I think it’s safe to say that most of us out there dig superheroes. Whether we grew up reading comic books, watched animated cartoons featuring Batman or Superman every weekday at a particular time, or saw every movie possible (Including abominations such as Batman & Robin), I think that there’s a general following for superheroes within the video game community; even before it became a fad of sorts due to the growing popularity of films produced by Marvel such as Iron Man or The Avengers.
Saying that people enjoy superheroes isn’t exactly a shocking revelation, but what is shocking is the rather massive dearth of good video games based upon our favorite neighborhood spiderman or scientist turned breaker of the speed barrier. A few good games have arisen during the last few years such as the Batman titles from Rocksteady, but aside from that it seems like a good superhero video game comes out every four years before going away again – almost amounting to being a special event akin to the Olympic Games.
So it was a great surprise when NetherRealm Studios, the acclaimed team behind the Mortal Kombat franchise, announced Injustice: Gods Among Us. A total surprise on all fronts, the fact that NetherRealm was doing a fighting game set within the DC universe instead of immediately doing another MK follow-up was something that most people hadn’t expected at all.
Upon its release in April of this year Injustice was met with mostly good praise for what it did, both in presenting a rather complex story and in refining the game mechanics as well. With the initial shock of a NetherRealm made DC game being out of the way now, I thought it would be cool to take a look at Injustice: Gods Among Us once again with the return of Shogun Gamer’s Six Months Later feature to see if the game truly is a classic or if people merely got aboard the hype train faster than Barry Allen could.
It’s Like The Super Friends But Violent…
When it comes to adapting a comic book into a video game there are elements that people expect to be in play. Not only that, but there are also things that essentially need to be in a game as per the requests of the license holder, which in the case of Injustice is the powers that be at DC Comics. No matter how often we may see characters like the Joker or Bane pop up these days, their inclusion is essentially a must-have thing if someone is making a game about Batman, and thus Lex Luthor will always show up if Superman is in action as well.
The thing about Injustice is that the team at NetherRealm and DC managed to keep the longstanding character relationships people expect, but everything was presented in a way that was tonally different yet on the mark for what is usually found in the comics. Opting not to play things too safe, as was the case with MK vs. DC, Injustice presented a dark narrative in which characters we once knew were now villains thanks to the convenient plot device of an alternate universe.
It may have been a bit of a cliché thing to do, but building the story of Injustice around an event which sends out intrepid heroes such as The Green Arrow, Batman, and The Flash to an alternate universe which is vastly different from their own made for an interesting experience and it of course allowed the scenario for a Batman vs. Batman gameplay situation. Other than being convenient in allowing for gameplay scenarios to be met within the confines of a fighting game, Injustice truly featured a gripping narrative that was not only worthy of the DC legacy, but that of what NetherRealm Studios has done as a developer.
Following up their work in Mortal Kombat (2011), the deep story campaign of Injustice was a nice evolution as far as how it once again dedicated chapters to specific characters, thus allowing variety, but also in how it kept things tight and really didn’t allow the story to drag for the sake of padding. Seeing Superman be the grand villain offered a nice dynamic in the game, as did some of the other turncoat moments in which heroes turned to the darkside or people that were once villains became would-be saviors.
The direction of Injustice’s narrative and how sleek it was presented through the direction of the cutscenes easily made the single-player campaign a MUST PLAY thing, a situation which is somewhat rare within fighting games since most people opt to play them competitively against other people. I don’t think that people should in a way elevate Injustice: Gods Among Us to a high level because of what it did with its story since it’s nothing as gripping or intense as The Last of Us or GTA V, but as a comic book title it was amazing that it kept things mature, had content that was appealing, and was actually entertaining to watch in a good way.
Whoa, Who Knew That Aquaman Could Be Such A Badass?
What may be the interesting thing to reflect upon or deeply examine within Injustice: Gods Among Us is that it simply wasn’t a clone of Mortal Kombat. Okay, I know that alluding to such a thing may be a rather disrespectful to say towards the team at NetherRealm and that’s the last thing I want to do. What I’m trying to say is that prior to being release I think many of us expected Injustice to feel a lot like Mortal Kombat in how the movement, blocking, and special moves were pulled off. In some ways it’s common for a developer to borrow certain traits that they’re known for when making new titles in the same genre, but with Injustice the team at NetherRealm shockingly opted to go in a completely different route.
Featuring multiple control schemes that allowed those in the competitive circuit to perhaps find something that suited their style of play, Injustice was all about doing something new rather than simply presenting something that’s familiar to players that has a few new gimmicks scattered about. Perhaps the greatest change in the gameplay department of Injustice was in the fundamentals with how blocking was done. Now done merely by holding the back/away button instead of having a dedicated button, changes made to the fighting fundamentals such as blocking showed that NetherRealm was open to trying new things, even if it left the fanbase a bit split and required some players to relearn how they played.
The base action of Injustice may not have been too different since there was still a series of light and medium attacks, but the new sense of dynamic battles as per the environmental objects that could be used did in a way add a new layer to the general combat. Of course the environmental hazards could be turned off when playing in a custom online mode or against a friend, but the general inclusion of those hazards really did a terrific job at not only making the battles more thoughtful in planning strategies, but it also helped to convey the sense of power to the many godly characters that were featured within the game.
Being able to smash an opponent with a garbage can or send a hanging pig carcass (who btw has his own Twitter account) into the face of an enemy brought a sense of life to the battles that previously many fighting games didn’t have. Not only that, but the finer set of details within the stages such as environmental destruction or things shaking with each hit that’s inflicted during the battle showed that NetherRealm as a studio was expanding their horizons rather than sitting on their laurels and just doing a copy & paste job of their core tech and design ideologies.
Now as a slightly casual player of fighting games I may not be able to present a detailed report of the finer points of Injustice and whether or not the game failed in the process. But as a whole, Injustice presented some good action that may have felt a tad sluggish at times as far as finding one’s rhythm was concerned, yet the general principles of pulling off moves and learning the finer points of each character through their special bar was something that people could enjoy.
Sure, a few elements of the game may have needed some polishing and there of course was always the case of certain characters being a bit too overpowered at launch, as was the case with Deathstroke as many players merely spammed the assassin’s long-range gun moves during online bouts. But thanks to some character updates, things are on a more even playing ground as of now; despite the fact that Aquaman can still demolish people when in the right hands.
Up Next – Injustice: Injustice Harder?
With the plot of the evil non-goatee sporting Superman being foiled and his accomplices being put on trial, Injustice ended things on a rather hopeful note that wasn’t too much of a teaser. Of course with the game performing well at retail having sold over 400,000 units within the first month of release it doesn’t take a genius of S.T.A.R Labs caliber to imagine that a sequel or follow-up may be in the works at some point.
With NetherRealm possibly working on the next-gen Mortal Kombat game, it could be some time before we see them return to the world of DC and Injustice other than the forthcoming Ultimate Edition re-release that’s set to appear on the PlayStation 4. But when a sequel does happen, what can we actually expect? Since certain things need to be done in order to explain why two versions of Batman or Superman may be fighting one another, we may see the return of the alternate dimension in an Injustice sequel, that’s of course unless NetherRealm is fine doing away with certain genre tropes in order to do whatever the hell they please.
That said, the overall DC universe is certainly one that’s large enough to pull from in order to deepen a character roster aside from the faces that are bound to return such as Batman, Superman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman. Could we see more niche figures like Swamp Thing, Sandman, or even Constantine appear in an Injustice follow-up? Perhaps we’ll see a few more of the “niche” DC characters appear, yet we must keep in mind that this is a game meant to sell to a wide audience so there needs some familiar faces in place for people to connect to.
Other than the potential of the narrative direction in an Injustice follow-up and who may or may not be on the roster, I think the biggest “what if?” element pertains to the gameplay. We’ve already seen NetherRealm go in a different route so there’s definitely an existing foundation in which things can be built upon. So could we see a bigger emphasis on the destructibility and interactivity within stages in a sequel given the capabilities of the next-gen platforms? I for one wouldn’t mind seeing something as intense and massive such as the scale of destruction found in the final battle of “Man of Steel” though I do know that such a thing may not be fully achievable without changing some core elements of the game.
I think there’s an excellent base in which some amazing things can be created in a follow-up to Injustice since it’s essentially the only superhero fighting game that we have. There are certainly legacy games that we can enjoy such as Marvel vs. Capcom, but considering how that series is essentially dead, both due to some issues pertaining to the dev team and Capcom’s ever questionable company decisions, we won’t be seeing any new battles featuring Cyclops of Tron Bonne anytime soon.
So while there may be a lot of expectations for an Injustice sequel and the pressure may be on NetherRealm to deliver, I think in the end whenever we do receive a new entry it’ll give us the goods – even if Aquaman is once again an overpowered badass that can summon sharks to chomp at people.