The makers of Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm Studios, are at it again with Injustice: Gods Among Us, a one on one fighting game in a similar vein as Mortal Kombat, with a superheroic twist. However, after getting our hands on the game at a media-only preview event in downtown Toronto, we can also confirm that it would be an injustice all of its own to dismiss this as a simple Mortal Kombat clone starring DC Heroes.
Most DC and fighting game fans will likely be most excited about the game's story mode. While details on the specifics of the story were a little scarce at the event, it seems to carry the same campy yet entertaining vibe as the wonderful story mode from 2011's Mortal Kombat. It's a fun way to enjoy a rich story that gets broken up by fights. If nothing else, it's far more compelling stuff than the standard ladders that make up most fighting games. The fact that NetherRealm's writers teamed up with DC Comics writers ensures that while things get a little silly, the characters stay true to their origins while rationalizing why Batman would be fighting Superman or any other of the possible matchups in the game.
Another of Injustice's modes is the S.T.A.R. Labs, which has roots in Mortal Kombat's challenge tower. This one mixes it up by instead of offering 300 sequential challenges, each of the game's 24 characters are given 10 challenges each to complete. It's a great way to not only familiarize players with the specific abilities and tendencies of each character, but also to unlock goodies like new costumes and behind the scenes materials. The game also features the standard ladder and training modes.
Gameplay was rock solid in our demo. While we were given the full gamut of characters to pick from, I personally played around with Harley Quinn, Batman and Bane. Can you guess which franchise I'm the biggest fan of? Each character seemed to move and attack as you'd expect. For example, Harley Quinn moved quickly and was more conducive to pulling off long combos, while the hulking Bane moved slower and did more damage with individual attacks. While the movements and over the top nature of the game are reminiscent of past NetherRealm titles, this is its own beast. The biggest difference this time around is that there is no block button. Blocking is accomplished by pressing back, like Street Fighter or countless other fighting games. Also, instead of assigning a face button to each limb, each character has a light, medium and heavy attack, along with a character specific button; this gives Injustice a unique feel amongst fighters without completely abandoning fighting game convention.
Characters confirmed for the title include Batman, The Joker, Bane, Harley Quinn, Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Sinestro, Catwoman, Lex Luthor, and Wonder Woman alongside lesser known DC characters like Solomon Grundy, Cyborg, and Killer Frost. There's going to be 24 characters on the shipped disc in all.
The backgrounds in the game are something to behold. Many of the backgrounds will be familiar to fans of DC fans of all stripes and franchises, but there's definitely a bit of a Batman slant here. Included in the level roster are Arkham Asylum, Wayne Manor, The Hall of Justice, The Watchtower, and Metropolis to name a few. What really sets the backgrounds apart is how incredibly interactive they are. There are background elements in the levels that only villains or heroes can use respectively, Poison Ivy's poisonous gas plants can only be used by a villain for example. Interacting with the background elements is as simple as positioning yourself or your opponent in the right place and hitting the right bumper. Almost all of the levels can take place on multiple tiers, with some wonderful transition effects. In the case of the Arkham Asylum level, you can smash your opponent into a padded room with several Batman villians who each take a turn smacking your opponent around before tossing them into another part of the stage all together. It's a great way to combat the tedium that can set in on a one on one fighting game.
NetherRealm has always seemed to concern itself more with being awesome than with being plausible, and Injustice is no exception. No where is this more apparent than in the over-the-top super moves on display. Much like Mortal Kombat's X-Ray moves, the supermoves are done by filling up a power meter by taking damage and landing attacks, and then pressing both triggers simultaneously. The moves are gleeful displays of comic book lunacy. The Flash will run around the world to land a momentous punch, or Batman will use tasers to stun his enemy before calling in the Batmobile to run them down. It's gleeful carnage that actually results in visible damage to the costumes and heroes. The game has minimal gore, but the sheer violence pushes the absolute limits of the T-Rating the game will have.
The game also features an experience system that rewards the player simply for playing. XP is doled out by varying fighting moves, combos and abilities. Even losing a fight gives players a 50 pity points. The experience can be used to purchase unlockables in game like new costumes and levels.
WB Games has also confirmed that there will be DLC available for the game in the way of four extra characters and skins. Players will be able to have it all for a one time season pass payment of $15.
So far, Injustice looks like it's primed to be the best superhero centric fighting game since Marvel vs. Capcom 2. We'll know for sure when these Gods are officially among us when the game releases on April 16, 2013 for the Xbox 360, WiiU, and PlayStation 3.