Hands On With Injustice: Gods Among Us

Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?  At Toronto’s FanExpo, I’m sure this question was asked more than once.  I’m equally sure that no satisfying conclusion was ever reached.  Instead of just arguing back and forth on the topic, NetherRealm Studios is offering a more hands-on way to answer the question with Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Let’s get the biggest and most obvious comment out of the way first: Injustice feels like Mortal Kombat, with very similar controls, movement and animations.  There are also other elements, such as the special meter and the related ‘smash’ attacks that tread familiar ground.   This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.  This particular style of fighting game works very well when applied to superheroes, and even though you’re not going to see Superman pull off anyone’s head, the combat is surprisingly (and satisfyingly) visceral.

Thankfully, the game isn’t a one-to-one clone and it does a few things to change the formula.  If I had to describe it in one word, I would say that the game is cinematic.  While elements are shared between NetherRealm’s two games, Injustice tries to up the ante and use the heroes in ways that makes fighting not only fun, but wonderfully over the top.

An example is the familiar ‘smash’ move each character has.  You’ll recognize the mechanic, but the effect is pure comic book action.  Batman’s ‘smash,’ for instance, involves running the other player over with a remote-controlled Batmobile while back-flipping over it.  Superman, on the other hand, sends his foe into orbit with an uppercut, and then smashes them back down with a double-fisted slam.  These moves can be performed once your special meter is filled (done so by attacking or blocking) and always offers spectacular moments in the fight.

Less familiar, but very welcome, is how much you can interact with the environments.  Each level has elements that can be interacted with to damage your opponent, and these aren’t simple effects that are the same for every character.  In the fortress of solitude, the ship that first carried Superman to Earth floats on the left side of the map.  A strong character, like Cyborg or Solomon Grundy, can grab the ship and smash the other player with it.  On the other hand, faster and more agile characters like Harley Quinn or Nightwing will use the ship as a vault to attack.  The smash can be done once (the ship isn’t that durable, apparently), but the vault can be repeated over and over.

Another feature that highlights how over-the-top battles can get is moving around within stages.  Technically, there were two levels in the hands-on demo.  However, both maps were divided into different subsections, so there were multiple places to fight.  In the Batcave, moving from one part to another involves throwing your opponent through a computer at the far right of the map and watching his or her body careen and ricochet off metal beams until they smack onto the pavement below.  When your opponent gets up, the fighting resumes in the new area with all new environmental elements to be used.

Comparisons to Mortal Kombat are, in my opinion, unavoidable but not necessarily ‘bad.’  While mechanics have stayed the same, the tone of the game is drastically different.  NetherRealm’s previous game focused on the brutality and carnage of one-on-one fights.  Injustice: Gods Among Us goes beyond two fighters squaring off by involving the environment and over-the-top action.  It changes the feel from a straight up brawl to a comic, or movie fight.  The game shows that if Batman and Superman ever squared off, collateral damage would be monumental, but it would be one heck of a good watch.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is scheduled for release in 2013 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U.

About This Post