NetherRealm Studios, a very talented Warner Brothers-owned developer, is tasked with creating a fighting game that newcomers to the genre can jump right into with ease, but also worthy enough of the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) elite. And Injustice: Gods Among Us is what we will be blessed with come 2013 — and having the legacy that is the Mortal Kombat franchise under their belt, NetherRealm’s upcoming title will be nothing less than that, a blessing.
So, what exactly can we expect from Injustice? Is it just a DC Universe-skinned version of MK, or something else entirely? NetherRealm’s creative director and co-creator of Mortal Kombat, Ed Boon said in the latest issue of GameInformer, “we did Mortal Kombat, we did a bunch of Mortal Kombats”, he continued by saying, “But the real message is [Injustice] is brand new, [Injustice] has its own identity and we don’t feel like we have to follow any kind of previous template of Mortal Kombat.”
While Injustice is it’s own identity, completely separate from the MK titles, there is still some things that the award-winning franchise can offer to make Injustice one of the best fighting games of our time. Running on a highly modified version of MK9’s engine, Injustice shows off strong improvements to its lighting system, offering more crisp and defined textures, making character models and stages look absolutely amazing. In addition to lighting, the fighting system has also been tweaked quite a bit to accommodate for the game’s new in-fight features which will allow for more exciting and dramatic scenarios.
One of the more unique in-fight features is the Clash system. Once an opponent begins a combo, you can trigger a Clash, which will set into motion a cinematic mini-game. Using your Super meter as currency, you can wager as much available Super as you’d like — whoever wagers more, wins. As the defender, if you come out on top, all the health you would have lost from the combo is given back to you. However, if your attacker wins, you take said combo’s damage and then some. This system really adds a layered element of strategy that not only makes things more balanced and interesting but it could also make for some great comeback moments.Another unique feature has to do with the stages in which fights will take place. The environments within Injustice are just as much characters of the game as the fighters themselves. As you wreak havoc upon your oppenent, you will notice that damage is not only being done to health but the environment as well. The ground cracking beneath you, the ceiling caving in from above, walls all but vaporizing upon immense impact will not only immerse you into the experience but it can also be beneficial.
One of the few stages that has been shown off, Batcave, serves as a perfect example for how advantageous and yet hazardous Injustice’s environments can really be. A video clip sees Superman pulling down a hanging generator and smashing it over The Flash’s head. Though the generator-smash was a nice move, there are now live exposed electrical wires that dangle from above — and with one well timed uppercut, The Flash electrifies the ‘Man of Steel’. Yet again adding another layer of strategy that can really make or break a match.
Strategy is actually a big part of Injustice’s gameplay. From how or when you decide to initiate a Clash to the environments you choose to fight in to even the type of character you are — power or gadget based, two known character sub-categories. Whether you are a power or gadget character will influence how you interact in different environmental situations. The Flash, a gadget based character, would for instance, roll a barrel across the ground, whereas Superman, who is power based, would throw it across the stage like it was a bag of cotton candy. The strategic method employed here is to mind your surroundings and understand and know the character you are controlling.
Though out of everything that I’ve seen from Injustice, the one thing that really sticks out for me is the presentation. Rather than gore, a theme that is symbolic to the Mortal Kombat series, Injustice really focuses on high-octane comic book-like action. And it does this extremely well. From the powerful sound to the outrageous Super moves, Injustice’s style and aesthetic will resonate very well with comic book fans and the casual crowd alike. NetherRealm did a fine job finding the perfect mix between realism and campy comic book awesomeness, defining the game’s demeanor as lighthearted and epic but with a tough exterior.
Still, the one aspect of Injustice that is uncertain is its story. Though bits and pieces of it are said to be released over the coming months, fans of the DC Universe are really anxious to see NetherRealm’s portrayal of these characters. What is known is that it will be an original story by NetherRealm Studios, and has been given the the stamp of approval by DC. It’s also worthwhile to note that in interviews, Ed Boon has mentioned that Superman will be a key player in the story, but as he put it, “it’s not a Superman that the fans will be use to”. Given the history of the Mortal Kombat franchise, plot-lines have never really been NetherRealm’s strong point, however last year’s MK reboot saw fans mildly pleased with it’s story mode.
But in the end, it’s the little things like Injustice’s Clash system, interactive environments and presentation that may not seem like much by themselves, but added to a formula that has been at work for nearly twenty years, evolving and perfecting itself, and you can begin to see greatness at work. Clearly, NetherRealm is looking to prove to themselves and the industry that they can succeed outside of the MK series. And after all these years I think they have enough maturity to do just that.
So gamers, what’s your take? Are you happy to see NetherRealm breathing life into a new IP? Or do you wish they would put this effort into another installment of the Mortal Kombat series, capitalizing on MK9’s success? Either way, leave your thoughts and witty banter in the comments section below.