PAX East 2013: Q&A with Hector Sanchez, Producer of Injustice: Gods Among Us

It’s the latest from NetherRealm Studios, which gave the world Mortal Kombat. After years of mediocre sequels, the team was able to successfully rebuild the brand by rebooting the entire franchise two years ago, so anticipation is high as it pertains to its next game. Unfortunately, one of those aforementioned lousy MK installments happens to be Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe.

Point being, this isn’t NetherRealm’s first attempt at tapping into the DC franchise. So, have they learned any lessons from their previous misfire? That’s exactly what we asked Hector Sanchez, producer of the game, right up front:
SuperHeroHype: So what was the biggest lesson everyone learned from Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe?
Hector Sanchez: Basically, the fact that, if you put Mortal Kombat in a title, there are certain expectations that comes along with it. People wanted this hyper, gory game, filled with fatalities. Sorry, but we simply couldn’t have Batman rip someone’s head clean off. That’s just not what he does. But with “Injustice”, there’s a clean slate. And because it’s its own IP, that expectation isn’t there. So we’ve been able to concentrate on the gameplay and not live up to Mortal Kombat’s legacy.
SHH: Injustice does indeed feel like a totally different game. Gone is the tried and tested MK controls…
HS: We wanted to make something totally new and fresh, and not re-skin Mortal Kombat. There were certain ideas we’ve had for a long time that just didn’t fit within the confines of MK, and if they were to be implemented, that hardcore fan base would find blasphemous.
SHH: Actually, what has been the reaction from hardcore Mortal Kombat fans? Again, it plays nothing like your past games. In fact, it honestly feels much like Capcom’s fighters, in particular, their Capcom Vs. Marvel…
HS: They have been extremely supportive. Granted, there’s been a bit of a learning curve for some, but ultimately, they’ve accepted it with open arms. There’s this belief that fighting game fans don’t want anything new, they want to play the same thing, over and over again, but deep down, they’re always looking or something new.
HS: They too have been super supportive; they gave us the creative license to just run with it. Not once have they ever said no to any of our ideas. We’ve had a lot of fun, putting our own spin on the characters; basically, it’s the NetherRealm spin on the entire DC universe, everything from how they act to their unique costumes. But at the same time, we’ve been mindful of staying true to their roots. Which is why we asked Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti to make sure our dialogue was on spot, plus both we constantly bounced ideas off of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
SHH: About the costumes, I was able to say, at first I thought they were based on the New 52, but upon closer examination…
HS: Again, it’s our own spin on the classic, iconic look. Though fans of the New 52 look can expect to see those outfits as well, as well as attire from other eras and specific books.
SHH: I know already that DLC was announced that’s based upon Superman: Red Son, which adorns Superman and Wonder Woman with that book’s design. But why no Batmankoff?
HS: No worries. You’ll see him eventually. We have a TON of new extras coming down the pipeline.
SHH: Let’s talk about how the game plays. Again, the controls are totally different; instead of the MK standard issue low punch/high punch/low kick/high kick/block buttons…
HS: There’s now just three basic buttons for attack: weak, medium, and strong, as well as button dedicated to special moves. Plus another for environmental attacks. Which entirely depends on the character; if there’s a car in the background, Batman will smash his opponent’s face against it, while Superman will use the whole thing. Also, to block, you push back.
SHH: Even individual rounds have been done away with! It feels like Killer Instinct.
HS: The idea behind that was: why would any of those characters pause between fights? Actually, the pause between bouts was a lot more seamless, but play testers were confused, so we had to make them a bit more pronounced.
SHH: Please elaborate upon the XP system.
HS: Everything you do earns you experience points. It’s based upon how well you do, like pulling off certain combos, and other benchmarks. These in turn can be used to unlock new features, like new gameplay modes, new costumes, artwork and the like. Much like the Kombat Koins from Mortal Kombat.
SHH: So some stuff from your last game, Mortal Kombat, has carried over…
HS: We definitely brought over ideas and elements that worked in the past and which we felt would fit in this new game.
HS: Yup, and we’re really proud of it. The folks at DC were especially impressed with what we’ve done, by making Superman a bad guy and Aquaman a bad ass….
SHH: Aquaman is a bad ass?!?!
HS: [laughs] He’s actually everyone’s favorite character in the studio. The character gets a bad wrap, so we went the extra mile to make him as awesome as possible. And we’re confident that he’ll become a fan favorite.
Injustice: Gods Among Us will be available on April 16 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U.