So I’ve been planning on buying a PS4 lately, and that got me thinking about video games. Then I re watched Man of Steel the other day, and that got me thinking about Superman video games; or rather the lack thereof.
Here’s what I mean:
There have been 11 video games with “Superman” in the title so far, with the last one (Superman Returns) coming out in 2006. That game was really not well received by anyone. To put that in perspective, there have been 35 video games with “Batman” in the title so far, with 9 coming out in the last 5 years.
I think that the main reason for that is the same reason that most Superman movies aren’t very well received either: He is just so powerful that no one can relate to him as a character; also he’s either all powerful or as weak as a baby whenever Kryptonite is introduced. I thought about this for a while, and I realised that this is not a weakness in storytelling, and it doesn’t guarantee a bad story; the writers just need to play to that dynamic from the opposite side. A perfect example of this is Man Of Steel.
So the movie got a lot of crap due to Superman literally levelling half of Metropolis on his first day on the job. I don’t think that the movie deserved that much of a negative response. In fact, I think that’s the perfect way to show a Superman who’s never used his powers before battling other super powered characters who are actively seeking to destroy mankind. The whole point was that he wasn’t the Superman we all know and love from the comics; he was brand new to the whole “superhero” game.
You see, Superman IS too powerful. THAT is his challenge. That’s his most difficult obstacle to overcome; at any moment, if he’s not in complete control of his powers, he could literally destroy the planet in seconds. That’s a pretty fucking difficult problem to face every day.
Next time you open a door, or rest your hand on a surface, imagine that door or surface exploding with the force of a hand grenade. Now imagine having to treat every single person and object in the world as though it was made out of crepe paper and craft glue, every second of every day. When that’s the case, you don’t even need a super villain threatening the world to face an incredible challenge.
So, my thought was, why not make that the focus of a Superman story? It could work really well in a video game I reckon.
Firstly, give Superman ALL of his powers, without holding anything back. When you play as Superman, you can fly through buildings as though they’re not even there; you can use your heat vision to melt someone’s handgun from the other side of the city; you can pick up a 747 and throw it like a tennis ball. You have to reign in your powers. If you land without slowing down or without being gentle enough, you’ll punch a massive crater into the city. If you catch a falling person, you have to be in control of your grip so you don’t crush them accidentally. I’m not sure how this would translate into actual gameplay, but there’d have to be some system wherein you can “focus” or disable specific powers instantly to avoid doing damage. Something like that.
Secondly, put it on the scale that a Superman story demands. Superman takes care of the entire planet, so make the game space cover a city in every country; and include the ability to fly into space and look down at the planet.
Thirdly, include a “punishment” system similar to GTA, but on a planet-wide scale. So if you start destroying shit, the humans will rise against you.
Then, it’s just a matter of figuring out the story. I think that something relatively similar to Man Of Steel, but hold off on the Kryptonians invading until right at the end. So the game would revolve around Superman’s first appearance, revealing himself to the world and trying to prove his worth as earth’s saviour. So you would start small, stopping muggings and saving people from natural disasters; catching falling planes and such. If you fail to save people, the population’s opinion of you will get worse but they won’t actively do anything against you. If you lose control of your powers and destroy something, people will become disgruntled very quickly and try to bring you down.
The challenges you face will be occurring all over the planet. You can move incredibly quickly obviously, so you’d be able to cover most if not all of them as long as you’re on the ball. Then the game would gradually introduce more iconic challenges for you to face: Zod shows up to do his thing, Lex Luthor starts getting all up in your business, and so on.
There’s also an obvious “tutorial” level; you can start the game at the fortress of solitude and be guided through the use of your powers by Jor El. When you’re ready, you can fly straight out of there and into the action. You can skip it at any time since Supes can fly there literally any moment and have a chat with his old man whenever he wants; so there could be ongoing challenges in there too, mini games and such.
Then maybe they could also bring in the whole “Clark Kent” side of things. You have to spend a certain amount of time as Clark or your workmates at the Daily Planet will grow frustrated with you or maybe even suspicious that you’re not around whenever Superman is.
So yeah, this was a relatively short rant, but I just think it’s such an unexplored part of his character, and yet it’s the only way to make his character work in a story without either being invincible or beaten easily by Kryptonite. The movies always make reference to his need to reign in his strength, but it’s normally in the form of really brief comic relief and that’s it. I think Man of Steel actually nailed it, and hopefully in the next movie he’ll have gained enough control over his powers to avoid levelling a city in his battle with Batman.
Keep in mind this is just the game I would love to play, although now that I’ve written it all down, it seems like the technology for this kind of game on this kind of scale is quite a while away. Alternatively, or at least in the meantime, I’d accept a game where this happens: