Injustice: Gods Among Us – Preview
For a long time I have had a lot of love for the characters that are found in comic books, and superheroes and supervillains have long been two of my favourite things. Over the years I have begun to see the differences between the two main sources of comics, DC and Marvel. I can’t help but love the characters that Marvel create, with characters like Deadpool and Wolverine standing head and shoulders above anyone that DC can throw up, just in terms of sheer ability to compel. On the other hand, the dark world that DC inhabits is fantastic, and though they don’t have quite the characters that Marvel do, their characters are still iconic and well known to many thousands of people.
For almost as long as I have loved the superheroes and villains that Marvel and DC produce, I have also loved videogames. Not just any videogames of course – I was a discerning child and I knew exactly what I enjoyed. For the most part it was games that you could find in the arcades, the Metal Slugs and Time Crisis 2s. In particular though, the games that I have loved the most have been the fighters and the brawlers, the Tekkens and the Mortal Kombats.
At Gamescom I had the opportunity to play the confluence of two of my most loved things, and I did. Over and over and over again. Injustice: Gods Among Us is the next game from Mortal Kombat developers NetherRealm and features the characters from DC’s dark comic universe. And it is amazing. This isn’t NetherRealm’s first foray into the world of DC of course – several DC characters appeared in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, a bizarre crossover that nevertheless did a good job of turning some of DC’s roster into decent fighter game characters. Injustice takes this concept a step further, with NetherRealm given permission to remix the DC characters to fit their own vision of how awesome they could be; this has resulted in the transformation of characters who once made their living out of wearing skin-tight lycra into characters who look bad-ass beyond belief.
One of the best examples of this is how NetherRealm presents the Man of Steel. At the start of every match, Supes begins as Clark Kent, before he starts removing his clothing – not one piece at a time, of course, he goes more for the ‘tear them all to bits’ approach to reveal the armoured suit beneath. His outfit makes him look less like the nancy-boy that I saw him as and more like the near-invincible superhero that he is meant to be. They’ve done such a good job in their re-imagining of the characters that they’ve even made Nightwing look awesome, and everyone knows that he’s just a poor-man’s Batman.
In all seriousness though, the characters look less like characters from a comic book and far more like the gritty and embattled inhabitants of a dark and difficult world. Their look is still in keeping with the DC character, but they have been given a look that reflects the vision of them as “Gods among men.” Almost all the characters are larger than normal proportions would have them, and are very imposing.
The world itself mirrors the characters within it, taking on a darker and grittier appearance than many of its previous portrayals. There does seem to be some inspiration taken from the Nolan films in the feel and look of the world – there’s also a suspicious hint of eye shadow around Batman’s eyes – with a lot of the environment littered with shadows and darkness. One of the best parts of the world is that it’s not just a background for the fights that are going on. During the battles between the heroes, the environment plays a key part in their fortunes, as many parts of what seem to be background are interactable; these almost invariably provide a way out of a corner, or add some emphasis to a stand-off in the centre of the screen. That you can interact with the environment adds another level of depth to a genre that is traditionally quite tactical – it’s not just button mashing, I promise! – and will mean that positioning will taken on an even greater level of importance.
That’s not the only level of depth that the arenas provide, as they are not traditional single areas to fight in. Instead there is the possibility of smashing your opponents through the walls and into another area to continue the fight with a new environment to interact with. The arenas are circular, so if you’re not content to beat your opponent through the walls just once you can do it as many times as you like.
Despite the fact that there were only two stages on show, they were both incredibly deep and not once while I was playing them did I feel bored or uninterested. The level of detail within the levels was also astonishing, with elements in the background that you only notice when your attention isn’t firmly focused on what’s happening in the foreground. A great example of this can be seen in the Batcave level, where, after a certain number of high-impact moves, a column in the background collapses. It’s a nice little touch that really show the impact of the fights that are going on.
NetherRealm have thus far done an admirable job in making the characters unique and individual, not just in looks but in styles. I got the opportunity to play as each of the eight characters and every one of them felt distinctly different from the others. There were some seriously interesting experiences in there too, with the lovely Harley Quinn standing out with her fantastically mental fighting style and Solomon Grundy’s brutish grapple-based efforts.
With a varied selection of characters still to be announced, the wait for this game is already killing me. Thus far there have only been nine characters announced and I counted slots for another 15, so there are still plenty more to come. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that it will be months before I get the opportunity to play this game again, and the withdrawal symptoms are finally starting to fade into flashbacks. During Gamescom there wasn’t a day that went by without at least a few rounds, and now that I’m back my hands are itching.
Injustice is my game of show, simply because it drove me to near-addiction, which no game has done to me in a long, long time. Even more impressively, it did so in state that wasn’t anywhere close to being finished. Even so, with only eight characters and two stages on show I would happily play this game to death. And then play it again.
Next year has never seemed further away.
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