Injustice: Gods Among Us Preview: A Fighting Game of Epic Potential

Of all the different sub-cultures and groups in all of geekdom, there are few that match the passion and red-hot devotion of fans within the fighting game and comics community. So naturally, when Injustice: Gods Among Us was first announced, I grew skeptical of the game’s potential to not only appease fans of both groups, but reveal itself as a solid entry into the fighting genre.

After spending a few hours with the game’s demo, I think it’s safe to say that NetherRealm Studios has done just that.

(For a full analysis and preview of the demo, check out the video below:)

There’s a common complaint within the gaming community that cites superhero games as being nothing more than lackluster movie tie-ins (with the exception being games like the Arkham series). With a strong narrative and some tie-in comic issues, Injustice: Gods Among Us is trying to not only be a fighting game with a story you care about, it’s also potentially a stronger entry in the superhero video game subgenre.

While we won’t go into specifics here, the basic premise of Injustice: Gods Among Us is centered around a terrorist attack (thanks, Joker) that decimates the game’s world and leaves it in a militarized police state. This forces rifts and alliances between the heroes of the realm and leads to some interesting clashes, resulting in a fighting game where heroes battle heroes and the lines between heroes and villains are blurred.

Fighting games aren’t necessarily known for having strong narratives that keep players coming back for more, but Injustice: Gods Among Us has some potential to create an interesting story to justify the different fights and matches. Seamless cutscene-to-gameplay transitions are looking to make the experience a fluid one, and minigames in between fights will help break up monotony and provide players with advantages in the beginning of confrontations.

While it’s nice that NetherRealm is trying to make a great story, the key player here is gameplay. Being that NetherRealm is the developer behind the Mortal Kombat series, there was some fear early on that Injustice: Gods Among Us would be nothing more than a Mortal Kombat game with different skins.

While I’m no fighting game expert, I have played my fair share of Mortal Kombat and can attest to the fact that Injustice is no mere Mortal Kombat re-hash. Each of the characters I played as felt unique and distinctly different from one another, with their own move sets and abilities that reflected the character’s attributes themselves.

In the demo, I had the chance to play as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lex Luthor. Being that he’s one of my favorite DC charcters, I picked Batman for my first playthrough and was pleasantly surprised to discover the versatility behind his character. In many ways, he felt to me like an all-purpose fighter with a variety of moves that could potentially suit many different kinds of players. He’s light and nimble, and has a good, even mix of projectile attacks, throws, grappling moves, and melee attacks. He was the kind of character that felt like a good one to start off with in order to really get your feet wet in Injustice.

Lex Luthor, on the other hand, is the tortoise to Batman’s hare. He’s big and slow, sacrificing speed and quickness for heavy powerful attacks. While not to my taste, I have no doubt that he’d be a fantastic and dangerous character in the hands of someone with far more fighting game skill than myself. His attacks are focused more around heavy hits with both limbs and extra weapons, along with the odd grappling move or throw. Precision and timing struck me as being the key to using his character well, and while his mech suit makes him feel like a tank, there’s no denying his strengths.

Wonder Woman falls on the lighter end of the spectrum to Lex, being that she’s a bit faster and offers players the chance to switch stances and fight with either her rope or sword and shield. She’s faster, and has a wide variety of great grappling moves and weapon-based attacks that were fun to play with. While I still enjoyed the versatility of Batman’s character more, there was plenty to like about Wonder Woman that kept me engaged during my playthrough with her in the demo.

Outside of each of the characters, NetherRealm has done a great deal to try and make this into something that isn’t just standard fighting game fare. Having trouble memorizing a new combo? Rather than having to pull up menus to look up moves time and time again, you’ll actually have the option to “tag” combos so they appear on your in-game HUD, allowing you to memorize and execute your combo in perfect form. On top of that, you’ll be able to switch between different gameplay styles in order to appeal to fighting fans of all types, interactive and multi-tiered arenas help bolster the game’s epic feel, and features like online practice modes and minigames will give players variety and allow them to hone their skill in numerous ways.

While it hasn’t released yet, I’m comfortable saying now that Injustice: Gods Among Us is shaping up to be something special. If it manages to deliver on its narrative, makes for fun gameplay, and manages to differentiate itself from fighting games within the same sphere, it’s likely we’ll be looking at one of the stronger fighting games to be released in a while.

Look for Injustice: Gods Among Us on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U on April 16. And in the meantime, check out our review of the game’s iOS tie-in.