Up until earlier this year, the DC Universe couldn't brag about much when it came to fighting games. Where Marvel Studios could easily rely on Capcom to make a good crossover fighter, the closest the DC franchise came to fighting glory was with the Teen-rated Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which came out a few years ago.
But that's going to change in 2013, as Mortal Kombat developer Netherrealm Studios is hard at work on its latest project Injustice: Gods Among Us. The Mortal Kombat warriors are out of the picture this time, letting Superman, Batman, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman and a handful of other heroes and villains set the stage for some epic battles. WB invited us out to go hands-on with the game for the first time, just to see how it is coming together.
At first it may seem like the game runs on the fighter basics, as each combatant has special moves that relate to their superhero abilities. Nightwing has his cool weapons, Cyborg has a blaster for an arm, Batman has his wonderful toys and so on. But they also have tactics that can actually change over the course of the match depending on what environment they're in; it's almost as if the stage itself is taking part in the battle.
Here's an example – the Batcave. It may just look like you're really not going to interact with it much, but as the fight continues to draw out, you'll see more and more of it come into play. For instance, Batman will grapple onto an object from above and slam it to the ground. Not only does it serve as a projectile, but someone can easily get caught in those electrical cables that are left hanging, leaving the opportunity for a mid-air strike to do even more damage. That's not the sort of thing you see in every fighting game.
That's just the beginning - just like in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, you can actually break through to other areas by striking your opponent in just the right spot. We managed to kick The Flash down further into the depths of the Batcave, where the Batboat (?) is floating and more items in the environment can be used. You can even hit a button on a side panel and make vehicles fire missiles at your opponent if you're savvy enough.
All of these change depend on the player. For instance, in the Metropolis stage a character like Batman can set a car on fire and make it explode, hurting their opponent. But when you've got a strong man like Solomon Grundy, he can pick up the car and slam it on their opponent. The unpredictable nature between your chosen hero/villain and how they can interact with the environment goes a long way in assuring that no two fights are exactly the same.
What's more, the controls are quite easy to learn and once you build up enough energy, you'll be able to unleash a special cinematic attack that will do major damage to your foe. This isn't one of those "flashes of light"-fueled super combos, but rather a full-blown cinematic attack where someone launches into a certain unblockable animation. Take The Flash for instance: he'll trap his opponent and then begin running around the world, only to come back and smack his opponent with a well-laid punch. Yep, it's the punch heard 'round the world!
Along with controls that really define a new direction than we've seen in fighting games, Injustice: Gods Among Us also benefits from a solid presentation. The few backgrounds that we've seen are fantastic to look at, plucked straight out of the DC Universe. The character animation is also superb, whether it's Flash's zippy running or Superman's incredible heat vision attack. Netherrealm has definitely learned a thing or two from making Mortal Kombat.
Wrapping it all up is a solid voice cast. Kevin Conroy has already been confirmed to voice Batman again (as he did in the previous Arkham games), and Tara Strong will once again voice Harley Quinn. Now if we could just get Mark Hamill and Joker involved…
Injustice: Gods Among Us is on target for an April 2013 release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U. If you're looking for a different twist on fighting games, or just love everything DC Comics related, you owe it to yourself to get this game…even if they do throw in Aquaman.