I Want To Fly

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I just can't fathom his hesitation. Flying was the only thing Tiburon got right.

The industry has had it perfected for roughly five years now, or since the release of Spiderman 2. What I’m talking about is your controlled character’s ability to cross gigantic cityscapes quicker than you can say “parcheesi.” Quicker, I say, because you might stutter a couple of times.

I should have chosen a different word.

Surprisingly,  it got even better from there. Ultimate Spiderman succeeded Spiderman 2, and last year we were lucky enough to get both InFamous and Prototype; the closest we’ve been to flying in a game that was considered “acceptable” to most media outlets.

While the Spiderman franchise touted an excellent open world engine which mastered “fast travel” as you swung about like Peter Parker and all, you’d participate in the same missions hundreds of times over. Spiderman 2 and its subsequent releases started to feel like technology demos showing off an open world, but with next to no focus on long lasting gameplay. Aside from speed, you never really felt like a badass. No, it took until 2009 to let you… float.

The power of flight being, of course, the ultimate degree of showmanship.

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If Cole slipped to the ground below, he himself would be fine. The pedestrians, however, would be flung through storefronts or into traffic due to Cole's forceful impact.

Cole, the main character from InFamous, and Alex, the lead from Prototype, were both afforded the luxury of extremely fast travel as long as either of them were in the air. Cole’s flight, however, was a means to bridge gaps he could not jump naturally, while Alex Mercer’s floating was an extremely intense substitute for riding in a car, a la the Grand Theft Auto series.

All methods of travel mentioned above are entirely competent systems which allow you to do what you want: make it from point A to point B in record time. What they don’t allow you to do, is maneuver fully in a 3D environment. Sure, you can go forward and down, but you can’t move backwards or up. Once you double jump, you were at the apex, and you could only go down from there.

Oops. Looks like I forgot about Superman Returns. That wasn’t that hard to do, unfortunately.

Superman Returns was a full-on 3rd person superhero flying simulator with heat vision.  It was little more than that though. While I was enamored with being Brandon Routh Clark Kent, the game fell into the unhappy mold that Spiderman 2 had left behind. In fact, it was damn near the same action figure, but with a swapped colour pallet.

The game was panned critically, but not because of the flight mechanisms, which were detailed as being fun, if not totally enjoyable. Truly, the only reason the title has a 51/100 aggregate score from Metacritic, is because Superman himself works properly. Perhaps a little underpowered, his controls were just fine, and just like Spiderman 2, zipping from one end of the city to the other was far more enjoyable than following the actual storyline. EA Tiburon could have called the game “Superman: The Side Quests,” because that is what the game truly was.

So you’ve gotten the controls right and established the user a sense of power, and that’s fantastic; but if your game is a near carbon copy of what hit store shelves years prior with all the same problems, it just doesn’t matter. I put roughly 4 hours into Superman Returns before I, pun intended, simply couldn’t return. To further validate that statement, I am one of the biggest DC fan boys in the district.

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What works for Batsy, just wouldn't Supes.

All I’m begging for is a decent superhero game with the controls already exercised into shape by Tiburon, but with decent production values, a compelling story, and gameplay that might make you want to play it. Spiderman 2 raised the bar for superhero games in 2004, but it could be argued they sat on that until 2009 with acclaimed hits such as InFamous and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

One of the aspects that kept Arkham Asylum so grounded was that it was set mostly indoors. While Bruce Wayne is outfitted with the means of quick transportation from his various gadgets, vehicles, and parkour, not wasting valuable resources on recreating a digital Gotham means developer Rocksteady was able keep things more condensed and manageable.

What worked for Batman cannot work for Superman unless you took control of his alter ego, Clark Kent, in what would surely be the least enjoyable hero game of all time. Imagine Superman just reporting the scoops, instead of being the front page story himself– talk about brand misrepresentation. Superman’s powers and abilities just don’t allow him to be sat indoors, because the moment the gloves were off, half of the box store he was visiting would be in shambles.

Games evolve. Perhaps I’m asking too much to have the industry one-up itself again so soon, when it took them 5 years to do it the last time. Then again, therein lies your incentive. The demand for each and every person to make a name for themselves these days is so great that by now, someone should be jumping on the chance to make another Superman game, or at least change the dynamics of 2009’s styles.

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Interactive entertainment is Bizarro's enemy.

Superhero games and movies are riding an all-time high right now and have surfed a wave of cash throughout this entire decade. The time for a near-perfect Superman game is now. Come on! Just buy yourselves rights to whatever engine InFamous used (people speculate that it was the same system used by Uncharted, but as of this moment, I see no hard proof of that)!

Superman will always be a popular franchise, and is arguably the most recognized and iconic figure in pop culture, but as of today, has had minimal success in film, and considerably less success in the gaming realm. It is possible that DC Universe online can remedy our plight, but waiting is the hardest part.

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Written by Adam R.

This author procured a media pass for E3 under false pretences, and no longer writes for Critical Gamer.

4 comments

  1. steven g /

    Batman is the way to go. Limit the playing environment, but make the one we are given superb.

    Either have a huge range of mini missions, which do vary in terms of approach or have an engaging single player campaign punctuated by a range of stimulating problems to solve.

    Superman I fear, can never make a great game simply because he is Superman. He can’t loose and where is the challenge in that. Indeed it is perhaps why, in this more cynical age, the films are failing to win the audience’s hearts and minds.

    Iron Man has much more potential as a flying superhero and hopefully for the next film they will take him down a route similar to Batman. However I think that Batman might remain a Gem in a landscape mainly made up of false gold.

  2. dreamhunk /

    you should try champions online and other mmo’s

  3. I don’t think the reason for Superman’s recent failures at the box office were because of him being invincible, but because it was “Our dads Superman.” That killed it. Lex Luthor is without a shadow of a doubt the greatest villain Supes will ever face, and the most famous, but he’s just a dude. Sure he has a Kryptonite suit, but…

    There are plenty of other challenges Superman has, but for the most part, the public hasn’t ever heard of Metallo or Mongul.

    Care to elaborate on why you think Iron Man might have more success in terms of gameplay?

  4. Oni-Samurai /

    ‘Superman can’t lose cause he’s invicible unless you count kryptonite.’
    A simple way to include a failure or game over for Superman is to simply have him fail at rescuing civilians & his failings get reported in the daily planet. “Supes let some guy go splat!”

    What game has a final game over anyway? you can continue and restart mid-game infinitely these days. Yes, a continue is acknowledgement of the fact that you have failed in the X attempt, but this can be applied to Superman games too. Developers need to start thinking of ways in which Superman can fail and if I ever read the comic books, I might have a better answer how a game might work.

    Also take the Incredible Hulk game on ps2, the Hulk is supposed to be invincible in a way, the madder he gets the stronger he becomes,accelerated healing, etc. But there was a game over/ failure for the Hulk in missions and he could be KO’d. That game was an accurate and fun portrayal of the character.

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