Welcome back to Beta’d, dear reader, for another heapin’ helping of the latest in all things gaming. Today, we’re taking a look at one of the most buzzed-about games of E3 2012, Warner Bros.’ Injustice: Gods Among Us.
The hero-packed grappler may have come as a surprise to those in attendance at the convention, but considering that Ed Boon and the team behind Mortal Kombat are developing it, we’re resting easy in the knowledge that come 2013, we’ll finally be able to settle whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight in the most brutal way possible.
Story: Well, it all started one night when young Bruce Wayne and his parents, George and Martha, were walking home from a theater after catching a screening of The Mask of Zorro… seriously, though, fighting games are rarely known for their compelling storylines (an invitation to a mysterious international fighting competition? Seems legit!), and it’s simply too early in the development process, so details as to why Wonder Woman is beating the ever-loving Speed Force out of The Flash remain far and few between. A recent e-mail exchange with my uncle helped put this game into perspective for me. My father and he were long-time comic book collectors and avid readers, so naturally they spent an inordinate amount of time debating who would win in a fight between Batman, Doc Savage and Tarzan. Of course, I said Batman, because you know Bruce Wayne has contingency plans for pretty much everything and, no matter how bad-ass Doc Savage was in First Wave, he’d probably retain the edge. That’s the thing, though – games like Injustice don’t necessarily need a story, because they feed into our collective excitement over settling age-old bets over who’s the strongest in the land. Sure, there will probably be an explanation for the game’s set-up (Mother Box! Darkseid did it! Earth-2!), but I’m more excited for the game play itself. Oh, and for the record, my uncle insists that Tarzan would have come out on top.
Graphics: In a word, damn. This game looks great, toeing the line between ultra-realistic and comic book rather nicely. It has a similar visual palette to Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but with a grittier, Children of Men-like filter to give the DC crew more of an edge. From what game play we’ve seen so far, the super moves look magnificently over-the-top and the graphics certainly do them justice (no pun intended). As many of the stages are interactive and highly destructible, the game handles debris and particulate matter rather well, too. This is brutality at its prettiest.
Gameplay: During our behind-closed doors presentation, NetherRealm treated us to two battles – Superman vs. The Flash and Batman vs. Solomon Grundy (not featured were the other two already revealed characters, Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn). The player characters are broken down into various categories – tech/gadget-based (Batman/Harley Quinn), agility-based (Flash), and purely strength-based (Solomon Grundy) – with various checks and balances to ensure that no one hero can overpower the others. There were plenty of unfilled roster slots on the character select screen, so at least we’ll have plenty of time to speculate wildly on who will make the cut and who won’t (Booster Gold DLC!).
One of the main features NetherRealm touted was that the arenas weren’t just different-colored backdrops for the foreground fisticuffs; They can influence gameplay and they make a difference. In the two that we saw, the Batcave and the mysteriously-titled Future City (which looks like a futuristic Metropolis), there are plenty of interactive elements that can be used to set traps for your opponent or even as weapons against them. Each character interacts with these items in a way unique to the character. For example, Batman smashed Solomon Grundy’s face into the hood of a nearby parked car, whereas Grundy picked the car up above his head and threw it at Batman. The interactivity doesn’t stop there, though; After a particularly strong punch from Superman, the Flash was sent hurtling through the floor of the Batcave into another area of the level entirely, replete with new items with which to batter your opponent. Who needs a boring old “Ring Out” victory, anyway, when you can slam your opponent halfway through the DC Universe? All in all, it’s an exciting new feature and should make for more high-stakes, dynamic battles.
The combat system seems straightforward enough, with only a health bar and super bar to worry about managing. As the super bar fills up, you can unleash powerful attacks on your opponent and, if you have enough juice, you can unleash the closest thing to a fatality this T-rated game can offer, a hilariously over-the-top, but comic book pitch-perfect finishing move. Case in point: Superman pummels his opponent before delivering an uppercut that send his unlucky foe hurtling through the Earth’s stratosphere into the cold, black hell of space. We know you live in an ice palace, but damn, that’s cold, Supes.
The control scheme has been simplified to allow for greater ease of play. The developers wanted the game to feel as comfortable in the hands of a fighting game newbie as well as a practiced pugilist. While it may deliver more of a fun, casual experience than a tournament-level fighter, the game still requires an impressive amount of strategy and tactics. The addition of the Clash mode, in which players can bet their super and health meters against one another, feels delightfully cinematic and lends the battles an air of exciting uncertainty. The tide of battle threatening to turn at any moment and the chance that you’ll get punched through a Metropolis skyscraper into an unknown arena of combat make this fighter one to watch.
Impressions: If you’re a comic book fan or a fighting game fan, then this game will probably give you downstairs-butterflies like it did for me. It’s fan fiction at its finest, and the already announced roster will give players plenty to salivate over. Factor in the game’s pick-up-and-play mentality and NetherRealm’s impressive pedigree, and you can consider this game as good as pre-ordered.
What are your thoughts about Injustice? Who would you like to see added to the roster? Quemment below and let us know!
Dan Casey doesn’t get into many fights, but he does read plenty of comic books, so he’s fine with living vicariously.