Injustice: Gods Among Us Hands-On
Injustice: Gods Among Us Hands-On
Amidst the hectic noise of E3, one of the many Netherrealm staff wandering around the hands-on booth crouches down for a moment and says "Do you have any questions?" I had just one. "Why?"
I want to know why Batman is fighting Superman. I want to know why the Flash is fighting Solomon Grundy. I don't want to know why Wonder Woman is fighting Harley Quinn, I just want to watch.
The comic book guy in me is flipping out at the idea of a fighting game featuring DC heroes (and villains) duking it out. "This would never happen!" I scream in my head, in between slurps of an imaginary jumbo sized squishee.
While I'm sitting there, playing the game, I'm going crazy trying to work out why Superman isn't punching people in half. Why Wonder Woman doesn't lasso her foe and make them kill themselves. Why the Flash is even in the game because he's the shittiest character in DC.
Most of all I'm wondering how Batman even allowed himself to get in this situation. If we look at how Batman has fought other metahumans, it becomes apparent that a fight between Superman and the Caped Crusader wouldn't come to blows at all. Even in stories only indirectly referencing the Superman/Batman mythos - an example being The Plutonian/Hornet relationship in Irredeemable where the gadget wielding vigilante has plans should the indestructible champion of truth, justice and the american way ever go rogue.
So why would Batman - a "mere" human - find himself in a fistfight with a man who can go toe-to-toe with the Incredible Hulk?
My host in the Injustice: Gods Among Us booth told me that the why - the plot behind the whole game - was a secret, but let's face it... we already know the answer.
Injustice is a fighting game from the Netherrealm team - the same studio who made the fantastic (and GameArena's fighting-GOTY-despite-being-banned-in-Australia) Mortal Kombat reboot. It doesn't look like it's going to be as gory as MK, but that doesn't mean it won't be interesting.
Netherrealm already proved they can weave an interesting story into a fighting game - something companies like Capcom don't even attempt, let alone manage - but it won't be the plot which gets people playing Injustice.
The real meat in the game is the intriguing way they're approaching environment. While multi-levelled stages aren't a terribly new concept, Injustice is taking the idea further. Some stages will feature three different areas for our metahuman heroes and villains to duke it out in - and each area has its own secrets.
In the Batcave level people can trigger the Batmobile to fire rockets and can steal grenades from spare Batsuits - and that's just in the first part of the area. The levels deform as the fights wear on, so you can watch as the explosives destroy the Batboat... listen, Batman's too smart to spend time on naming things - appending Bat to the front of everything is simply the most efficient way for him to use his time.
Anyway, the levels feature an exquisite attention to detail - one made even more obvious as you destroy every part of it. It's beautiful to watch it in action - though if I did have a criticism it is that the damage seems to reset when you leave the stage (for now, at least).
The character roster appears to be at least 20+ strong (based on the blanked out character spots) and there are two types of character available - the gadget fighters and the power fighters. Superman is your prototypical power fighter - he hits hard, he throws cars at you, he shoots freakin' laser beams from his eyes. Batman, on the other hand, is all about the gadgets. He throws batarangs, throws people into cars (instead of cars into people) and his super attack is a counter-move - appropriate for one of the best martial artists in the DC multiverse.
One thing I'm not a fan of is the multi-layered approach to the health bar. It was difficult for me to keep track of just how much health I or my opponent had while we were fighting - or even how much health we had overall. I think we had four bars of health layered over one another, but it could have been five, and when I'd chip them all the way down to no bar at all it was always annoying when it would leap back up to full.
There's a challenge here between allowing characters to do appropriately different damage and in correctly displaying the amount of damage lost. Solomon Grundy hits hard, so you see large chunks of damage metre disappear - but the quick strikes of Harley Quinn would be almost imperceptible by comparison, unless she got in many in a row. So I understand that they want to properly display the power of the fighters, but they need to make sure it doesn't come at the expense of conveying critical information.
If I had any other worries about the game, it would be about DC's roster of heroes and villains. Injustice needs to make sure they pick good characters for the game, but while DC has probably the strongest stable of key heroes and villains in comics - a lone Batman is worth all The Avengers combined - but satellite heroes pale in comparison. For every Darkseid there are three more like Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Flash. Hopefully they stick to the better characters (The Flash being the exception) like Swamp Thing, Captain Marvel and Lobo.
Injustice: Gods Among Us will rest on the strength of its story, its unique approach to the environment and some really slick looking graphics. It has potential pitfalls in a slightly vague health system and a wobbly roster pool to draw from, but I have faith that Netherrealm will nail the game when they need to. I'm pretty amped to get my hands on it - beneath Mortal Kombat's outstanding gore was a solid fighter, and I'm keen to see more of that. And for the record, I'll be a bit disappointed if nobody from Section 8 makes the cut.
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