Two of DC Comic’s biggest heroes are set to go toe to toe on the big screen in Batman V Superman but when it comes to dominating the video game world, clearly the caped crusader has the upper hand over Superman. Batman will even get his own Telltale game series soon and the Arkham series are considered the best superhero games around.
If you remember putting in that Superman 64 cartridge into your Nintendo 64 then you know that the disappointment of not having a truly great game based on the Son of Krypton runs deep. There was a immediately forgettable tie-in for Superman Returns on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 but after that, one developer attempted to make the first great Superman game that would push the then current generation games consoles to the limit. Gameplay footage has now surfaced of that cancelled Superman game.
Made by Did You Know Gaming?, in association with online archive of video game history Unseen64, the video acts as a short documentary chronicling the efforts of Brash Entertainment and Factor 5 to finally make a Superman game worthy of the property. It started in 2007, when Factor 5, famed for developing the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games had failed with a partnership with Sony and proceeded to pitch a number of new projects to publishers, including a new Kid Icarus game with Nintendo. They eventually partnered with Brash Entertainment, who began as a publisher who would focus purely on developing games based on movie properties, being based in Hollywood and managed to quickly gain funding of $400 million from investors, on the ill-fated Superman game.
Factor 5 began experimenting with the idea of an open-world game that would feature fully destructible buildings and opportunities to take advantage of all Superman’s abilities. Brash were working alongside Warner Bros. and knew the production company were in the early stages of developing a sequel to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. In an odd coincidence, that film was supposed to be called Man of Steel. The film production was delayed as Singer decided he wanted to take on non-superhero projects but Brash and Factor 5 continued to work on their pet project, treating it as a standalone title which they dubbed ‘Blue Steel’.
A key part in the video is the footage of the demo created by Factor 5 to really show off what their vision was. It shows dynamic environments as Superman fights Doomsday in Metropolis. They understood they were facing an uphill struggle to create an intuitive control system but were determined to make it work. They were even more dogged at developing a version of the game for Nintendo’s Wii, although former team members now admit they hardly got anywhere with that.
Perhaps one of Factor 5’s failing points was that none on the team had a strong grasp on what the game’s plot could be. They focused on what characters and set pieces would feature in the game, including several villains like Brainiac and Lex Luthor plus a playable Supergirl. They took inspiration from comics as well as key scenes in the older Superman films but how would they develop a cohesive story from that? Perhaps they were hoping that Bryan Singer would help out with coming up with story ideas but by the time the director finished Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise, Warner Bros. told him they had changed their mind about Singer’s Superman sequel, instead opting to reboot several years later Warner Bros. were no longer invested in seeing the game get off the ground.
Much like Nic Cage in a red cape, this Superman would never see his time in the sun. Brash Entertainment succumbed to bankruptcy in 2008. Despite Factor 5 trying to soldier on, they ran out of cash and employees stopped getting paid. Unable to find a new publisher, they shut down and all staff were laid off. Lawsuits over unpaid wages were only settled late last year. The project died with Factor 5.
Warner Bros. doesn't seem to be so put off by being involved in a game project that doesn’t have a direct film to tie in to any more. In recent years they’ve released Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Mad Max which have both been well-received by fans and critics. Fans still dream of the game that Superman deserves. Rocksteady, who made the Arkham games are the top of the wish list of who people want to see tackle such a task especially after squeezing in all sorts of Superman Easter Eggs into Batman: Arkham Knight, the final game in the series.