Ironically, I had more issues with the style than the substance of Netherrealms last venture, Mortal Kombat. Coming from a Capcom fighter background for the most part, I didn’t particularly care for the character models or how they moved. The hyper-violence wasn’t a turn off per say though that drove it from the house when the youngling was on the way. Overall, I just didn’t care for the look or feel of the game very much.
In spite of that, I still respect it. It had a large variety of characters and modes, integrated online play, and easily the best Story mode in a fighting if not ever, than in a very long time. I would highly recommend it to any fighting game fan, it just didn’t fit my particular sensibilities.
So the question for me then, is Netherrealms’ newest game ‘Injustice’ going to assuage any of those concerns?
If the demo was any indication, maybe.
The game will be focusing on pitting the greatest DC Comics heroes and villains against each other. This means the violence has been toned down to make a palatable Teen rating. There will also be a story mode depicting why the heroes all are fighting, but that wasn’t available in the demo — I’ll reserve comment on that for later.
The demo only features Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lex Luthor as playable characters, and Doomsday as a single player boss. The ‘Battles’ mode has you fight through the available characters in the Gotham City stage. It doesn’t allow for much variety to be sure, but it was enough to give a decent impression of what to expect.
Right away it seems this game is catering to the growing fighting game community. The move list on the pause menu lists not only every attack the character can perform, but also the damage the attacks do, as well as their various frame data. This feature will serve to ease newer gamers into these concepts, while old-school gamers will have less number crunching to do on their own, and be able to determine ‘safe’ or ‘meaty’ attacks for each character that much faster.
The game takes a different approach than other fighters though by not sticking to the standard 4 or 6 button layout. Instead, there are 3 main attack buttons, and a special button that activates and/or uses your character’s special ability (such as switching between whip and sword for Wonder Woman, or activating Lex Luthor’s energy shield). The buttons on top of the standard controller (RB, LB, RT, LT, or L1, R1, L2, R2) are used to grab enemies, interact with the environment, or power up attacks, i.e. EX moves. You can also perform these with some combinations of face buttons as well, though the triggers will likely be easier for those using a regular controller.
The characters themselves don’t look bad, and I dare say are an improvement over Mortal Kombat’s designs. There are still some issues, however minor. Battle damage does occur to the characters and some of it, particularly on Wonder Woman, looks a little cheap and tacked on. There are some quirks as well with Lex Luthor’s head just looking too doll like when focused on (particularly during his super), and Doomsday’s braided ponytail always hanging over his shoulder, regardless of how is head is turned. Another bit of strangeness is when Batman’s grappling hook magically moves upwards to grab a jumping opponent in the chest when he clearly would have hit them in the foot.
This is mostly water under the bridge however, as the gameplay is still exciting and engaging. The AI on Medium and Hard difficulty really kept me on my toes in single player, while never feeling as though it was cheating. The AI actually taught me a couple of combos and mechanics for Lex Luthor, which would have taken me a long time to discern on my own.
While I still withhold final judgement for how the rest of the game turns out, the appetizer presented to us this week keeps me optimistic about this game’s full release on the 16th.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is property of Warner Brothers. Impressions based on two hours of single player on the PS3 demo.