Injustice: Gods Among Us Preview – Comix Zone
Comic book company DC Entertainment isn’t new to the game business. In fact, they’re one of the leading platforms when it comes to making good use of a license. Their MMO DC Universe Online was one of the first free-to-play experiences on consoles and their Batman series has spawned numerous Game of the Year titles. With Injustice: Gods Among Us, they’ll return to a day where they flew underneath this top tier of fame, with a Mortal Kombat spinoff. This latter title recently rebooted its series and now Injustice uses this design for its side-scrolling fighting game.
Audiovisual presentation takes a cue from the Mortal Kombat reboot, to such an extent that Injustice can be confused for an elaborate reskin. That said, it does also mean that characters are high in fine details, from kinks in their armor to embroidered borders in capes. Likenesses of heroes and villains are spot on to their current look in the comic book series. Additionally, these fluently moving icons get to fight in huge, expanding stages where backgrounds are filled with additional life. Alleyways flicker with neon signs; stray newspapers fly by and dumpsters make for impromptu bludgeons to the unwary. Distant lands stretch out into the horizon, with wildlife passing by and statues overlooking their territory. Factories bustle with activity; pipes vent steam and wires populate the metallic structures way into the distance. If comics rely on a good look to create an atmosphere, then this game does the theme justice by providing a most livid background for their forefront characters. Not since Mega Drive classic Comix Zone was comic book fighting this engaging, by mere sight alone.
Sounds follow the theme by providing over the top bits for sweeping moves that swoosh, punches that bump and shots that clang. The bigger the hit, the louder the pop and that helps to feel gratified by a well-aimed shot, especially when camera angles zoom in to really nail the impact and then violently pan out to visualize the destructive power. Characters also taunt each other with some fine voice acting quality, crisp in sound. Unfortunately, the few lines for each person can become a repetitive drone quite fast. Not many fighting peers offer more than a handful of ending templates, for instance, but it doesn’t excuse that a slow, vapid one-liner won’t stay fresh for long.
Luckily, these characters will differentiate themselves better in their respective fighting styles. One of the major strengths of Injustice is how versatile fighting techniques can be with limited moves, depending on what person is chosen. Batman will work mostly on keeping close tabs on his foes and ropes in enemies to unleash more punishment. Lex Luthor, in turn, while being in a devastating super suit, will work better when keeping fighters at a distance, to make up for his sluggish movement that leaves him vulnerable. Through the use of his suit, he’ll be able to set mines and shoot an array of weaponry to keep opponents from hitting him in his rich face.
Each character only has a small set of moves to choose from, yet this is more than plenty to have a trick for every occasion. Even with just a dozen specials, anything from quick jabs to groundwork and aerial attacks are possible. By using her whip, Wonder Woman can either rope in an enemy straight in front of her or she can use her flying power to diagonally reach a sneaky fighter who tries to get on top of her. Another strong point comes from these exquisite backgrounds that double up as a second arsenal of moves through their interactive environment. Players can grab just about anything in immediate range to make short but deadly attacks, through the use of steam pipes or by throwing enemies into a wall. If that’s not enough, then it’s even possible to catapult helpless adversaries through stages, which often involve a world of hurt in a series of violent collisions. They won’t just fall through a wall; the wall will also fall back on them, the impact will make the ground give way and they’ll hit through 2 or 3 more floors of rubble and other structures, before finally being able to spring back up.
Connecting hits also make a special gauge fill up that can be used to unleash even bigger hits. When prompted, the camera will seamlessly capture the highlighted hero and they’ll get a shot to land a powerful super move, which receives its own little cutscene. These moves can go anywhere from just shooting a ton of projectiles to punching people through to the center of the Earth. It’s intense with every punch and it’s the pinnacle of successful moves.
To ensure the special gauge fills up, players can string moves together for combos. Certain impacts make the opponent bounce, which triggers a split second for a follow up and so on. With the proper vision it’s possible to do a quick three hits, follow it up with a distancing kick, quickly rope the body back in, bump them on the floor, hit them in the air and continue this for a while. The game design enables this by having its physics react to precise heights to facilitate these moves. Characters bounce much higher than normal, so that they come back up to punching height. Ejecting players in the air lets them dangle in zero gravity to connect an air move. When well executed, this design creates a fighting a ballet of moves, not built upon sheer bashing, but rather implementing finely timed blows, one after another.
Still, in ways, this is also the most notable issue. Fighting can feel rather static for having such liberty, certainly with superhuman beings. A sizable delay between many moves puts halts in the regular fighting momentum, which creates brief moments of dead air. Most of the time, fights will be structures as the following example: Hit, stop, hit, stop, hit, hit, counter, stop, hit. It feels like a break in character for the otherwise illustrious carnage these moves can show. The dissonance between a cavalcade of destruction with super moves and the stunted flow of regular combat just doesn’t sync with each other properly and tears down the pace. It’s not a game breaker, but it could deter some from playing the game in the end. Just a tick less fixation could retain this game’s precise movement, while removing this blemish.
Beyond the core game, players will also be welcomed to a series of mini-games, such as side-scrolling adventures, sneaking missions and even a game that rips through the Batmobile, Street Fighter style. Naturally, the online community will be a sizable part of the game as well, enhancing its gameplay with a leveling system for heroes and villains. Additionally, players will be able to set up small tournaments, such as a king of the hill game mode. This is probably the part of the game that will make or break the above flaw. The community will decide how well it can circumvent the sluggishness of certain combat designs.
While there is definitely a comparison to be made with the Mortal Kombat reboot, Injustice: Gods Among Us adapts it to its own theme well. Additional moves, spectacular settings and even more cinematic action will enhance this combat way past that of the aforementioned title. With just a slight adjustment in some slower parts, it will take away any skepticism and display a prime fighting title, but it might as well do that without alteration. Strike true.