My trip to E3 2012 gave me an opportunity to get some hands-on time with the newest game from NetherRealm, Injustice: Gods Among Us. For those of you who have been hiding under a fighting game rock for the past few weeks, Injustice is a 2D fighter, loosely based on the Mortal Kombat engine, which uses DC Comics characters to fill out its roster. Though the build I saw was very incomplete, I liked what I saw, if only as a raw concept.
The Basic System
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a four button game, which is more similar to BlazBlue than anything else, oddly enough. Characters have a button for light, medium, and heavy attacks, and then a “special” or “gimmick” button that activates a character specific ability (like BlazBlue’s drives).
Rounds play out a lot like Vampire Savior, in that you have to deplete your opponent’s health bar twice, but you don’t transition to a new round when someone loses all of their health. Instead, you simply fall out of whatever combo you were in and the opponent is frozen in place until you touch the floor. When you are both standing the round begins again with the opponent remaining at the exact same life they were at when they killed you.
As I said before, the game is based off of the MK9 engine, and so the basic combo mechanics remain the same. By that I mean there aren’t hit-confirms, so to speak, but rather dialed combos and strings. The juggle system works pretty much exactly like it does in MK9 as well.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is much faster than Mortal Kombat 9. Characters dash quicker, jump higher, and overall have many more movement options than they do in MK9. Air-dashes are a new addition to the engine, and pretty much any character capable of flight in the comic book world has one. This combined with dive kicks and other moves with strange hit-boxes can set up for some sick cross-ups. Characters that don’t have air dashes tend to have their own unique movement options as well. Batman, for example, has a double jump and a glide, while The Flash is able to zip around the screen with command runs.
Blocking and Defense
I mentioned cross-ups in my previous paragraph because they are more important in Injustice than they were in MK9. Unlike MK9, Injustice is a “hold back to block” game. This opens up a whole new world of cross-ups and mix-ups that MK9 just didn’t have. Batman has the familiar shoto crossup kick that hits you with the back of his knee. Skillful usage of character gimmicks and mobility options can set up for some very hard to block situations.
One important note, Injustice has incorporated trades into its gameplay system, something that was pretty much non-existent in MK9. Now, two moves that contact each other on the same frame can both register a hit as normal.
The super meter in Injustice is broken up into four bars. You gain meter when you are either hit or when you use a special move. For one bar of meter you can use an EX move, however these moves are less traditional EX moves and more EX extensions of existing special moves and combo strings. They are activated like Brave Edges in Soul Calibur V. In the middle of a special move or attack string you press the gimmick button, and a meter is spent to do the EX version. EX moves have different properties from normal moves, causing more damage, special hit states, and more.
Meter can also be spent to do a “rapid cancel” style dash cancel out of pretty much any move or string. This can be used to either extend your combo opportunities, or to keep certain moves safe.
As long as you have two meters to spend, you can enter “wager” mode. Essentially the combo breaking mechanic of the game, wager mode immediately stops the combo in progress and asks both players to wager a certain amount of meter. The player who is willing to spend the most meter gains momentum. If the defending player wins, then he regains all the health he would have lost. If the attacking player wins, the defending player takes even more damage. If neither player wins, the defending player takes the damage but both characters are forcefully separated. During wager mode, both characters dramatically interact, exchanging witty lines before rushing at each other in an anime style flash of light.
The last thing you can spend meter on is supers, which require all four bars of your meter to be filled. Supers deal tons of damage, can be comboed into, and are incredibly cinematic. The flash, for example, runs a full circle around the world before delivering a powerful punch to his opponent. My only issue with supers is that they are so long and cinematic they really break up the flow of battle. I get serious flashbacks to Final Fantasy 7’s Knights of the Round summon during some of them.
Three stages were shown at E3. They were The Batcave, Metropolis, and the Fortress of Solitude. Each stage has multiple parts, and by landing a stage transition attack, an incredibly slow attack that does tons of damage, you can knock your opponent into the next area of the stage. Once again, I worry that the stage transitions will break up the action a bit too much. One stage transition actually involved throwing a character into an elevator and pummeling them repeatedly as you travel up levels of a building. You unfortunately can’t do anything during this time period though. It’s basically just watching a cut-scene.
Each stage section also have interactive environmental objects as well. If you are by one of these objects, a small icon will show up at the top of the screen prompting you to press one of the shoulder buttons. Doing so will cause your character to use the stage against his opponent.
Stage hazards come in many different varieties and are used differently by every character. A car on the side of the road, for example, can be used as a bludgeoning weapon by characters who have super strength. Gadget based characters, like Batman and Harley, simply smash the opponent’s face into the car in a grapple type move. Similarly, there are barrels set up at the edge of another stage that each character throws differently. Some give them an overhand chuck Donkey Kong style while others roll the barrels on the ground, giving characters without a projectile a chance to play keep-away.
The interesting thing about environmental hazards in Injustice is that they can be used in the middle of your character’s normal combos. For example, a generator hangs above one of the stages, and knocking a character into the generator puts him into a special shock-stun state. This allows you to extend your juggles further than you normally would be able to. One stage had a teleporter in the corner. If your opponent backed you into the corner, you can actually start comboing them and then use the teleporter in the middle of the combo to appear on the other side of your opponent, trapping him in the corner instead. Of course, he can do the same to you.
Overall, properties of these environmental hazards are way more transparent than they are in games like Smash Brothers. Each environmental ability feels like an additional move in a character’s move list that you have to account for. It’s far less random than the environmental effects you’d find in other games, but I still worry that they might unbalance the game somehow. I certainly do give NetherRealm credit for attempting to approach environmental hazards in a more balanced and predictable manner though.
I was given a short walkthrough of each of injustice’s characters, and while I won’t post any of their move commands here (as they are still being developed and changed) I will give a short rundown of each character’s playstyle.
Superman, as you would expect, is a basic hard hitting brawler. He has an air-dash, a power dive punch, and many hit-strings that knock the opponent clear across the stage. Many of Superman’s specials are ranged attacks, like his eye-beams which he can fire at several different levels. His EX eye-beams pop the opponent up for further juggles as well. He also has an anti-air grab which can be worked into any combo that pops the opponent into the air. His gimmick is “rage mode” which temporarily increases his damage.
Batman is all about powerful normals and hit-strings. He has a very ambiguous cross-up kick, a dive kick, a glide, a double jump, and more. One of his moves causes him to throw out a shower of sparks (they look like caltrops). By tiger-kneeing this move, you can create a very low to the ground aerial wall that makes it hard for the opponent to get in on you. Batman’s gimmicks are his robotic gadget bats. You can either have these fly around you as a shield or fly toward the opponent as a projectile. When an opponent comes in contact with his bat shield, they are popped up in the air for quite a while, allowing for an easy juggle setup.
Wonder Woman is, oddly enough, a stance character. She can switch between sword and shield mode and flight and lasso mode (where she has an air-dash) freely with the gimmick button. Both of these moves have completely different hit-strings and special moves. She can even stance cancel some of her moves, although most of these have not been implemented yet. With the lasso, she focuses on mobility and range. She can pull the opponent to her scorpion style, and attack with a variety of strong aerial moves. Sword and shield mode focuses on powerful hit strings and special moves that put the opponent into special hit-states. She seems to have an easier time juggling the opponent in sword and shield mode, and also appears to have higher damage output as well, though she is noticeably slowed.
The Flash is the pixie character of the game. He doesn’t do a lot of damage but his hit-strings are incredibly fast, most of his attacks are safe, and he is incredibly mobile. His special moves focus on using his superior speed to get in on the opponent and mix them up. Though his combos weren’t particularly long from what I saw, his mix-up potential was amazing. Simply throwing out fast and safe strings over and over again was a great way to beat your opponent with pressure alone. The Flash’s gimmick utilizes the speed force to make him move super fast. This translates into time slowing down for your opponent, much like Ammy or Viewtiful Joe can do in Marvel.
Grundy is the grappler of the game. He is big, slow, and hits like a zombified truck. Grundy was easily the least complete character in the demo, as his throws had not even been made unblockable yet. However, I was assured that Grundy’s throws are being worked on, and that his normal hit-strings and specials will probably be getting super armor frames sometime in the future. Grundy’s gimmick is the ability to chain throw. Pressing the gimmick button will initiate a throw, which can then be transitioned into several different throw extensions, including otg and anti-air throws. Grundy has so many throws for so many different situations, it looks like he will be a grapplers dream… once they actually make him able to grapple.
Finally Harley was…weird. She appears to be part zoner, part random character and to be fair I just couldn’t wrap my head around her. She can fire guns, hit the opponent with a gigantic hammer and more, but to be fair I couldn’t really understand the timing of her combos. She’s one of those characters whose attacks put the opponent in very strange positions, making your own position key in your juggles. Harley’s gimmick is to pull out a random item from a present. These items can be a variety of different items or weapons that provide her with several different attacks or beneficial effects. She can also pull out random useless items as well. She had a Platinum the Trinity vibe to her, which will be familiar to fans of BlazBlue.
Injustice is a strange game. It feels like Mortal Kombat, but its way more hectic than Mortal Kombat ever was. It’s trying hard to be a tournament worthy fighter, but it also has supers with incredibly long cutscenes and environmental effects that are sure to piss some long-time competitive players off. Though if you were to ask me whether or not I thought Injustice was worthy of the tournament scene, I’d have to say yes. The environmental effects are predictable and transparent, allowing you to know exactly when your opponent will use them, and how they will be used. The combo system feels smooth and open, but not overpowered. The Vampire Savior style rounds keep the action flowing and cause you to be more careful when losing health. Overall, it was a well put together game that will just get better as time goes on. It will be sure to please the Mortal Kombat crowd out there, and may even attract some VS and anime fighter fans like myself as well.
We also have previews for the other fighting games shown at E3 2012 as well, so be on the look out for those in the near future.