Injustice: Gods Among Us is the latest fighting game from Netherrealm Studios and their second game as a studio proper, after 2010’s Mortal Kombat. Netherrealm managed to take an old, tired franchise in Mortal Kombat and update it with many of the trappings of modern fighting games while keeping the spirit of the franchise intact. They also managed to make a competitive fighting game that is returning to Evo this year for its third appearance. With Injustice newly released, there has been a lot of interest from both the fighting game community and the overall community at large. I wanted to go over some things that I think would be useful to know if you are interested in this game.
Injustice has three main attack buttons: Light (1), Medium (2), and Heavy (3). There are certain universal moves, like D2 (or Down + Medium) which is an uppercut, and D3 (or Down + Heavy) which is a sweep that knocks down. Different characters do these moves differently. For example, Batman’s sweep takes a little bit of time to start animating up until it actually hits than other characters, and Aquaman’s uppercut has amazing range and can be used as an anti-air attack. Every character can modify their standard 1, 2, and 3 attacks by pressing forward (F) or backward (B). For example, Harley Quinn’s B1 (or Back + Light) is a longer-range attack. Pressing different combinations of 1, 2, and 3 in sequence will perform character specific combo strings. Batman has 112 (Light, Light, Medium) and 123 (Light, Medium, Hard) strings, for example.
Like all fighting games, characters have special moves that are performed with a joystick combination and a button. One unique feature of Injustice is that special move input can be configured to be a Mortal Kombat tapping style, or Street Fighter quarter and half circle motions. Special moves don’t have varying inputs, like in Street Fighter. For example, Cyborg’s fireball is done with D,DF,F (I use Street Fighter inputs) and 1. Pressing 2 or 3 does not do faster versions of the fireball, there is only one fireball.
There is also a character power button (4). When pressed, a character-specific ability is activated. Green Arrow fires an arrow in one of several directions, and can load his quiver with more damaging arrow types, like freeze arrows. The Flash can slow down the opponent. Cyborg can heal himself. Nightwing and Wonder Woman can switch their equipped weapon. Many of these abilities require a recharge time before they can be used again, but remembering to utilize them is an important part of Injustice.
Injustice: Gods Among Us features a super meter that, when full, allows the character to do a damaging super move. These supers are extremely flashy without being extremely long. For example, Superman uppercuts his foe so hard that he or she leaves the atmosphere. Superman follows and delivers a punishing smash to send them back to Earth. Batman tazes his opponent and then hits them with the Batmobile. Deathstroke just kind of shoots the bejeezus out of his target. Some supers just have more style and look better than others, but they serve their functional purpose very well.
However, like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the super meter can be used for many other things, using the Meter Burn button (MB). You can press it after performing most special attacks to use a quarter of your super meter to enhance the attack. What was one gunshot might turn into two, for example. You can also use the Meter Burn button to push the enemy away after a block, or to cancel the recovery animation of certain attacks, called a Bounce Cancel, to deal even more damage to a hapless opponent.
You’ll notice I used some shorthand in those previous paragraph. If you decide to explore the game a bit more by browsing more specialized sites, you’ll see this shorthand as well. Let’s take a moment and break it down.
- Light Attack: 1 (Or you might see it as L for Light)
- Medium Attack: 2 (Or M for Medium)
- Hard Attack: 3 (Or H for Hard)
- Character Power: 4 (Or T for Trait)
- Up: U
- Down: D
- Back: B
- Forward: F
- Jump: J
- Meter Burn: MB (No real nomenclature has been accepted for this one yet)
- xx: Buffer into the next attack
- ~: Cancel
A Clash Of Champions
The most unique use of the super meter in Injustice is the Clash system. If you are in your final round, i.e. you will lose if your life drops to zero, you can interrupt a combo being done to you. You can do this once per match. Once you do, both you and your opponent will wager portions of your super meter. Whoever wagers the most will win, and the wagered amounts will be removed from both players’ super meters. If the person who initiated the clash wins, he or she recovers health based on how much meter was wagered. Otherwise, the person who started the clash will lose health based on the amount of meter. When I first heard about this system, I thought it would be stupid, but having experienced it, it’s actually effective. Actual example: I got into a clash and I had 2 sections of meter built and my opponent only had one. Obviously, I could wager 2 and win. But my opponent might realize this and choose to wager 0. Then again, I might expect this and choose to wager only 1 section. But what if the other player has figured this all out? Then he could wager 1 section and tie me. In a tie, no negative or positive effects occur for either player. But if I see this coming, then I can wager 2 sections and we’re back to where we start. This level of thinking is the very essence of fighting games, and it’s great to see it in a microcosm of Injustice’s design.
There’s one other feature of Injustice and it’s one that’s never been implemented in this way before: stage interaction. There have been games where you can bounce someone off walls for more damage or games with environmental hazards in the area, but there’s never been a game where the stages vary so much in their interactions that picking a level could be as important as picking a character. Heroes and villains alike can knock opponents into parts of the background and have them bounce back, ready to be juggled for more damage. Items on the battlefield can be thrown as weapons and items thrown in this way are completely unblockable. Some characters can spring off of stage elements to create distance from their foes, while others might just lift these stage elements and hurl them at their foe. Each stage has different interactions at different points.
One other thing I want to mention is that Injustice doesn’t feature a traditional round system. Characters have two life bars and, once a life bar has been drained, action stops for a moment signaling a round change. However, the character who won doesn’t get all their life back. If you are familiar with Darkstalkers, specifically Darkstalkers 3, this is the same system.
What if I play Street Fighter?
Having three primary attack buttons isn’t really a problem. Many modern fighting games, such as BlazBlue, and, to some extent, Marvel vs Capcom, have three buttons, and those are perfectly capable fighters. Also, with no dedicated block button, holding back to block is a natural feeling you’re already used to. The biggest change you are going to deal with is the stacatto-style gameplay of Injustice. Movement is not completely smooth. It’s hard to really explain but if you have ever played King of Fighters, think of the transition between the way movement feels between Street Fighter and King of Fighters. Take that up one more notch, and you have Injustice. Jumping is the biggest difference here. There’s a small delay, or what feels like one, when you jump. Your jumps feel heavy and more meaningful, and a strong jump in attack can lead to far more opportunities than you’re used to, since a jumping 3 puts the opponent in a juggle state. It’s also really easy to cross someone up with a jumping 3.
Combos are very different. I would actually say they’re a bit more familiar than Mortal Kombat’s, but a lot of the rules simply don’t apply here. Combos aren’t really performed by linking moves to other moves. For example, Ryu can get two ducking medium punches in a row in Street Fighter 4 if timed right, because the opponent recovers slower than Ryu, just enough that he can get another punch in. There are no link combos in Injustice. Instead, your combos are primarily done off of your string, sometimes with one hit of the string cancelled (xx) into a special. If your combo starts with a jumping attack, there’s no real need for the attack to hit deep. As long as it hits, you’ll be able to combo from it. Think about the angle you are attacking at, rather than the timing.
Let me give you an example of a combo I’m still trying to perfect with Aquaman. A great string to start combos with is B12. B1 hits low and has good range; it’s a sneaky way to start your attack. Now, the string normally ends with a third hit, 3, but instead of doing that hit, you can do DB1, where Aquaman throws the opponent overhead with his trident. From there, you can do 22, but you have to time this just right. You can’t mash it out as soon as you recover from DB1, but you also can’t wait too long, or the 22 won’t keep the opponent juggled. Once that connects, you do DB2 to bring the trident through the floor to hit your opponent, and then MB so that the second hit comes out and pops them in the air. Then you can finish with 223. In short:
B12 xx DB1 – 22 xx DB2(MB) – 223
With a little practice, that actually isn’t that hard to remember. While the move list for each character has several strings you can use, realistically you’ll only need to know one or two. There are a few other strings you might want to use, situationally, but you’ll feel those out as you learn the character.
I also want to bring up the way MB specials work. In Street Fighter 4, when you do an EX move, you’ve already committed to doing it during execution. You’ve already spent 1/4 of your meter. One of the things about Injustice that I’m still not sure how I feel about is that you MB after the move has already started. You don’t have to spend the meter if you see the move whiff, for example. Aquaman’s DF1 trident poke doesn’t even get meter burned until about the last hit. Playing as Aquaman, you can see the positives, but what about the negatives if you’re fighting him? Meter is only going to get spent if the attack hits.
You can also choose to play with Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat style controls and you might be tempted to tick that Alternate Control setting to On. Try to avoid this, if you can. Let me give you an example: Aquaman’s trident toss is DF2. Or, if you turn off alternate controls, it’s just BF2. Which of these is easier to do? Which would be easier to do if you were under pressure or duress? Execution is always key in every fighting game. The more you can simplify anything, the better it will be for you. Learn Mortal Kombat style controls. A caveat, though: You can buffer your special move input in Alternate Control mode. For example, if you were holding down, you need to merely complete the quarter circle motion and press a button to perform a special move. With this mode off, you’ll have to tap the motion out anew.
What if I play Mortal Kombat?
Not having a block button isn’t a big deal. I think you’ll get used to that pretty quickly. Without a block button though, you’re susceptible to techniques like cross-ups and resets.
Movement feels almost the same, maybe slightly more natural. Dashing and back-dashing feel especially good, but can’t be canceled by any attack or block button. Some characters can even dash in the air. Mobility is improved across the board, and you won’t find anyone is as hard to get to close range with as Noob Saibot was. There are definitely long range characters though, like Harley Quinn and Deathstroke.
Chains feel and behave exactly the same as they did in Mortal Kombat, so you’ll be right at home. Having a dedicated button for doing enhanced special moves isn’t that different from when you’d press Block to do them. Enhanced special move properties tend to behave like enhanced specials from Mortal Kombat; Lots of things putting opponents in juggle states. You also have 4 sections of super meter instead of 3. Performing a Clash costs no meter in and of itself, although you only get one per match unlike combo breakers, which you just had to accept as a part of life. I also think Super Moves are superior to X-ray moves, although some characters have great enhanced specials and meter should be saved for those.
Combos, for the most part, work the same way but timing is much more important. While you can dial a combo by inputting the first part of the chain and letting it go, once your foe is in a juggle state, timing is stricter than what you might remember. It’ll take some practice to get used to.
If there was a character you liked in Mortal Kombat, chances are you’ll find a character in Injustice with echoes of that play style. Green Arrow can ready a freeze arrow from his quiver and actually freeze his opponent in place, like Sub Zero. Batman can MB his wire grapple when he pulls himself to the opponent to get a free combo, sort of like Scorpion.
One thing you’ll have to deal with is that, without a block button, you can be crossed up in this game. It’s an unusual feeling to have to get used to, but just remember to block the other way. What this means is that if the opponent is doing an air attack, but is going to hit the other side of you, your character is going to turn around before he is hit. This means if you were holding left to block, you’ll need to hold right instead, and vice versa.
No matter what fighting franchise you prefer, you can get into Injustice. It doesn’t take that long to understand its systems and it’s not as restrictive as you might think. To the contrary, there are more combo opportunities in Injustice than there ever were in Mortal Kombat. Zoning and footsie gameplay is important too, giving Street Fighter players a leg up. Definitely try this game out because it’s a great effort from Netherrealm with some neat ideas.