UPDATE – We recently received answers to a few lingering questions regarding what the team plans to do if infinites are discovered, input shortcuts for traditional arcade sticks, and more, so be sure to head to the bottom of the article and check out the information.
With the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us growing closer each day, NetherRealm Studios recently invited Wolverine-Master and I to a special “behind closed doors” demo to see how their DC Comics fighter is coming along. While there, we were shown the game’s newest combatants (Black Adam and Raven), and were told how the system has changed since the build we got to try out last year at E3. We also got a sneak peek at the game’s story mode, S.T.A.R. Labs Trials, and a brand new experience and leveling system. I’ll be bringing you up-to-date on the new characters and mechanics, while WM will be covering the game’s new modes.
Now, keep in mind that we didn’t have an excessive amount of time with these characters. Versus play was only half of the hour long demo we got and ten minutes of that was spent going over universal system changes. Still, this gave us ample time to gather a few first impressions for both Black Adam and Raven, so check those out below and let us know what you think.
Black Adam is, in a word, strange. He’s not exactly a rushdown character and yet not exactly a zoner either. He has traps that he can place on the ground, but they are very small and don’t do much for area denial. Instead, I found that it’s best to use these abilities after a combo that ends in a knockdown to set up oki mix-ups.
Adam has a number of electricity based moves as well, which cause a shock hit-state. Shock is one of the many types of special hit-states in Injustice that can increase your opponent’s hit-stun beyond normal amounts. Adam’s bolts are slow, though, and at first glance only seem to be effective as combo extenders. But that’s not saying they don’t have potential, as there’s likely a bit of tech hidden here that will come out with extended experimentation.
One thing I noticed was that Adam’s aerial normals came out at weird angles. He has a downward kick with both legs that hits almost completely vertically, which I found to be hard to connect with on jump-ins. It does have a hit-box on the back that made for some interesting cross-ups, but the arc was so weird that I simply had more luck approaching from the ground.
Adam’s trait button (described at the demo as the “superhero power” button) summons three orbs of electricity that rotate around him, similar to Vergil’s spiral swords in UMvC3 but with a couple key differences. First of all, while they do damage to the opponent on contact, they do not put the opponent into hit-stun. More importantly, they nullify opponent’s attacks and projectiles, making it an amazing tool for getting in on other zoners, especially when used with his aforementioned traps.
I feel as if Black Adam is a character who will take a longer amount of time to accurately nail down. He isn’t a simple character to use, that’s for sure. I was impressed with the unique toolset that he had, but I just couldn’t get it to work with the time I had with him. I’m looking forward to trying him out further when the game releases, if only because his gameplay archetype is so non-standard.
Raven is easily one of my favorite characters in the Injustice roster so far. A heavily rushdown-oriented character with a grappler edge, Raven uses her magic to catch the opponent off guard in numerous ways. She has ranged ground and anti-air command grabs that are easily some of the best tools in her arsenal. Adding them onto the end of any string will be effective in catching an opponent trying to punish you or jump away. You can also slightly delay them in the middle of your normal block strings to create sick grab-based frame traps. Not only that, but some of her grabs cause special hit-states like ground bounces that let you continue your combos. If I’m allowed to gush for a moment, she’s absolutely sick!
She also has tons of juggle potential. Her launchers are super fast and cover a lot of ground, allowing you to set the opponent up for any number of easy connecting strings. She has an air-to-air kick that pops the opponent up high enough to land another ground string, and her command grabs can lead to even more combo opportunities thanks to their ability to hit a couple of character distances away and manipulate the opponent, pulling them or pushing them away depending on your needs.
Raven’s superhero power allows her to go into demon mode, which is essentially a free install that costs no meter. In this state, she moves faster, hits stronger, and her special moves change. Her projectile turns into an incredibly useful ground spire that can be summoned at a variety of distances and can combo into itself. She can also grab an opponent from almost a full screen away, allowing any random spire hit to transition into a full bread and butter. She also gains a full set of teleports, which would make even Dante and Vergil jealous. Her teleports are incredibly quick, fast enough to be used even in mid-combo, and they set Raven up for nearly free mix-up opportunities.
It’s also worth mentioning that her super (which drags her opponent into an alternate dimension and has Trigon eyebeam them to death) is outstanding DC Comics fanservice. Raven plays incredibly dirty and on first glance seems as if she will be one of the stronger characters in the game early on. The only thing that could have possibly made me like Raven more would be if she had an alternate costume and voice-pack based around the Cartoon Network Teen Titans series, though that may still be in the cards seeing as similar things have been done with other cast members.
System Mechanics and Gameplay Impressions
The game has changed quite a bit since we last saw it at E3 2012. For one thing, the game moves at a much faster pace. Dashes happen almost instantly and even slow characters are incredibly mobile. Grundy, for example, can move nearly half of the screen in one dash! Attacks also come out much quicker than they did in previous builds. Strings not only execute faster, but are harder to punish than they were early on in the game’s development cycle. Back then, I called this “Mortal Kombat’s version of Marvel vs. Capcom” and that description applies even more so now.
A few core changes have also been made to established system mechanics that we have seen before. Clashing, which was called the “wager system” back at E3, is now only available once per round. The clash wager interface has been prettied up and the clash animation itself now plays out quicker so as to not interrupt the flow of a match.
Other than that, the wager mechanics remain similar to their previous incarnation. When you activate a clash, you and your opponent each wager an amount of meter in secret using the face buttons. Whoever wagers more meter knocks the enemy away, dealing a decent chunk of damage in the process. No damage is done on a tie. Clashing can still be activated while in hit-stun and the combo still breaks in the process, even if you are on the losing end of the clash.
As for other meter mechanics, EX moves have made a comeback, and they are executed Soul Calibur V style with an extra press of the “power” button while a move activates. Honestly, I found the timing to be very finicky. It seems to differ for every move and in the middle of combos I would find EX moves dropping more often than not.
A new alpha counter type mechanic has been integrated into the system as well. By spending a stock of meter while in block stun, you can execute an invisible animation which, if it connects, will knock the opponent across the screen, though it won’t do any damage. The animation itself has a huge range, making it operate more like a burst than a traditional alpha counter, especially since it cannot be used to start combos.
Supers have also been changed since the E3 build. At this point, most supers in the game are unblockable, so throwing out random supers in the middle of pressure is extremely powerful. (Editor’s Note: This is exactly how it was explained during the demonstration, though we now know that only Bane, Green Arrow, Solomon Grundy, and possibly Raven have access to unblockable supers.) They are very punishable if avoided, however, and some have a long start-up time, making them better suited for combos.
One peculiar design aspect that has been carried over from MK9 is the fact that all meter expenditure is done with triggers and shoulder buttons that otherwise have no function in the game. I asked whether there would be shortcuts implemented using the basic attack buttons for people who use a stick, but I couldn’t get a concrete answer. However, I did find that pressing forward plus weak and medium seemed to trigger the alpha counter ability, so there appear to be shortcuts lurking in the system somewhere.
I was also shown a variety of different stage hazards this time around as well. Back in the E3 build there were only two different types of “classes” when it came to stage hazards: gadget and power characters. Gadget characters used stage hazards in tricky ways while power characters relied on brute force. It was the difference between springing off a car and picking it up and chucking it at your enemy. This idea of class-based stage interactions has expanded as the team has built in several new classes that interact with the stage in many different ways. I also found that all stage interactions in the demo fell into four basic categories. They either:
- Hit the opponent away from you, giving you space to breathe
- Trigger a special prolonged hit-stun state that allows you to extend your combos
- Give you some sort of special mobility option, usually a wall jump or teleport
- Allow you to throw projectiles and traps in order to set up a zoning game you wouldn’t normally have.
However, the neatest thing I saw in the demo was, believe it or not, the game’s stage-select screen. I asked how stage selection would be handled in tournaments since stage hazards will vary so much, and the answer was simple. Both characters get to choose the stage at the same time! If they both agree to a stage then that is the one that will be played on, but if they disagree, the game will choose between the two stages selected at random. Simple, ingenious, and guaranteed to make tournaments run smoothly.
Getting a chance to try out an almost complete build of Injustice: Gods Among Us was fun, but of course an hour isn’t nearly enough to dive into all the intricacies this game has to offer. The game is entertaining, fast, and innovative, but the real gold comes from a very technical gameplay system that still requires time to pick apart. We will get another chance to spend time with the game at PAX East this weekend. The team also assured me that they would be able to answer my many remaining questions there, regarding such things as the game’s “traditional” control scheme option, combo properties, meter-building mechanics, stage transition damage, and more. Look forward to a more detailed update in the near future!
We recently received answers to a few of these questions. They’ve been included in their entirety below.
What is being done to prevent infinites?
The hot fix patching system is much improved, allowing us to tweak many parameters that were not possible before.
Are there limits on combo ability – juggle or string limits?
The only limits in place are that most specials have a unique ID. If the same special is done again in the same combo, it will have different properties. For example, some cannot be meter burned again if already done once in a combo. Others might have a different reaction or have no hit box. Inside of juggles, characters get heavier and heavier with each hit, which also naturally limits combos.
Will there be button shortcuts?
For those playing on an 5-6 button arcade stick there are shortcuts you can take advantage of. For example 1+2 = interact with background objects, 2+4+6 = supermove, and 1+3 = throw. So if someone wants to, they can play using a PDP Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Edition stick, Mortal Kombat Tournament stick, or any custom made traditional 6 button layout and won’t have problems.
What are the different properties for hit states?
There are some, like throws, that are inescapable when you throw someone out of a disabled state (like in active recovery frames after a missed attack). Several characters power abilities will affect hit states as well. For example Superman ignores armor when his power is active. Bane adds armor (and projectile invulnerability) to some of his attacks depending on his current venom level. Wonder Woman takes less chip damage when she is in sword and shield stance.
Be sure to head over to this article’s companion for a preview of Injustice’s story mode, S.T.A.R. Labs missions, and XP system!