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Injustice: Gods Among Us Hands-on [PAX Prime 2012]

I have a fair few passions in life, video games, music, movies, TV and the like… but two of the front-runners that have shaped my experiences throughout my life are that of fighting games and comic books. That’s why, since its announcement, I have been keeping a very close eye on Injustice: Gods Among Us, and why I made a special point to swing by the WB Games booth as soon as humanly possible to check out what’s next from NetherRealm.

I should start by slapping a disclaimer on this preview by saying that I’m one of the few people that legitimately enjoyed what NetherRealms did with Mortal Kombat vs. DC. I think it was a great game, regardless of some mechanical failures and obvious exploits… but it was never, in my eyes, intended to be a tournament level fighter; more something that you and your friends could get drunk and toy around with in the classic nerd class of heroes debate with sexy graphics and ridiculous match-ups.

The only real problem I had with the previous game is that it never really went big enough, and that the MK characters felt more than a little out of place, forced as it were, in the world of the DC heroes. So when Injustice removed the MK ‘kast’ and brought in the idea of massive iconic ‘super moves’ (like Superman punching characters into low-orbit before knocking them back down to Earth at break-neck speed) I was about ready to plop down my pre-order money at the jump.

Play time with Injustice at PAX Prime this year was less about “Hey, is this going to be any good?” and more about “I must play this… NOW.” So to that end, my ‘verdict’ on Injustice won’t surprise anyone… and I’m going to let myself be the fanboy for this hands-on preview. Deal with it.

Injustice aims to bring together some of the biggest names in the DC universe, pitting them in an MK-style fighter that expands beyond merely punching one another back and forth until someone falls down. Instead the game allows you to advance through multiple levels, knocking one another through buildings, floors, and other transitional set-pieces. You can knock each other about with cars, gadgets, and even missiles launched from back-ground vehicles. But the best part, for someone that’s always enjoyed the insanity of the Namco/Bandai fighters is the ability to unleash massive cinematic super-attacks. As The Flash I was able to unload on my opponent (Harley Quinn) by circumnavigating the globe at top-speed and unleashing the full effect of the speed force (look it up) all over Harley’s face in epic bullet-time punch-format. Scenes like that give me all manner of nerd-boner… and quite honestly, I couldn’t care so much if this is a fair and balance fighter that will make it into next year’s EVO. There’s a place for games that just let you get away with the absurd, and if you don’t believe that I’ll point you to Saint’s Row, give you an hour, and we’ll talk again about what gaming is.

If you haven’t checked out Injustice yet, do yourself a favor and review some of the video floating around online. There’s no point in describing the insane super-moves that you can pull off in this game… because everything that I had the opportunity to see has also been posted online in glorious hi-def.

What I will say though is that the game plays as good as it looks. Fans of Mortal Kombat (9) will be able to tell you how NetherRealm has really tightened all the nuts and bolts around their prize-fighter and made a solid game, solid enough that it made it onto the main-stage at this year’s EVO (the largest North American fighting game tournament). Injustice runs similarly, but offers a little more flare in how the fight progresses, swapping out the combo breaker for a ‘wager’ mode in which both parties get to gamble on who’s going to come out on top, the victor getting to deal a bit of additional damage to their opponent in classic comic-book fashion with a massive time-stopping punch that shakes the very foundation of the game (in one instance during my play-through, nearly destroying the Batcave).

Of course, being a bit of nerd for fighting games, and for comics, I had to ask a series of follow-up questions with the game dev that was kind enough to sit through my playthrough. Unfortunately the majority of story-line related questions ended with a whole lot of “I can’t answer that” but there were a couple of gems I managed to gleam:

Injustice won’t be falling back on the MKvDC excuse for characters being able to beat the tar out of one another “magic.” How Nightwing is able to take a Superman punch, be launched into space, crash down to Earth, and then get up for round two is still in the air… but the rep I spoke with did point me in the direction of the title. Which leads me to believe we’re dealing with an alternate dimension group referred to as The Injustice Syndicate, which featured alternate-dimension versions of super heros as villians (like Owlman in place of Batman, or Ultraman in place of Superman).

Of course anything I offer as explanation at this point is my own wild speculation… but c’mon… Injustice? We’re on the right track here…

Regardless of the story, the best parts of my conversation revolved around the development of the game. The team is well aware of what they did well in MK9 and are working hard to bring those lessons over into Injustice, which, to me, reads that we’re going to get another kick-ass campaign/story in fighting game format.

The team is also currently debating how far they go down the rabbit hole of balance and tweaking to make this game a tournament fighter. Personally I couldn’t care if it makes it to main-stage EVO next year. Dragon Ball never did, nor Naruto, and I still play both regularly. Injustice will be one of those guilty pleasure games that I pull off the shelf every time a group of friends are over to show them how awesome it is to knock someone through three walls mid-fight and then knock them into space for a finale.