Captain Scarlet Retaliation
The title Captain Scarlet Retaliation may not be instantly recognizable to fans of Spectrum’s finest officer, but it was the name given to a Captain Scarlet video game that was cancelled before it could be released. Ian Coomber was dispatched from Cloudbase to find out more about this mysterious project. This is his mission report.
As the most successful of the Supermarionation series, it’s understandable that Thunderbirds has been graced with the highest number of video games over the past few decades, but that’s not to say it is the best suited to the medium. With the constant threat of alien annihilation, Captain Scarlet and the Mystersons seems like the perfect choice for a medium which delights in placing the fate of the world into the hands of a player armed with a wide array of imaginative vehicles and weaponry.
Despite this however, only one game to make the most of this scenario was ever released. In 2006 the Playstation 2 was graced with a driving game from Blast! Entertainment, but it was one which gained mostly negative reviews. Despite putting players behind the wheel of an SPV, it has nonetheless rightly languished in obscurity ever since. But what makes this game even more disappointing is that it wasn’t the first to have been developed; three years previously fans were eagerly awaiting Captain Scarlet Retaliation, a real time tactical strategy game that would have opened up the vast world of Spectrum which the Mysterons had set out to destroy.
Developed by Batfish Studios and due to be published by Digital Workshop, Retaliation was first announced in the spring of 2003 to be released that summer. With no sign of the game on its planned September release date however, word was that it would be postponed until November, although the announcement was accompanied by the news that a Limited Edition would also be produced. Only 500 of the ‘Producer Editions’ were to have been made, and were only made available to those pre-ordering before the game’s official release. For the princely sum of £39.95, alongside a number of other exclusive goodies, those who purchased this edition would also have been able to see their name featured in the credits of the game itself.
But just like two months previously the November release date came and went with nothing hitting the shelves. Rather than being further postponed however, this time the game was unfortunately cancelled. After months of anticipation therefore, the only insights fans had into the game that never was were a number of press releases and statements which gave very brief descriptions of the features the game was intended to have, along with a small number of screenshots of what it would have looked like.
According to this information, the game would have consisted of 14 levels of varying locations, including a polar oil refinery – echoing ‘Noose of Ice’ perhaps? – to Cloudbase itself, with certain missions requiring players to protect an underwater base, and rescue crashed Angels. In order to do so, the game would have made up to six Spectrum agents playable at any one time, each featuring their own unique abilities as well as being able to utilise equipment and weapons ranging from sniper rifles to Mysteron detectors.
In terms of vehicles, the screenshots also clearly show the Maximum Security Vehicle, Spectrum Helicopter, and even the Angel Interceptors, all of which have been recreated in great detail, and the inclusion of the yellow cargo transporters from ‘Seek And Destroy’ also attest to the level at which the game took its inspiration from the original series. Naturally the Patrol Cars, and of course the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle would not only have been included, but also controllable.
Although no actual game-play footage was ever released, there was a video which remade the classic series’ opening titles. It may not have been accompanied by Captain Blue’s voice-over (although the screeching cat is still present), but the CGI rendering of Spectrum’s finest agent cornered in an alley was just enough to show that Captain Scarlet could live up to the description of indestructible even after being off the air for 35 years. But just as this years 50th anniversary continues to prove that is still true even today, perhaps it also brings hope for Retaliation as well.
In 2004, with Batfish out of business and Digital Workshop returning to the development of software other than gaming, the publishing company announced Retaliation as a project that was up for sale, even going so far as to confirm that “The game itself is finished. Some game-play may require a little tweaking, but it’s a good game that should be used”, albeit adding that they needed “someone to either fund completion of the conversion to a generic theme – or to buy it from us outright.” A choice which would indicate that the games ultimate cancellation came down to problems concerning the licensing deal with Carlton, who own the rights to the original Captain Scarlet series.
Deals such as the one that would have made the development for Retaliation possible often only last for a certain amount of time, and presumably the game being postponed meant that time ran out for Digital Workshop, and renewing the license would not have been cheap. Looking back after nearly 15 years it’s obvious that Digital Workshop never found the buyer who was both interested in, and could afford to renew it either.
Things may not have changed for Retaliation however, but that’s not to say things haven’t changed for the gaming industry. These days it’s common place for games to be funded via crowdfunding campaigns (of which the ‘Producer Edition’ was also something of a forerunner), such as the Gemini Force One and FireStorm Kickstarter campaigns which Anderson Entertainment has had great success with previously.
Just as the game didn’t need to be a Mysteron target to stop it from being released in 2003, perhaps the Internet is all that’s needed to retrometabolise Captain Scarlet Retaliation now?
Our thanks to Spectrum operative Ian Coomber for his detailed investigation into this little-known mystery.
Did you ever hear about Captain Scarlet Retaliation and would you have liked to have seen it released? Let us know in the comments section! For great Captain Scarlet gear, be sure to visit the Gerry Anderson Store!