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Injustice: Gods Among Us is the next logical step for NetherRealms Studios, given their prior success with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and the reboot of Mortal Kombat. They could have called it DC Universe, but veering on the side of caution with Sony's own DC Universe Online, they've decided on a new name which sounds like it belongs on the cover of a crazy DC-wide comic; as well it should, because that's essentially the premise behind Injustice.
Last I saw Injustice was at PAX Prime, where I was allowed to be one of the few people to test out the adapted Mortal Kombat fighting system with the likes of Batman and Superman. Not much was revealed as to why these superheroes were fighting each other, not that the story particularly matters in fighting games but it would be waste of an opportunity if the expansive DC universe wasn't used as a source of inspiration.
That said, we were allowed a sneak peek behind closed doors to see the first chapter of Injustice's story mode as well as the brief but serious prologue, which has Batman interrogating Joker about halfway through the plot. Apparently, Metropolis has fallen into disarray with some buildings turned into piles of rubble and pyres of fire, and Batman believes Joker is behind it all. However, the wall of the interrogation room gets blown apart, seemingly as part of an escape plan, but Superman soon descends into the hole and he isn't happy. He accuses Joker of essentially brainwashing him, perhaps with a drug, turning him into a rampaging force of destruction in the city he is meant to protect. The prologue ends with Superman about to kill Joker, despite Batman's protests, as the screen turns to black.
This violent what-if scenario certainly fits the theme NetherRealm Studios is aiming to hit. All of the superheroes are not in their traditional garb, but in armored, plated versions of them, complete with sharp edges and severe lines. Whether it's Cyborg, Nightwing, Flash, Wonder Woman, Bane, or Lex Luthor, the battle gear conveys a sense of seriousness and fury in light of the lack of blood in the build we played. As fights progress, scars and costume tears begin to appear, stressing the viciousness that should come to no surprise considering the developer.
Not too much has changed from what was highlighted in Anthony's preview at E3. Characters can still jump, pull of natural combo strings, and perform supers with ease. Given the right alignment against the background, environmental objects like a massive stone globe can be used against opponents and stages can change from one area to another, with one character generally smashing into walls and other blunt objects before landing. Similar to the energy bar in Mortal Kombat, Injustice features a four-segment bar which players can use signature moves which work like X-ray attacks or modify regular super moves like Batman firing a batarang which can detonate upon pressing the right trigger.
The developers took note of several notable changes, though. Hardcore fighting players can turn off environmental damage if they prefer and can now use a part of their meter to push back any opponents who might be guard crushing them in a corner. Players can also opt to change all of the traditional four-direction moves into quarter-circle and half-circle inputs that are better suited on the arcade stick.
Additionally, players can tag various techniques in the movelist so that their inputs appear on the screen, allowing for easier learning and less menu diving. Playing through any of the game's modes, including online matches with can have optional goal objectives, will earn experience points that will unlock avatars and other perks. The only slight disappointment was that tag team matches have been dropped, but that's a small price to pay for what should be an all-around heroic effort.
Injustice: Gods Among Us will release in North America on April 16, 2013 and on Europe in April 19, 2013 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U.