For the last few years we’ve had a steady stream of Batman: Arkham games coming, with the next in the series–Arkham Origins–set to release this year, on October 25th. With Warner Bros Montreal developing the game in Rocksteady’s absence (while oddly using Rocksteady’s engine and assets) it not only makes me curious of what other game(s) Rocksteady could be developing, but what other properties DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive could (or should) be working on.
With Injustice: Gods Among Us storming the fighting game genre, what other kinds of games and genres could DC Comics’ franchises explore?
What if the next DC Comics game is:
Genre: First Person Shooter | Multiplayer Online
Unless you’re specifically a DC Comics fans, you may not be familiar with The Flash’s rogues gallery, simply referred to as The Rogues. Hell, unless you’re specifically a Flash fan, you may not be too familiar with The Rogues, even though they are one of the most recognizable and tightly knit teams in comics, heroes and criminals alike. And unique to most of their villainous peers, The Rogues are most know for following a code of honor that team leader Captain Cold strictly adheres to.
More like a family of criminals than a band of, well, rogues, they follow three golden rules and a creed:
Don’t kill unless necessary.
Don’t get involved with drugs.
It’s all about the score.
The Rogues are a family that stick together. Working together, nothing can stop us.
With a group of allies that actively work together to take down super enemies and steal as much as they can, it made me think: using the robbery shooter Payday the Heist and (the now launched sequel) Payday 2 as a template, The Rogues would make for an interesting dynamic, putting you exclusively in the shoes of longtime DC supervillains as your protagonists, and turning your favorite heroes for nearly a century into frightening antagonists that will stop at nothing to stop you.
Considering how powerful DC’s heroes have been portrayed before, being a mid-ranged supervillain must be very frightening: with Superman being depicted in some continuities as having the ability to move planets, what can villains like Killer Moth, Crazy Quilt or The Rainbow Rider do to him?
And yet, villains come out the woodwork to test their mettle against Earth’s greatest heroes, all to make a quick buck or gain huge fame. The only difference with The Rogues is that they try to keep one step ahead of their enemies, being portrayed by some writers as blue-collar thugs with powerful weapons, and by others as tactical, strategic, adaptive thinkers who always have to fight smart when taking on The Fastest Man Alive.
So imagine a game where you were given a select group of characters to choose between, who would have to steal from prominent DC locations and get away from the most powerful heroes ever created in comics history. And imagine that all you had against X-Ray vision, super speed, super strength, and phasing were a flamethrower and a boomerang?
Central City Rogues: DC Universe, The Heist
Influences: Payday The Heist, Payday 2
While The Rogues stay almost exclusively in Central City or Keystone City in most stories, The Rogues as a game would take place in the larger DC Universe, with every major city and location up for grabs, offering more of a variety in mission scope, setting, and diversity in mission objectives.
For the story’s sake, Mirror Master would be regulated to your “lookout,” your “rendezvous guy,” and your “getaway guy,” using his mirrors and any reflective surfaces on-site as an in-game excuse for new items to be dropped in, to drop things off at a checkpoint, and to get the goods too at the end of a mission so you can get away clean.
Members to choose from include:
Captain Cold: his freeze gun would allow you not only to slow down guards or advancing heroes, but to freeze walls to make them or barriers brittle, and to line the walls with thick layers of ice to prevent thermal surveillance. Both a leader and support role.
Pied Piper: an electronics and sonic expert who has a flute that can hypnotize NPCs into sharing important information and can disrupt certain electronic locks or computer systems. Effectively, your hacker.
Trickster: his gadgets are full of traps, explosives, and more, making him good at distractions, being a decoy, and providing demolitions.
Weather Wizard: has a wand that can create winds to push enemies away, rain, mists and clouds to confuse surveillance equipment, and lightning for attacks or supercharging generators. Fulfills a tank/support class hybrid.
Captain Boomerang: an expert on projectiles, his precise aim and speed would be great for hitting far off targets, for hitting multiple targets, and for using his special high tech boomerangs for numerous situations.
Heat Wave: can use his gun to burn down obstacles, burn off enemy armor, and set up barriers between The Rogues and their enemies.
Abra Kadabra: Can use his “magic” wand to conjure up distractions, illusions, and bindings, for either decoy or support situations. Can also heal allies.
Dr. Alchemy: Can use his philosopher’s stone to transmute elements, to either get through barriers, affect alarms, knock out enemies, or create barriers.
With all of these abilities, a method of balancing is needed to keep the game challenging and keep teamwork rewarding and engaging. Using the tradition Rogues’ reliance on weapons instead of the New 52 reboot’s, which changed them into metahumans, would force the player to keep track of cool downs, special ammo, and conserving their abilities for the right occasion.
The Heists and “The Heat”
Stealing DC’s Most Valuable Artifacts From Its Most Powerful Heroes
Influences: Payday The Heist, Payday 2
Most important to a Rogues game is the “heat” that you’ll expect from your enemies, which–depending on how stealthily you proceed on a mission–can come down faster or slower, and with varying degrees of pressure.
For instance, a Central City heist could involve a simple bank vault robbery. Get in and knock out the cameras and bank employees, and you’ll buy yourself some time to steal more valuables faster. But wait: someone tripped an alarm that brings in armored security, perhaps a specialty detachment from Iron Heights prison. Now you have to hold them off at bay, soldiers specially trained to deal with The Rogues. And then, if one of your overzealous teammates accidentally breaks the rule about “no killing,” your HEAT meter goes through the roof, and guess who’s showing up?
In one instance it could be The Flash, and–running at super speed–he’s impossibly hard to prevent or prepare for, since he can vibrate through walls, and take out your team in moments if you don’t stay tight and work together. And even if you get to the getaway car, then you still have to deal with a man who can break the speed barrier while chasing you, until you can get the car or van into a large enough glass for the Mirror Master to get you away. This may require you dumping some of your loot, or resorting to other tactics to slow him down. Endangering other riders may distract him for seconds more, but adds to your notoriety.
While there should be a slew of missions to enjoy, missions involving A-class superheroes should be a sort of boss-level challenge, and should really show off what makes a hero terrifying to most common criminals in the DC Universe.
Imagine trying to steal a Krptonian artifact from one of Lex Luthor’s safes, from one of the many S.T.A.R. Labs in America, or from the Fortress of Solitude itself, only to end up with Superman himself ripping down doors and tearing walls apart to get to you. You may use Captain Cold to line the walls with ice and then Dr. Alchemy to convert the ice to Kryptonite, but hey–guess what–you forgot to line the walls with lead as well. So now, using his X-Ray vision, Superman can start using his heat vision to carry out precision strikes from outside that stun or destroy your equipment. When you finally turn the walls to lead to stop him from seeing through the walls, he begins to tunnel up from underground. Imagine experiencing that fear, that Superman, the Man of Steel, will–in moments or minutes–erupt from the ground to put in an end to your operation unless you hurry up with breaking down that bank vault. All you can do is work faster and more efficiently as a team and hope that you can get away in time before this man, this hero, this alien, this–to you–monster, can get you.
Similarly, there could be a heist that requires you to take on a squad of angry Amazons while trying to steal a mythological artifact from Themyscira, resulting in a pack of vicious, rabid immortal warriors literally hunting you, and could end with Wonder Woman terrorizing your team with her strength, speed, ferocious martial prowess, and unbreakable lasso of truth.
Trying to steal from or sabotage the Justice League Watchtower would result in a terrifying battle against the Martian Manhunter, whose ability to phase through walls, use telepathy to confuse you or make you face your worst fears, and to shapeshift into your allies and create confusion would only be matched by his Superman-level strength, speed, Martian Vision and resilience.
A final mission could involve you heading to Gotham City to try and break into the Batcave. The worst of all confrontations would be with Batman himself, picking off your team one by one, using only the darkness as his tool and his fierce reputation to spread fear. Either you get the job done fast or he’ll wipe out your team so swiftly and quietly that players will be planning the heist for weeks before they can get in and out without being noticed.
This unique perspective from the point of view of DC’s villains could also prove why DC’s most under-appreciated heroes are so effective and respected by fans. Trying to steal a trident from Atlantis’ armory could win you the wrath of Aquaman’s intense power, not to mention his wife’s hydrokinetic fury, and his sidekicks’ powerful magic, for instance. Seeing Aquaman as he was in the latest DC animated movie, The Flashpoint Paradox, would be both amazing and horrifying, as Aquaman cuts through waves of enemies to get to you and your crew, like some underwater Terminator or Predator.
More To Come
Influences: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, Call of Juarez: The Cartel
DLC or a sequel could bring even more fun missions: like trying to sneak into the home of master thief Catwoman; trying to break a Rogue out of the maximum security supervillian prison Iron Heights Penitentiary; trying to steal a magical item out of Baron Winter’s magical mansion; trying to break into Arkham Asylum; trying to stop a squad of Green Lanterns while you steal a power ring while on another planet (perhaps escaping by finding a Zeta Beam wave); and more. The possibilities are endless, truly.
Missions could also come with guest allies to play with or as: the Atlantis mission, for example, could involve Black Manta hiring the Rogues, and include Manta as a playable character; the Arkham could involve Deadshot; sabotaging Titans Tower could give you Deathstroke, and more. The game should, at most times, center around The Rogues and their usual line up of villains, but occasional guests would be a welcome change of pace, especially since it changes the team dynamics so much.
In fact, taking some of the “Coopetition” from Call of Juarez: The Cartel and the trust issues from Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days‘ multiplayer mode “Fragile Alliance,” it’d be interesting if guest characters were sometimes tasked with their own objectives. While part of the fun of the above two games was the anonymity of your role and private goals, it may just be interesting to know exactly who might betray you at anytime, and looking for that moment. The sheer paranoia from the side of The Rogues and the sheer pressure for the guest villain to accomplish his tasks would be an engaging dynamic to explore and spice up the variety of missions.
When Gotham City Imposters came out, no one knew what to expect from it. While not necessarily the incredible success some may have hoped it would be, it was still a fantastic game that took a random approach to exploring the lore of DC Comics and the Batman franchise during a time where anything not-Arkham would clearly be a risk. So while a game centering around B-list villains may be an odd choice, a game centered around Payday-like mechanics, but featuring super-thieves trying to escape the superfoes we usually want to play as rather than against could be just the approach needed to create an interesting and fun new franchise.
The Rogues are neither the most famous villains in comics nor the most lethal: Batman and Spider-Man’s villains have, on a consistent basis, proven to be the most memorable and famous villains, if periodical polls are to be trusted. And yet, Flash’s Rogues still rank high on most polls; their unique philosophy of working together against a common enemy unheard of in an industry where “the bad guys” are often one-dimensional, two bit thugs with powers that turn on each other in a heartbeat. Under certain pens, like longtime Flash writer Mark Waid, Flash’s Rogues have even been three dimensional, multi-faceted anti-heroes who have made shakey, temporary alliances with heroes like the third Flash, Wally West. No one can deny that making the bad guys the good guys has always made for an interesting dynamic, and TV is littered with antiheroes who are trying to do the right thing for themselves and their families even in the midst of doing the worst things known to man. Let’s bring that idea to gaming, with Central City Rogues: DC Universe, The Heist, the game.
DC Comics and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, make this game, please.
For my last “What If?” piece, check out “What If The Next DC Comics Game Is Green Lantern: The War of Light.”