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Canceled Superman game would have let you plow bad guys through Metropolis' skyscrapers

Could this have been the video game that finally got Superman right?

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Almost as a rule, Superman video games have been quicksand for their development studios, requiring tons of time and effort and licensing to pay off with a poorly reviewed product and sales to match. In 2007, however, Factor 5 was convinced it could get the Man of Steel right.

Factor 5 never got the chance. Did You Know Gaming?, chroniclers of all things canceled, got its hands on footage of this Superman game, from very early in development, and use it to tell the story of a perfect storm of circumstances in 2008 that took down Superman harder than any shade of Kryptonite ever did.

First, the game: as Did You Know Gaming? recounts, this was to be an open-world Superman game with an ensemble cast of iconic bad guys trashing the city and getting trashed by Superman.

The most ambitious feature Factor 5 was going for was a means of Superman taking his foe and driving him all the way through any of the buildings located in the cityscape, which would require a destructible environment rendered in real time.

Factor 5 was also a big fan of the Wii, so much that they were going to build a version of this Superman game for that console even though they were not getting paid extra to do it. When Warner Bros. pulled Bryan Singer off a sequel to 2006's Superman Returns and back-burnered the movie franchise, Factor 5 scrambled to keep its game going as a stand-alone title, rather than an adaptation of a film.

Then Factor 5's publisher, Brash Entertainment, a venture focusing entirely on licensed properties, went under for reasons that seem entirely predictable: an inexperienced CEO, the high costs of licensing, and multi-game deals requiring them to deliver shovelware in order to get at the good stuff. The global financial crisis of 2008 seems like the least of anyone's worries in a collapse that took down Brash and Factor 5 and ensured that "Blue Steel," this game's code name, would never be anything more than a series of set-piece concepts that had yet to gel into a single game.

Still, it's always intriguing to ponder what might have been, whether developers could have pulled off something as ambitious as plowing Doomsday through a skyscraper, and whether critics and the public would have found any of that fun. Brash Entertainment was definitely in over its head. Although Factor 5 delivered the very well liked Rogue Squadron series about 15 years ago, the open-ended, overpowered nature of Superman, his powers and his greatest foes have been nearly impossible to do justice in a video game.

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