DMK Managing Editor Holy Grail shares his first impressions of NetherRealm Studios’ highly anticipated Injustice: Gods Among Us.
So I’ve spent a good few hours with the game tonight and in a one line summary: “It ain’t no Mortal Kombat”.
Not knocking the NetherRealm Studios team, but if you were expecting Mortal Kombat with DC skins, then guess again. This is both a good thing, and a bad thing in some places.
Firstly, the story. And without giving too much away, it holds up pretty well. A bit like Mortal Kombat (2011), you can pretty much tell how it’s going to end half way through, but it serves the purpose and is still infinitely better than any story Capcom has every produced… And if you can get your hands on them, I highly recommend reading the digital comic series as its events lead straight into this narrative. There are a few “Ohh coooool” moments but no major plot surprises. In a similar vein to Mortal Kombat (2011), it’s written in such a way that it won’t interrupt the ‘main’ DC Universe canon. Also, the issue of “How can Harley Quinn even compete with Superman” is addressed.
As a long time Mortal Kombat player the number one thing that will jar most people is the lack of a block button. This game uses the Street Fighter method of “hold back” to block. To me this is counter intuitive but I guess that’s because I grew up with a block button and simply aren’t used to this mechanic.
General gameplay is similar with pop ups, ground bounces and the occasional stun to take advantage of and press the attack. The biggest departure from MK is the button layout. Light, Medium, Heavy and a Character Power button are the four face buttons. There’s a Throw and also a ‘Background interact’ button that allows you to throw/use objects in a fight.
Character Power is interesting because it does completely different things for different characters. Lex gains a shield (it is stronger the longer the button is held) while characters like Superman gain a limited stat boost (cause ya know, invulnerability ain’t enough for some people…) Some I have yet to play with as the roster is a decent size and (much like Mortal Kombat) the story mode only lets you play as handful of characters. And with a couple of exceptions, these are mainly the good guys.
This button is great in so far as you really get the impression that they are totally different characters who not only kick and punch differently, but really bring their special abilities into play. The downside of this is that it makes “pick-up-and-play” much harder. For instance you can’t just hand a controller to a mate and say “This is roughly what this button does” as it totally depends on the character chosen. Everything from stat boosts, to charge attacks, stance changes and shields – there is no consistency to it.
The Super moves are really cool and totally insane in some cases. (Doomsday, I’m looking at you!) I find the meter at the bottom a bit distracting and not as clear as Mortal Kombat’s. I got caught ‘looking’ for the meter several times instead of concentrating on the fight. That said, I found them nowhere near as satisfying as a good ol’ Fatality. I suppose if you end a match with a Super its cool (and very comic-book-like) but after the first few fights it just felt, hollow, to not have some sort of outrageous ending to the bout.
Enhanced Specials (or ‘Meter Burn’ as they’re called in this game) are slightly trickier. The mechanic is the same (hold a trigger when pressing the face button of a move) however I found the timing to be odd. While it’s very easy to do in Mortal Kombat, I found that I had almost use the trigger as an additional button press, rather than in combination with the attack. This isn’t really portrayed well in the moves list (or the tutorial for that matter).
The Clash system is interesting. As a counter to any move, you can invoke what is basically a mini wager scenario. Your “currency” is the amount of meter you have. Both players can bet a quarter to full meter against the other. The winner is that who bets the highest. Winner gains some health back (proportionate to the difference between the bets) while the loser takes damage. The key is that any meter wagered is lost. What I found is that even at low difficulty levels, the AI was very clever at using this when I had full meter, thereby taking away my opportunity to use my SuperMove. That said, I never thought to simply press ‘nothing’ at the wager moment…
The stages have tons of interactivity with everything from throwing cars, breaking steam pipe into your opponents face to kicking people into an exploding garbage truck (it’s true!). The level transitions are nuts and probably more spectacular than the Super Moves in some cases. There’s something about using a wrecking ball to smash a guy through a building, only to have them land on the train tracks where they get pummeled again…
These are also used for lots of “guest appearances” from characters not in the game. A great example is when fighting in Arkham Asylum, you shove the person into a cell where they are promptly set upon by Penguin, Killer Croc and the Riddler. Great stuff! This is probably the highlight of the design work for me. Even when you don’t interact with it directly, powerful moves result in the area crumbling around you really adding ‘weight’ to big attacks.
Unlockables are decent as well. Much of the ‘content’ is in the form of a character card. Similar to Street Fighter, it’s a custom graphic where you can unlock various titles, background and artwork based on your achievements. Think of it like scouts badges for video games. While I personally find this a bit “meh”, those in the competitive arena will lap it up. There’s also stage music, artwork and character skins to unlock. No unlockable characters (that I know of at least…)
There are at least two costumes for every character though I know of at least half a dozen who have more (not surprisingly it’s the ‘popular’ characters). These are unlocked by earning “Access Cards”. Some costumes are also earned by completing in game tasks such as finish story mode or ladder mode. There’s also a “viewing” mode, similar to the Batman Arkham games where you can see full 3D models and appreciate the finer details. (also see: zooming in on the chicks butt )
The single character ladder mode is pretty standard but they have added on some cool ‘challenge mode’ type modifiers with such things as, start each fight with 1/4 health all the way to beat the entire cast with one life bar! The character endings are much like Mortal Kombat as well – gorgeous images with minor animation and voice over. After years of listening to Shao Kahn and big booming VO work, the almost android sounding female voice they used was, jarring to say the least.
Injustices’ equivalent to Mortal Kombat’s Challenge Tower is the S.T.A.R Labs missions. Lots of fights with certain conditions mixed with quirky mini-games. Each mission has three stars you can achieve to “100 %” it. If you’ve ever played Fragger or Angry Birds, you know how this works. Cool stuff, but as is always the case with these things, there will be some helluva annoying ones in there!
Well that’s my early take on it – still much unlocking and award hunting to be done. Let me know what you guys think!