Injustice: Gods Among Us is making a huge presence at this year's E3. Imposing banners featuring heavily armored versions of classic DC characters line the halls. Their cold, impassive stares silently observe the hordes of enthusiasts who line the show halls. Today we got an extended hands-on demonstration of this 2D fighting game and talked shop with members of the development team. For fans of the recent Mortal Kombat, Injustice will look familiar, but there are a lot of changes to how special moves function for us to cover. Let's start with meters!
You can't see it in these screens, but in the bottom left and right corners there are special meters for each fighter. These meters have two elements. The first is a four-section meter used for standard fighting game techniques. The least expensive are enhanced special moves, a technique also found in Mortal Kombat. Unlike in Mortal Kombat, however, enhanced special moves are activated after the move connects. For example, Batman has an anti-air grappling hook ability that pulls opponents out of the air and slams them to the ground. The enhanced version ends by bouncing the opponent off the ground, letting you follow up with a combo. It is activated after the grappling hook connects but before the opponent is slammed down.
In brief, you can now hit-confirm into enhanced special moves.
The four-section meter can also be gambled away during a character clash. A clash is this game's version of combo breakers from Mortal Kombat and is activated during a combo by the defending player. Think of it as a panic button. When a clash begins, the characters split up, and there is a brief cinematic scene with banter between the two. During this scene, players commit one to four sections of meter (provided they have enough) in secret. The fighters then run up to each other and throw simultaneous attacks, and the one who wagered more energy deals damage. If the defender wins, he or she may be able to recover some damage and deal it back to the attacker.
At present, you can initiate a breaker sequence with only one section of meter, which makes it very easy to abuse. NetherRealm is aware of this and does not want each fight to be an endless string of clash sequences, so the requirements are still being tweaked. It also remains to be seen whether the winner of a clash can combo after it.
For all four sections of meter, characters can unleash their strongest special attacks. These stylish sequences currently deal roughly 20 percent of a character's total health. If you've watched any of the trailers, you have seen snippets of these attacks. Superman knocks opponents into orbit, while Batman dishes out a brutal melee combo. And just like in Mortal Kombat, certain characters' super attacks have unique properties. Batman's, for example, is a parry--similar to Johnny Cage's X-ray attack.
In addition to the four-section meter, there is a second, sub-meter unique to each character. Called traits, this sub-meter behaves a little differently for each character and provides a unique mechanic. Superman can make himself more powerful for a limited time, after which the trait meter begins to automatically recharge. Wonder Woman's trait lets her switch between two fighting forms on the fly: sword and shield, or lasso. Harley Quinn's trait produces a random item she uses as an attack. Each character's traits are controlled with a single button and add an extra layer of depth to each fighter.
A point of comparison would be A.B.A.'s blood packs from the Guilty Gear series, or Hakan's oil from Super Street Fighter IV.
One of the more controversial features in Injustice is the environment attacks. The development team wants this feature to be desirable to all types of players. Most of what we saw were basic, one-off attacks, but there are plans for environment attacks that can be used to extend combos, or ones that can be used only under certain conditions (such as when you're knocked down). They also recognize some players will not want to use these attacks, so stages that don't have any environment attacks--or the option to disable this mechanic--are a possibility.
Fights in Injustice are single-round duels, similar to Marvel vs. Capcom 3. You might think this would produce very quick matches, but every character has two health bars to extend the fight. At the end of the duel, there are some very stylish ending scenes, including Superman flying into orbit and staring down at Earth, or Batman perched on a gargoyle looking over Gotham. It's a nice touch, and this attention to detail extends throughout the game and helps celebrate its comic book roots.
The final mechanic we learned--or rather realized--were cross-ups. A common technique in 2D fighting games, cross-up refers to striking an opponent with a jumping attack in such a way that it's difficult for the defending player to know which way to block. In Mortal Kombat, cross-ups didn't exist thanks to the dedicated block button; but in Injustice, players hold back to block, so that technique becomes viable again. Currently, a player who has been knocked down cannot roll before getting up (as in Street Fighter X Tekken), but this is also subject to change.
For the moment-to-moment fighting, Injustice felt--not unexpectedly--very similar to Mortal Kombat. Character jumps and bounces were still very floaty, and the command inputs for special attacks were of similar style. We'll try to grab some more time with Injustice before the show closes, so if you have any questions, drop them in the comments below. Injustice: Gods Among Us will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U next year.