Batman: Arkham Asylum has garnered such success that it has earned the title of "Most Critically Acclaimed Super Hero Game Ever" from Guinness World Records. And what's not to love? Arkham Asylum contains a superb story, excellent character work and voice acting, action-packed combat with great combos, cool stealth and exploration, experience to gain, tons of extra content to unlock through solving obscure riddles, challenge maps to test your skill, and online leaderboards. And don't forget all the cool gadgets you can play with. Jack Nicholson's Joker said it best: "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"
Developer Rocksteady certainly took a great deal of care in making even the smallest details as perfect as possible, and as such has received virtually no complaints from critics around the world. But riddle me this, what if instead of using the Dark Knight as the protagonist, Rocksteady decided on the Man of Steel? And what if the city of Metropolis was the game's backdrop as opposed to the asylum on Arkham Island? Using much of the same gameplay elements, would the potentially titled Superman: Metropolis be just as successful?
As far as I'm concerned, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Now let's see how the two games would mirror each other, and what changes would be needed to satiate the purists of the source material. How would Superman: Metropolis keep the authenticity of over seventy-three years of Superman history, much like what was accomplished with Arkham Asylum?
First is the locale and environment, which may be the biggest difference between the two games. While Gotham City is generally a place where "the sun don't shine" and has grit covering every orifice, Metropolis seems to follow a more standard schedule of night and day. The problem with an open world, New York-style city in many video games is the lack of detail and the sterile look of innumerable rectangular buildings. So you'd have to lose the free-roam concept and break up the city into zones, each showcasing a different venue and environmental challenges. I'd make the Daily Planet a central hub, where Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent can kick back, spruce up his cubicle, maybe even take on some non-heroic sidequests.
Thinking about how to keep the game close to Arkham Asylum, one necessary feature is a plot starter that mixes well with skill acquisition. Unlike Batman's nifty gadgets, Superman is already jam-packed with super powers. Most notably, the Caped Crusader has super strength, super speed, invulnerability, flight, X-ray and heat vision, super breath, super senses, and eidetic memory. To avoid "God Mode," the game needs to have Superman somehow start bereft of powers, regaining them through the course of the story.
So here's my thought: Lex Luther has created a machine that has transmitted Red solar radiation throughout the city, which is constantly being rebounded back to the earth by greenhouse effect shield generators scattered throughout. As Superman fans know, this red giant radiation from Krypton's solar system strips him of his powers without having the crippling, feverish effects that Kryptonite induces. Basically, you start as a mortal and must rebuild your abilities by smashing all the radiation generators, with each one destroyed lowering the toxicity level and unlocking or upgrading powers.
Certain powers could be required to access previously unreachable areas a la Metroid. Perhaps as your super strength gets upgraded, you are able to leap higher, and eventually even fly, making revisiting old areas much easier. Superman's X-ray and super senses would play similarly to Batman's detective mode, and would be used much the same for both combat tactics and investigative purposes. Others, like heat vision and super breath could be applied to both puzzle-solving and combat.
Instead of just throwing waves of goons at our hero, perhaps the radiation is having an adverse effect on the citizens of Metropolis, causing some of them to mutate into all manner of creatures. But of course, staying on par with the fabulous job Arkham Asylum did in showcasing dozens of friends and foes from the Batman series, Superman: Metropolis would have to answer in kind with epic boss battles. We'd need to see villains like General Zod, Jax-Ur, Mongul, Metallo, Bizarro, and Doomsday. Lesser-known characters could be part of the collected database, found through solving puzzles created by the Prankster, Superman's less popular answer to Batman's Riddler. One question though, who is going to be the sexy bad girl like Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum? I'll look for your suggestions in the comments, as this is a must-have in the game.
With so many possible nods to everything big and small in the Superman universe, Rocksteady would certainly have no problem translating all that made Batman: Arkham Asylum such a treat. Since Batman and Superman have similar artistic styles thanks to influence of comic book artist Jim Lee, and Arkham Asylum's story was penned by writer Paul Dini, who's also written several Superman pieces, the framework is already in place. Fortunately, most of us who've dove off the gargoyles as the Dark Knight are gamers first and comic book geeks second, and we'd have no problem slipping into the Man of Steel's bodysuit.
Now my question has become "What If Rocksteady Studios Read This Article?" I'll dream that the answer is that they'd hire me to help get things rolling on a new game about America's most iconic superhero.
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*