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What makes ‘Injustice’ more than just “‘Mortal Kombat’ with DC Heroes”

When people describe the latest title from NetherRealm Studios, Injustice: Gods Among Us, they often say something along the lines of “it’s Mortal Kombat, but with DC heroes and villains.” While, on the surface, that is largely true, it’s a vast oversimplification of a game that deserves more attention than it’s getting. While the engine used for Injustice is the same as the one used for Mortal Kombat, special care was put into Injustice to make the game feel like a fresh new IP. And it shows.

 What makes Injustice more than just Mortal Kombat with DC Heroes

The story mode, which is the meatiest part of the single-player portion of Injustice, is just as engaging as the one found in Mortal Kombat. Since DC characters are involved, however, NetherRealm had to take extra care to make sure the experience and story is authentic. Though the plot was ultimately written by NetherRealm, the team collaborated with several DC Comics writers to craft the most faithful, yet unique, story possible.

Outside of the story, which is arguably the easiest way to separate Injustice from Mortal Kombat, the developers went to great lengths to ensure the authenticity that fans crave with characters such as these was preserved. The top-notch voice acting cast features the likes of Kevin Conroy, Troy Baker, Adam Baldwin, Phil LaMarr, Jennifer Hale, and many more. In addition, the costumes were designed to appeal to the classic looks that fans wanted.

“These characters are well-known, but they’re represented in so many different ways that we wanted to give that choice to the player. Like, ‘I like God Fall Superman,’ or ‘I like Red Sun Superman,’ or ‘I like New 52 Superman,’ so that’s kind of a cool option for this fan-base, who are so particular about their timelines and which ones they like.”
– Hector Sanchez, Producer at NetherRealm Studios

The innovations from the MK9 formula go beyond simply just making the game an authentic addition to the DC Universe, however. NetherRealm also added a several tweaks here and there to make the game feel more like an epic battle between super-powered rivals rather than simply a brawl between two mortal foes. The most noticeable change from the traditional Mortal Kombat rule set is that health actually transfers over from round to round. Now, characters are given two bars that deplete over the course of the number of rounds necessary to end the battle instead of the usual single bar that resets at the beginning of each round. This makes the game feel less like a fighting tournament and more like a brutal, seamless battle that ends when one side is no longer able to stand.

injustice gods among us 6 610x343 What makes Injustice more than just Mortal Kombat with DC Heroes

While the power-based super-moves do tend to feel like simple re-skins of the Mortal Kombat X-Ray moves, the chance-based wager moves, where characters dart from opposite ends of the screen for a momentum-changing clash in the middle, and the environmental-based moves do a great job of further distancing Injustice from the Mortal Kombat franchise. By allowing characters to interact with background items in ways specific to that particular character’s strength and agility ratings, Injustice takes the feeling of having two god-like characters duking it out to the next level. The seamless integration of these objects into each level makes executing such moves feel all the more satisfying.

“We want to establish Injustice as it’s own IP, with its own kind of gameplay style. We wouldn’t want to bring the MK style into this or bring this style into MK, because that would kind of throw it all off.”
– Hector Sanchez, Producer at NetherRealm Studios

While Mortal Kombat is known for its ladder-style single-player mode, Injustice does a good job of adding small scenario-based twists to this formula. By introducing Challenge Tower-esque gameplay modifiers in addition to the typical ladder-style single-player offerings, Injustice is able to add a loose narrative to the normally plot-less single-player mode. The multiplayer portion also push the genre forward with modes like the spectator-driven King of the Hill mode that allows players to join a lobby and watch the champion fight off all challengers until it’s the player’s turn to try and take down the the King.

 What makes Injustice more than just Mortal Kombat with DC Heroes

Injustice: Gods Among Us demonstrates the correct way to build off the past by using previous successes as a template, rather than a crutch. It would have been easy for NetherRealm to simply swap out Scorpion for Batman and Johnny Cage for Superman and call it a day, but by taking extra care to ensure the authenticity and uniqueness of the experience, NetherRealm has accomplished its mission of establishing Injustice: Gods Among Us as its own IP, rather than merely a spin-off from the Mortal Kombat franchise.

About Brian Shea

Brian Shea is VGW's Editor-in-Chief and one of the founding members of the site. In addition to leading the team at VideoGameWriters.com, he contributes such regular features as “Shea’s Say,” "Eleven Things," "Commercials from the Past" and “Essential Gaming."
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Comments

  1. I feel as if this game is a better representation of what MK vs. DCU should have been, even though like Injustice it too was really a solid title, in spite of flaws.

    I have some issues with the way Injustice’s story plays out though. It’s not any inconsistency or incongruity as far as it concerns staying faithful to the comic mythology but more how it unfolds in a mechanical or wooden manner.

    A good example of this is the late game (not to say it isn’t evident prior to this point) fight between (One Earth) Yellow Lantern and Flash. The conversation the two have, which details Flash’s rising concern about Superman going off the rails and Yellow Lantern acknowledging but otherwise unable to go against it and side with Flash makes it seem like the more natural way to progress/conclude that wasn’t to have the two beating the snot out of each other but for Yellow Lantern to let Flash leave (begrudgingly, I suppose).

    It’s the same thing with the MK reboot really. I really like the depiction of the fights in the story as part of a fluid narrative but they have to work on refining it a little more so it becomes truly organic all around.

  2. Stephen says:

    Good read, and why I like Injustice too. The fighting is really fun and a unique blend of what makes MK so good, while being on its own with the varied fighting styles and the lack of “rounds” sets it apart.

    The story mode is basically hot garbage, though. It wasn’t nearly as long as MK’s and is a mess of convoluted drivel that is a burden to follow with numerous timelines and variations of characters. I deeply cared for the MK plot progression, and in Injustice, it felt really hackneyed and messy. The voice acting is good, don’t get me wrong, but the lines and delivery come off as just shallow and really weak.

    But all of that meant nothing with the overall feel of the combat, which keeps me coming back. It’s not as polished, nor as revolutionary to the genre as MK was, but it really is a great fighting game whether or not you care for the DC characters or not.

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