I went into Injustice: Gods Among Us expecting that it would play like a DC-skinned Mortal Kombat, but I was pleasantly surprised that Netherrealm is stepping out of their comfort zone. Instead of two punches and two kicks, the layout was a bit more like Blazblue with light, medium, and heavy attack buttons alongside a character-specific attack button.
Because of the light-medium-heavy setup, combos are much easier to string together than in Mortal Kombat. While combos were still pretty cut-and-dried, it was nice that attacks were a bit less obtuse. Light-Light-Light and Light-Light-Medium were both pretty simple combos that every character I played had. Specials also seemed to be a bit more standardized, with down-back and down-forward and an attack button performing specials for just about everyone. As somebody who’s always found MK’s inputs to be kind of annoying, I liked that I didn’t have any trouble acclimating to Injustice.
Then of course, there is the "character trait" button. Much like Blazblue’s "Drive" attacks, each character’s "character trait" is individual and supposedly built around their fighting style from the comic books. I was intrigued by how different the button got from character to character. Wonder Woman can change between her sword/shield and lasso of truth fighting styles, Batman summons little robotic bats that circle around him, and Superman buffs his stats for a while.
Batman’s robotic bats were of particular interest to me. A single press of the B button would call three out and they’d just circle around him. Pressing down and B would cause the bats to spin quickly. Being attacked during this would cause the bats to counter the enemy and knock them into the air. After using this, the robotic bat icons near Batman’s super bar at the bottom of the screen would refill one bat at a time, so I could summon a single bat more quickly, or wait for all three to return.
I also found it helpful that pressing B normally would simply send the bats towards the enemy without sending Batman into any animation. This meant that I could start a combo in a corner, throw the bats at the enemy to keep them in the air while Batman recovered from his last animation, and continue the juggle.
The game does bring one particular element from Mortal Kombat back. Pressing both triggers simultaneously will activate your character’s super if you have a full super bar. These are as over the top and cheesy as you’d expect. Superman uppercuts his enemy into space, flying after them until he punches them back down to earth. The game also has its own take on EX attacks, but at least in the build I played they were a lot safer than what you’d generally expect, activated by pressing RT when an attack connects with your opponent. Sadly, I didn’t get a lot of time to experiment with them, but it seems like every special can be turned into an EX attack with careful timing and a portion of your super meter.
Injustice puts a lot of emphasis on its backgrounds. Hitting your opponent with heavy attacks will cause things to break and dislodge, revealing throwable items like Bat-grenades or exposing wires to uppercut your opponent into. LB is essentially your go-to button for interacting with the environment. The Netherrealm rep I was playing with pressed a button in the corner of the fortress of silence to shoot a laser at me that dragged me into the Phantom Realm before spitting me back out. Some environmental attacks were character based. For instance, Batman will smash his opponent’s face into a nearby car when Solomon Grundy would just pick up the car and smash his opponent with it.
Stages are also divided into multiple parts, but you’ll have to use a heavy attack (A) and a specific direction to punch your opponent into the next area. The NetherRealm rep used forward and A to punch me from the edge of one part of the Fortress of Solitude through the Phantom Realm, resulting in some creature biting into Wonder Woman (my character at the time)’s neck. The area transition attacks are flashy, looking like something out of a summer blockbuster, with people suffering inhuman amounts of damage before landing on the ground of the next section of the stage.
Food for Thought:
1. Unlike Mortal Kombat, the game does not have a designated block button. You simply hold back while your opponent is attacking. This is quite possibly my favorite thing about the demo I played.
2. While the studio isn’t talking about the story at all, they say that there’s a good reason that the superheroes are called villains in the trailer.