While they might not have the long history of some other video game developers, NetherRealm Studios has already worked its way into the good graces of gamers. Mortal Kombat 9 managed to not only reinvigorate the beloved but faltering franchise, but stood out as one of the premier fighting games of 2011. However, NetherRealm isn’t content to rest on their laurels, and their upcoming fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, looks to be bigger and better in every way. Comic book fans are already slobbering over the title nearly a month before its release and not just because the game promises a huge roster of DC comic favorites to control in battle. The quality of the action, combat, and visuals should be enough to entice any fan of the genre and are all good signs that Injustice signals a continuation of NetherRealm’s tradition of creating superb fighters.
Not content with the reason “because it’s awesome” when deciding why DC’s cast of heroes is fighting each other, NetherRealm in conjunction with actual DC comic book writers has crafted a stand alone story to accompany the game and explain the fisticuffs (and also provide a reason for why a single punch from Superman doesn’t leave Green Arrow as a big pile of green goo). When the game starts out, evil has already won. The Joker has managed to do what Lex Luther, Bizarro, and the writers for Superman IV could not: he has broken Superman. Metropolis lays in ruins. Louis Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Superman’s unborn child are all dead. And Superman, Earth’s mightiest protector, has now become its greatest threat. Superman has started a new world order to prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again, and while it might have started out with noble intentions, society is starting to have the feel of a hardline police state. Who would have thought that one man having God like powers but normal human emotions could ever result in negative consequences? Luckily, Batman is leading a rebellion of sorts against Superman, and with heroes (and villains) falling on either side of the conflict, it is impossible to predict who will prevail.
The story looks very intriguing, and has a much darker and more mature tone than you might expect for a game about men and women dressed up in costumes fighting each other. NetherRealm has already proved they have the ability to weave a substantial narrative for a fighting game, and the preview trailers make this story look even more epic in scope than their past games. Still, the main draw is the fighting itself, and the promise of huge, devastating battles between Batman and Superman is probably already enough to lure most fans of comics to the game. The fighting is a one on one affair, occurring on a 2D plane. The combat is meant to be awe inspiring and intense, and the action unfolds over a single round. All characters have a light, medium, and heavy attack with can be integrated into combos in addition to a character specific skill that varies from character to character. Like Mortal Kombat, fighters have access to a special attack bar which fills up as the battle progresses, allowing you to unleash enhanced special moves, counter the other player’s attacks, or utilize devastating super attacks if the meter is completely filled.
What is perhaps the most interesting aspect shown in current gameplay trailers is how important the levels become in the course of the fights. The game advertises that the levels are weapons themselves, and each area is decked out with a variety of instruments specifically put there to cause pain. Depending on what kind of character you’re using, you might find yourself blowing up a car to cause damage or just picking it up and using it to smash your foe. Machine guns, freeze rays, and a wide assortment of other weapons can be used to your advantage, or the interactive environments can be turned off completely if you’re a fighting game purist. The levels themselves have different tiers to them, and landing a heavy attack on an opponent near the edge sends them flying to another portion of the level in the most painful way possible. At Arkham, your foe gets knocked through the asylum where various inmates inflict damage and psychological harm, while the same attack at Wayne Manor sends your opponent from the front gardens to an inner room via several walls, the roof, and all sorts of bodily trauma.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is also full of enough content to keep even the most picky comic fanboy entertained. In addition to a meaty story mode, Injustice features online matches which NetherRealm promises have been optimized based on feedback they received from Mortal Kombat. There will also be a challenge mode comprised of various missions of increasing difficulty, similar to the challenge tower concept they used in Mortal Kombat. And then there is the sheer number of characters,with a roster that continues to grow to fit in all the big names from the DC universe. Of course, fan favorites like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are featured prominently in the marketing, along with some nice supporting characters like Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Joker. Even more minor characters are getting some love, as the roster already is confirmed to include the likes of Black Adam, Raven, Solomon Grundy, and a whole slew of secondary characters that didn’t have agents good enough to get them top billing. The current roster is at 22 and still growing, with 4 additional mystery characters already confirmed to be released at some point in the future for DLC. Each character is supposed to have a unique feel and fighting style, and with such a huge roster there will be an insane amount of depth if this is true.
Injustice: Gods Among Us has a current release date of April 16 for North America, with European and Australian release dates slightly after that. Everything looks extremely promising so far, and NetherRealm’s past success in the genre provides further hope that Injustice: Gods Among Us could be the fighting title of the year for 2013. The action is over the top, fluid, visceral, and a lot of other words that basically means it looks insanely good. Those looking to see the game in action should check out the Injustice Battle Arena that NetherRealm is currently running, as maybe that can tide you over until next month. The previews have certainly got me psyched for Injustice, but honestly any game where I can use Batman to punch Superman in the mouth is automatically on the short list for my game of the year.