NetherRealm Studios, headed up by veteran game producer Ed Boon, recently made a name for itself when it resurrected the classic fighting franchise Mortal Kombat in 2011, bringing back an old friend in the best way possible with dynamic fighting gameplay, bloody over-the-top visuals and plenty of extra features to keep fans coming back for more. The team continued the trend this year bringing the game to the PlayStation Vita as well, with all features intact and a few new mini-games thrown in for good measure.
Earlier this week, the studio revealed “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” a fighting game revolving around the DC Universe. This is the second time the team has dealt with the likes of Superman and Batman, having released the crossover fighting game “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” in 2008. Rather than dealing with the same subdued tone of “MK vs. DCU” (due to the comic distributor’s insistence of a Teen rating), NetherRealm is taking a much more visceral approach to the still-Teen rated brawler.
The development team recently showcased a behind-closed-doors look at the game, where it highlighted two fighting encounters: Superman versus the Flash and Solomon Grundy versus Batman. Superman and Flash came up first, duking it out in the Batcave. It’s here that NetherRealm showcased the unique quality of each playable character, with their abilities tied in directly to their combat. Superman can blast opponents with heat vision and powerful flying punches; The Flash relies on speed to get his point across in his attacks; Batman can use his “wonderful toys” on his utility belt like batarangs and a grappling gun; and Solomon Grundy can throw objects around, including people, and hurl knives embedded in his back.
Additionally, the environment can also play a part in battles. For example, the Batcave features objects from above to smash into your opponent, leaving electrical cables floating up above that can leave opponents temporarily paralyzed should they make contact. Likewise, players can hit a button located on the side of the wall to activate Batmobile missiles from the background, delivering further damage. Like “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe,” players can also smash through objects in the side of the stage to go into new areas. In this case, Flash and Superman went into the lower depths of the Batcave, where even more environmental dangers await. Should the fight continue on, you can hurl your opponent into an elevator, beat him or her up within it and go right back to where you started.
The second stage takes place in Metropolis with its own environmental touches. There are scattered cars throughout the stage, which Batman can detonate using his special abilities on his utility belt. However, Solomon uses them in his own way, picking them up and smashing them into his opponents. Each character will interact with these objects in different ways, making the fights even more unpredictable than before. Players can smash opponents through buildings, either knocking them upward (giving us a quick flashback of what happened to Nom at one point in “Superman II” — classic) or back down to the streets below, depending on where you want the fight to go.
“Injustice: Gods Among Us” also has cinematic touches scattered throughout each fight. Along with the amazing looking backgrounds, which pay utmost attention to the DC Universe (the Batcave in itself is quite a sight, resembling something straight out of “The Dark Knight” films, with a touch of Tim Burton here and there — like the Batboat), there are times you can go into overdrive with a super attack. Superman, for example, can hurl punch into an enemy’s stomach, sending him sailing out of Earth’s orbit and into the stars above before he comes crashing down to Earth. Likewise, Batman can unleash a barrage of vicious punches before hanging his opponent by his or her feet with the grapple gun, leaving them open for a crazy drop kick attack. It all blends together into a beautiful looking experience that makes “Mortal Kombat” look pedestrian by comparison.
Though we didn’t get to go hands-on with “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” it looks excellent, and it seems NetherRealm is also reaching out to quality voice actors to fill the roles of the fighters — a voice sounding suspiciously like legendary “Batman: The Animated Series” voice actor Kevin Conroy was heard as Batman during key moments of the battle.
Look for more coverage on “Injustice” in the months ahead, including new fighter reveals, more environments and other features. “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” this ain’t. It’s a whole new beast.
“Injustice: Gods Among Us” hits stores in 2013 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3