.

  • dukeblues

    The movie was beyond bad

    • ChampionOfLight

      An opinion. And one I very much disagree with – in fact, it was better then a good number of sequels from either series in my own opinion.

      • MrX13

        It was an awesome movie! Being a big fan of both Freddy and Jason and seeing this was a thrill!

    • HalesTales

      I think it was a good Nightmare movie, but a horrible F13.

  • ChampionOfLight

    The idea of Multiplayer would have likely been scrapped and, even today when that is easier, actually sounds pretty bad for the type of game they were describing. It wouldn’t have been great but the Single Player could have been fun with a bit of fan service moments.

  • Alex

    That’s awesome! What would be really cool if they had a mortal Kombat fighting style game of the most popular horror villians all in the same game fighting each other.Michael Myers,Jason,Freddy,Candyman,Victor Crowley,leatherface,Dracula,Pennywise the clown,Pinhead,Norman Bates,Pumpkinhead,Jeepers creepers,The tall man from Phantasm,Ghost face, Damien,santa clause from silent night deadly night.even Chucky and Annabelle too.
    That would be a SWEET game

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