While attending GDC, Gaming Trend got the chance to talk with some of the developers at NetherRealm about their upcoming DC Comics-inspired fighter Injustice: Gods Among Us, as well as to see the game in action. During the course of the talk two things quickly became apparent. First: the developers really know and love the DC Comics universe, and second: they really like watching the DC characters destroy everything around them.
Within the first few moments of the gameplay demonstration, it quickly became apparent how much of the game’s resources are devoted to breaking things. Characters get beaten and bloodied, clothes get ripped, and even the buildings in the background crumble as the battles grind on. As he played the demonstration, Senior Producer Adam Urbano constantly pointed out when giving or taking a big hit would cause background scenery to collapse. Urbano points out that the dynamic action on screen is meant to contrast with the static images in comic book panels. “The goal wasn’t to make a comic book game,” Urbano said. “The goal was to make a sort of cinematic experience.”
If you haven’t seen the game in motion before, you’ll be glad to know that the game’s visuals are really impressive. Each character is visually distinct and instantly recognizable, and their powers fit with the established DC canon–Superman’s iconic heat vision is in the game, for example. Landing special attacks and heavy blows will cause the arena you play in to visibly crumble, which gives the fight a real sense of momentum and weight. What’s most impressive is that despite the furious action in the foreground and slow decay in the background, there was never any noticeable hitching in the framerate. Urbano claims that they’ve stretched the limits of the older consoles and had to use “every trick we knew” to get the game’s framerate so stable.
You’ll find a bundle of your favorite DC characters in the game–you’ve got the obvious choices like Superman or Batman, but there are also some interesting B and C level superheroes like Aquaman or Hawkgirl. You’ll also find quite a few famous villains Oh, though those tend to be very popular characters like the Joker, Harley Quinn or Lex Luthor.
A big selling point for the game was the multi-staged, interactive arenas. According to Urban, NetherRealm wants “the background you pick to be as important as the character you pick.” Each level has at least two areas, linked by a short animation triggered by landing an attack at the edges of the map. Arenas also contain a variety of objects that you can use as weapons, ranging from ordinary barrels and crates to other DC characters like Metallo. Each character has a unique way of using the environmental hazards.
The developers also presented a game mode called “S.T.A.R. Labs,” which serves as a massive set of challenge levels. Each hero gets a few block of challenges, which are connected by a loose story. The challenges are very different from standard fights, though each character gets one challenge that serves as a tutorial. We saw a few examples, such as one level in which you had to win a QTE to shoot Superman’s heat vision blast at Bizzaro, and another requiring the player to pilot the ship carrying an infant Kal-El to Earth.
Netherrealm is also trying to walk the fine line between making the game easy for casual players to pick up and play while remaining robust enough for competitive fighting game. NetherRealms appears to have tackled both issues with the same solution: more information. Newcomers and casual players can have their favorite special combos displayed on the game screen–beneath their health bar–instead of having to memorize the commands across three or four menu screens. For the veteran fighters, the developers have made the technical details of moves and attacks transparent. Selecting a move on the move list will display information about the move such as the recovery time and damage dealt.
Fans of the Arkham series of games will have a few treats in Injustice, as well. Members of the NetherRealms team worked with Rocksteady on Arkham City, and the pair have exchanged assets. In Injustice there are two distinct levels set Gotham City’s most famous penitentiary–a normal version as well as a version that’s been corrupted by the Joker. The levels are full of Arkham Asylum references, including the iconic Scarecrow hallucinations.
In the run up to the mid-April release date the developer also mentioned an upcoming iOS game developed by the same team that created Arkham City Lockdown, but can’t release the much information at this time. We’ll be filling in more details on that project as they become available.