A Peek at What Could Have Been in Factor 5’s Lost Superman Target Render Video

One of the sad truths of gaming is that sometimes things just don’t work out.  Whether that be an ambitious game that doesn’t live up to everyone’s hopes (Cyperpunk 2077) or one that was quietly or not-so-quietly canceled (Llamasoft’s Unity, Lionhead’s BC, Capcom’s Mega Man Legends 3) that’s still only the tip of the iceberg.  More games fall apart in the prototype or development stages than we’ll ever know about, but every once in a while a lost remnant will surface.  Twitter user Salvatrix is a former designer for Factor 5 and the other day she dropped a thread on the Superman game she’d been the gameplay lead on way back in 2008.  The game died with Factor 5, which was taken out by a perfect financial storm in the form of 2008’s financial crisis.  Two publishers on two different games went under, and even a high-profile developer with letters of intent from solvent publishers wasn’t able to get a loan to keep the lights on.  Factor 5 went under and its unannounced Superman game sank with it, never to see the light of day until now.

While Superman: Blue Steel never got past the prototyping stage is was reportedly in good shape, developing quickly under the guidance of a team that worked well together.  Factor 5’s internal team had formed during another project, Animal Wars, and after that game was canceled and they put in time on Lair they were kept together for Superman.  The basis of the game was that Superman would fight villains strong enough to give him a real challenge, fighting over the streets and buildings of an idealized 1940s-style Metropolis.  Airships and elevated highways meant that even in the air the city felt alive, and it would have been interesting to see how the game dealt with the issues of collateral damage.  In the prototype gameplay video (rough, of course, because it’s the kind of thing meant for internal use rather than public consumption) there are shots of Superman battering enemies through buildings, blasting through walls and using dragging them across ceilings and office furniture, while other shots in the target render below show Superman blowing up tanker trucks in his battle with Doomsday.  It seems likely that there would have been a whole lot of “thank goodness everyone evacuated!” going on, but whatever’s necessary to justify those shots of Superman throwing a baddie alongside a skyscraper and leaving a shattered scar on the building is fine by me.

Superman is one of those characters that can’t quite catch a break in gaming, and the lost PS3 game is a new example of how even when things look like they’re going right they turn out wrong.  Even so, it’s probably a good idea to remember that the best game is the one that never gets made because it can always be exactly the thing you imagined it to be.  With that disclaimer it’s disappointing to think what Superman: Blue Steel could have turned into, because even in its early stages the videos show a lot of great ideas working together to give the Man of Steel a proper gaming workout.  For the full rundown of the story check out Salvatrix’s Twitter thread, which has more art and design notes to really stir up that wistful feeling of “might have been”, and check out the target render trailer below to see what the team was aiming for in the final version of Superman: Blue Steel.