Two men are fighting in space, as is often the case. The Earth, beautiful in blue, watches through a massive window while the two brawlers scuff and smash the sleek interior of a space station. I'm rooting for Batman, but my health bar's on the wane.
According to NetherRealms Studios Producer Hector Sanchez, this build of Injustice: Gods Among Us hasn't been tuned properly, so it's no surprise to see my masked nemesis, Bane, breaking my back over and over on difficulty spikes. To compensate I keep looking for an opportunity to activate Batman's special attack, in which he summons his hammerhead shark of a car to crush his opponent. Wondering how it gets up there – in space, at this hour – is a bit silly.
"It's a video game," says Sanchez. Everyone in the room chuckles, shaking off the perils of pondering the logistics behind a fighting game super move. That's a story on a microscopic scale compared to the one Injustice: Gods Among Us really wants to tell.
Gallery: Injustice: Gods Among Us (01/30/13) | 5 Photos
The heroes and villains of DC Comics spin around Superman in NetherRealm's universe, which emerges in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Metropolis. Lois Lane is presumed vaporized, or at least as dead as anyone can get in comics, and Superman's ready to snap The Joker's neck in retaliation. Batman intervenes and negotiates, but only buys time until the Kryptonian's angry, oppressive course puts him at odds with the rest of the Justice League.
The Injustice campaign starts from Batman's perspective and, much like 2011's Mortal Kombat, follows a linear route through other major combatants. The main draw is the same as in every comic cross-over: seeing known figures and their ideologies being rearranged into new patterns.
The cutscenes, while lacking a convincing level of polish in this showing, are certainly elaborate for a fighting game, and cut a huge swath of familiar heroes and villains. Half the fun is spotting them and their Injustice alliances, while the other half is getting to execute on the face-offs and stare-downs yourself.
Having not ventured beyond Injustice's first chapter, which only hints at an explanation behind Joker's attack and Lex Luthor's possible involvement, I can't say whether the plot will be any good overall. That also means I've only played as Batman, against a Deadshot a Deathstroke, a Bane and a Lex Luthor that weren't quite tuned for someone who doesn't work at NetherRealm Studios.
I can say that you'll feel the staccato rhythm of Mortal Kombat in Injustice, further differentiated by the impact of environmental weapons. The aforementioned space station level is littered with traps that can be activated whilst in range, and its centerpiece, a giant replica of the moon, just begs to be hurled at someone. The super meter can again be partially expended to augment attacks, just like in Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter IV, while the entire bar can be dedicated to a devastating blow.
There's sure to be a more comprehensive showing of Injustice: Gods Among Us before its April debut, but for now NetherRealm is getting the ball rolling on the game's presentation and campaign. I'm still rooting for Batman in the meantime.