How One Failed Superman Game Ruined An Entire Game Studio
Anyone remember Factor 5? If you were heavy into gaming during the sixth gen you probably remember the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games on the GameCube that ended up being some of the best flight sim games on home consoles. But if were more familiar with the seventh gen, then you probably, briefly, remember them for the PS3 exclusive that was poorly received called Lair. Well, Factor 5 was also working on a Superman game toward the late aughts and they were going to do the DC character justice with a strong focus on deep gameplay mechanics and an open world. However, fate didn't look kindly upon them and the game ended becoming their demise.
Kotaku did a write-up on the title based on a mini-doc by DidYouKnowGaming, explaining the early development work that Factor 5 put into the game, as well as some of the ideas that they had floating around, but that their take on the Man of Steel (based on a canned version of Bryan Singer's sequel to Superman Returns) it eventually led to the downfall of Factor 5 due to Warner Bros taking interest in Zack Snyder's Man of Steel instead, and the fact that their publisher, Brash Entertainment, ran out of money before they could get the game out of the concept phase.
Factor 5's Superman title didn't have a full plot or story but was basically going to be like Superman 64 and just have a general story centered around some of Superman's most iconic battles and villain arcs. I suppose one could say that borrowing anything from Superman 64 was likely one of the first major missteps, despite the fact that the concepts for the game did sound pretty cool.
For instance, one of the core mechanics that Factor 5 wanted to implement into their Superman: Man of Steel game was the ability to grab/grapple enemies and drag them along or through surfaces.
The drag mechanic may sound lame but it tied into the ability to throw enemies through any building or object and the destruction caused would wind up being physics based. They also wanted a focus on free-roam flying, the ability to lock onto targets and use Superman's heat vision, and battle multiple opponents across an open-world Metropolis. You get to see how some of these gameplay mechanics come together in the video below from DidYouKnowGaming.
Unfortunately, Factor 5's game – which was supposed to be published by the new publisher on the block known as Brash Entertainment, a company who had raised $400 million in capital to make quick movie-based games – never saw the light of day.
Brash Entertainment ended up burning through all of their resources making small LP-based games that were poor in quality and rushed out of the door, like Jumper and Alvin and the Chipmunks, and by late 2008 the publishers basically had nothing left. By November 2008, a lot of the executives at Brash Entertainment left the company high and dry and they were unable to pay Factor 5 any longer for their work on Superman.
Since Factor 5 was focused mostly – at the time of Brash's downfall – on gameplay mechanics and concepts, it wasn't enough to convince publishers to pick them up and continue development. Hence, Factor 5's developers went two months without pay and eventually lost their health care benefits.
By May of 2009, Factor 5 was no more and the studio closed up shop.
Unfortunately, the Man of Steel was shortchanged once again within the realm of video games, marking another title that adds to the legacy of terrible Superman games. On the bright side, the 16-bit title The Death and Return of Superman will still stand the test of time as probably being the best Superman game ever made.
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Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.