Why Superman As A Villain Makes More Sense For Video Games

Rocksteady chose wisely when picking the villain for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, because any game featuring Superman in any major capacity will likely be much better if he is cast as the antagonist rather than a playable character. It’s not just because Superman has been the star of one of the worst games on the Nintendo 64 (although that is undoubtedly true) but because of how the character’s immense power would make normal video game combat mechanics rather dull, especially if Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is to follow the Batman: Arkham series’ style of fighting.

Superhero video games featuring costumed characters like Marvel’s Spider-Man or Batman: Arkham City usually feature large amounts of enemies being methodically eliminated by the player character, either through stealth mechanics or through counterattack-focused combat interactions. While it’s currently unclear how Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and the rest of the squad will control in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, the game will likely feature combat similar to these titles, and this is exactly why focusing on the Suicide Squad itself is better than placing players in the position of a character like Superman. If Superman was cast in the main role of an open world game of this nature, his Kyrptonian heritage would make him far too powerful for one-on-one fistfights with common street thugs to hold any sort of danger, tension, or challenge.

Of course, developers could find ways around this issue, either to bring Superman down to the level of regular enemies or by creating characters whose powers would match Superman’s, thus putting both the enemies and the playable hero on equal ground. NetherRealm Studios’ Injustice: Gods Among Us, which also used the idea of an evil Superman, uses a medicine made up partially of Kyptonian DNA in order to justify why characters like Harley Quinn and Nightwing are able to go toe-to-toe with Superman, and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe used the idea of magical energy (a combined force emanating from a being called Dark Kahn, who was the combination of DC villain Darkseid and Mortal Kombat’s main antagonist Shao Kahn) to explain why Raiden, Sub-Zero, and Sonya Blade were able to compete with powerhouses like Captain Marvel and Superman. Other games (like DC Universe Online) just make the enemies ultra-powered robots or some variant of equally superhuman foes.

This kind of “equal the playing field” approach absolutely ruins the power fantasy which superheroes embody, whether they are friends or foes. When every enemy is equally as powerful as the superhero in question, what exactly makes them “super” in the first place? Games in the Batman: Arkham series get away with this because, underneath all his gadgets and armor, Batman is just a normal human, someone as mortal as everyone else. Both Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales also work because, despite the main character having superhuman abilities, they are still clearly vulnerable (both emotionally and physically) and capable of being defeated.

Superman does not have these weaknesses, which is why casting him – and, apparently, the rest of the Justice League – as the villains in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is such a good idea. By making this character evil (whether it is because Superman is being influenced by Brainiac or not) Rocksteady avoids having to come up with some contrived reason “why” this overpowered character is able to be defeated by regular comic book-style goons. The fear on Harley’s face in the Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League reveal trailer, and the respect on King Shark’s, is a perfect example of “showing without telling” in video game cutscenes; these characters know who Superman is, they know what he is, and they know how dangerous he is. Players may have to wait a year or more to finally get their hands on Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice Leaguebut, judging from what’s been released so far, when they do they will be able to see one of the best uses of Superman in video games to date.

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