E3 2012: Injustice: Gods Among Us brings NetherRealm’s rock solid style but not its humor to the DC Universe

Injustice: Gods Among Us looks a whole lot better than it has any right to considering the history of fighting games based on DC superheroes. The less said about the Blizzard developed Justice League Task Force from 1995, the better. NetherRealm’s own Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was a muddled, toothless game, unsure if it wanted to be taken seriously or if it was a gleeful cheese fest a la 2011’s Mortal Kombat. Warner Bros. Interactive’s half hour demonstration of Injustice at E3 2012 though shows that NetherRealm has learned its lesson, but may be making new mistakes.

Built on a modified version of the Mortal Kombat 2011 engine, Injustice is a good looking fighter that distinguishes itself from NetherRealm’s famous series with its environments. Three stages were shown based on Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, Batman’s Bat Cave, and a futuristic unnamed city tied closely to the game’s story.

Fights in these stages are a bit more dynamic than those in Mortal Kombat. Batman can punch Solomon Grundy through multiple stories of a skyscraper before he himself gets punched across multiple city blocks. The stages are also filled with interactive elements. Wonder Woman can knock Harley Quinn through a portal to the Phantom Zone in Superman’s fortress for example to set up a combo. She can then finish that combo by picking up a glass cage and slamming Harley with it.

Its visceral and tight with outsized combat typical of NetherRealm but different than the gore of Mortal Kombat. The game is less about cutting people in two than it is, say, racing them around the planet in thirty seconds hitting each other along the way.

There is serious cause for concern though. Unlike 2011’s Mortal Kombat, Injustice is deadly self-serious. Superman animated beautifully, always floating a few inches above the ground and easy to control in the chunky style of NetherRealm’s modern fighting engine is fine, but why is everything he so grim and gritty? Was it entirely necessary to put Harley Quinn in even less clothing then she was wearing in Batman: Arkham City?

If Injustice is going to be as good as Mortal Kombat, it needs to find its sense of humor first.

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