Dreaming of a game starring The Flash
DC Comics superhero The Flash has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity lately. Not only does the fastest man alive have a hit series on television (The Flash on The CW) but he's also appeared in numerous video game titles in recent years, such as Injustice: Gods Among Us, Infinite Crisis, and the Lego Batman franchise.
However, no version of The Flash – be it Barry Allen (regarded as the most well-known and "default" Flash/Allen), Wally West, Jay Garrick, or Bart Allen (a.k.a. Impulse/the second Kid Flash) – has appeared in a titular, standalone title since the 2006 Game Boy Advance game Justice League Heroes: The Flash.
Bottlerocket Entertainment spent six months working on a Flash title in 2008, but cancelled work on the game after their publishing partner, Brash Entertainment, went under. Now appears a good time as any to bring the Scarlet Speedster to next-gen systems.
But what would a game based on The Flash look like? Here are some ideas.
A Game-worthy Origin Story
As I already mentioned, there are four main characters that have donned the mantle of The Flash, with Barry Allen currently serving as the hero in yellow boots in most of the comics, games, TV, and film adaptations. Allen is also the Flash who appears in the CW show and will appear in the new Justice League film by Zach Snyder next year. As such, it's only logical to base the game's story around Allen rather than Garrick, West, or Bart, though they could all make cameos at some point if the story allows it.
The game would be best served as a tie-in with the show or with the film, complete with the original cast of either one, budget concerns not withstanding. Alternatively, the producers could also create an entirely independent title with no direct connection to either the show or movie, but that draws influence from all previous source material. The television show, for example, does a great job rewriting Allen's origins and story, which covers a few decades, for a new generation of fans. The show, currently in its third season, combines elements from several popular storylines from the comics, such as Flashpoint and The Flash: Rebirth, while also introducing Garrick and West in new, creative ways.
An origin story would also be of clear benefit to the game producers, as it would allow the creative team to create their own setup to Flash's videogame universe. Luckily, much of Allen's origin story in the CW show translates perfectly to a video game universe. Allen gains his powers after being struck by a lightning bolt and, in that age-old comic book trope, bathed in chemicals after an explosion at S.T.A.R. Laboratories unleashes a massive wave of radiation that ripples across the city. The explosion also affects numerous people and even animals (Gorilla Grodd, some giant shark-man thing, etc.) and converts them into criminal metahumans who make up The Flash's gallery of rogues. It's a convenient way to set up Allen's origin, the game's enemy boss battles, and a central in-game hub on a map.
An origin story is also a convenient way to explain why Allen is constantly learning new powers, enhancing his powers, and so on. Allen starts off normal, gets struck by lightning, and learns to run faster, create wind vortexes, destroy/overheat objects with vibrations, throw lightning, and eventually do more powerful god-like things such as quantum tunneling (a.k.a. phase through solid objects), call up speed scouts, run at the speed of light, and destroy anything with the infinite mass punch.
Gameplay at the Speed of Light
Video games about superheroes are best served by the open-world, action/adventure genre as gamers have seen first-hand with Rocksteady's recent Batman Arkham series and the older The Amazing Spider-Man series published by Activision. Bottlerocket's cancelled Flash title was set in an open-world version of Central City.
Furthermore, an open-world for The Flash can easily borrow and improve upon various elements from other action/adventure games, beginning with a central hub (S.T.A.R. Labs as one possibility, or whatever hideout that is in the Justice League trailer) that serves as a headquarters. Travelling in and out of there will obviously be easy thanks to superspeed. Players should also have the option to let the game control Flash's return home or travel to a mission area, such as in L.A. Noire or the taxi rides in Grand Theft Auto games.
Speaking of travelling, Flash's superspeed can be represented in more than one way. The first is, as gamers would expect, by having him move faster than normal speed, lightning bolts and such shooting out of his pores and whatnot. Another method would be to utilize bullet-time/time manipulation techniques to have Flash move around at normal human speed while his surroundings are slowed down, such as in Quantum Break, The Matrix, and other titles. Slowing the speed of our hero's surroundings would also make combat much easier, allowing players to land a thousand punches on various baddies and also prove helpful with solving puzzles.
Running at high-speeds should also allow players to run up walls, on water, and many other areas that are usually inaccessible to mere mortals. It would have to push what gamers have seen in Titanfall, Mirror's Edge, Infamous, Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time, and Spider-Man 2 on the PS2 to a new level. A boss battle with The Flash chasing after Reverse-Flash across all of Central City, traversing buildings, alleys, the undersides of bridges, etc. would be amazing.
What would make scenes and stages such as the battle described above even better would be the use of a cinematic replay camera. Replay cameras like the ones used in Electronic Arts' FIFA series or Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer franchise could record the action during boss battles, missions, and even just running around the city during time trials, for players to manipulate, edit, and share.
How players access and use The Flash's powers is an obvious area of concern. How does a developer balance how gamers unlock Flash's powers in the game? How can they restrict the use these powers in a way that keeps the game challenging and fun? An RPG-style system would probably work best, with The Flash's powers leveling up with use and other methods.
One way to balance how players use the Scarlett Speedster's powers would be by including his hypermetabolism as a gameplay mechanic. All that running requires lots of energy and calories. The comics solve this by having Allen/West devour tons of food, while the CW show's solution is custom-made high-protein/calorie bars. The game could utilize the same concept in some fashion, such as a bar of energy that needs to be refilled in some way.
Certain base powers (running up to max speed, for example) wouldn't require or expend an energy bar. However, stronger powers, such as the infinite mass punch, would require a certain amount of energy in order to be used. Energy can also slowly regenerate, but repeated use without, say, eating or sleeping (hey, superheroes are still people!) would have an adverse effect on regeneration.
A proper video game about The Flash in three dimensions is long overdue. Hopefully, a game developer will be brave enough to take on the challenge. And if they do, I'm available for consultation!