Slips, a notable tekken player in the beginning of injustice life, made a tutorial on injustice’s neutral game. I wanted to bring this to light more and have more discussion on this. The following are points made from his guide, as well as my own view when it comes to injustices neutral game. You may find this helpful, or useless, but either way as long as this can benefit someone out there and can lead to discussion then this thread has served it's purpose.
When I initially bought injustice, I didn't feel the game had much of a neutral game (in fact I felt it was non-existent and didn't pick up the game until after the patch). Despite this, I decided to practice the walk speed and wanted to understand how the neutral game worked in injustice. I have watched and rewatched a wide array of videos and tutorials on footsies/neutral games in other fighting games and tutorials on how to poke, whiff punish, counter poke etc. I’ll be sure to list my sources at the bottom and use examples the best I can from previous tourney footage
Sources for theories on neutral game:
Below will be a general breakdown on the neutral game of injustice. Every fighting game has its own unique neutral game because how you move, whiff punish, or bait in one game can be entirely different from another. Remember that!
Universally (and note I said universally), there are three ways for your opponent to approach your character
The most used option in injustice. In this case, injustice breaks away from the traditional norms of 2D fighting games by giving jump-in attacks large priority but they are not unbeatable. It is critical a player understands the position they need to be in to anti-air and trip guard their opponent when it comes to specific jump-in attacks. Challenge jump in attacks, and condition your opponent not to jump. Even at certain ranges, normals can be used to anti-air as well which I will get into later. Jump-ins with weapons also have their own properties as well.
Unlike SF4, characters in injustice have long dashes (dash-ins have short recovery and dash backs have longer recovery). Although such dashes make it difficult to establish the range to whiff punish appropriately it is still very much plausible. Dash-ins can also be punished with preemptive normals and some characters have the luxury to option select their normals as well, which I will get into.
Highly underrated tactic and not used enough even in high level play. Although characters may have a slow walkspeed (excluding flash/raven) it is very much possible to walk in out of someone’s attack range. Learning to walk forward is not something you learn overnight; it takes years upon years of experience to get over the fear of walking forward in any 2d fighting game. I feel injustice is no exception, and since the game is young (in fighting game years), we don’t see it as often as we should. (Hopefully this will change that)
Dealing with jump-in attacks can be quite annoying but depending on the match-up and which kind of jump in attack (weapon vs. no weapon), spacing your opponent is essential to dealing with them. Since each character has a different jump in attack, anti-airs are matchup specific. This is vastly different from mk9 where every character has the same jump arc and similar jump-in attack.
To make dealing with jump-in attacks easier, you primarily want to space yourself just outside your opponents jump attack range. When you do this:
1) It makes anti-airing easier. You’ll have more time to react to the initial jump arc of your opponent from outside jump range as compared to them near sweep range. The closer you are to your opponent, the less time you have to react to anti-air. The less time you have to react, the higher the chances of your anti-air getting stuffed and eating a full combo (batman j2 anyone?)
KDZ anti-air in neutral vs. SonicFox by staying outside of jump in range
2) Cross-ups usually cannot be anti-aired in most cases (unless your anti-air consists of a weapon attack or the hitbox goes over the head…which I will go into later). It is extremely difficult to anti-air cross-ups with limbs because most anti-air hitboxes go in front of the character, not behind them. Plus if your outside the jump arc you don’t have to deal with jump in crossups
1) Trip Guard! If you didn’t know, if your opponent whiffs a jump in attack, when they land they can’t block for a short period due to recovery frames. Staying outside of jump attack range makes can make your opponent overextend themselves and whiff a jump in attack right in your face. If you expect the jump-in attack to whiff, go for the trip guard and punish accordingly.
If you become effective at staying outside your opponents jump attack range and anti-air consistently your opponent will begin to respect your space and play the ground game. At times, some players will neutral jump or jump-in with nothing (or they will dash-in which I will get into later) to change it up. You can punish this by anti-airing with normals or a special before they touch down.
In order to establish a neutral game in a match, you need to condition your opponent to respect your space. Anti-airing is one of the best ways to do this. If your opponent fears the anti-air, they will be more likely to play a ground game.
Also, remember the further you are away from your opponent, the easier it is to anti-air the majority of jump in attacks. At certain ranges, depending you your character you can even anti-air with normals. Below is a video showcasing this with my main Cyborg:
When it comes to cross-ups, unless your character has a weapon or lowers their hurtbox during an anti-air (deathstrokes d2 and flash’s d2 are good examples) it’s best to just block the cross-up. Remember, you primarily get crossed up by:
1) Getting knocked down into a cross-up jump in/cross up setup
2 )Not staying outside of your opponents jumping range
Try to avoid these scenarios as best as possible. This is easier said than done, but players with good footsies are aware of this and are able to properly space themselves throughout a match. Of course there’s also the miscellaneous as well (I’m looking at you Martian Manhunter) but if you can consistently do the two above, controlling the flow of the match will be a lot easier.
Remember when I said staying outside your opponents jump range makes anti-airing easier for the majority of jump in attacks? Weapons are the exception to this.
Injustice is definitely unique when it comes to the number of characters that have weapons involved in their neutral game. Weapons DO NOT HAVE A HURTBOX. This means when a weapon attack comes in contact with a limb, the weapon will win out every time (unless the limb has a large(also called phantom) hitbox that extends further than the visual portion of the limb and is active for a long period ex. Green Lantern’s b1/bane’s d2). To put it this way:
1) If your character has an anti-air involving a weapon vs. a jump-in attack involving a limb, the weapon will win everytime unless you react too late and are hit during startup (before the anti-air comes out). This is why Aquaman’s d2 is such a threat because it has no hurtbox on the trident, and the trident has very long range. Same with Joker’s d2 and Hawkgirl or any other character with a weapon in their anti-air.
2) If your character has a jump-in attack involving a weapon, it will beat out anti-air attacks involving limbs everytime unless you press the jump in attack to late or too early. This is why Deathstroke’s j3 can be such a threat due to the range and large hitbox on the sword.
Do not fret however, jump-in attack's with weapons can be anti-aired with proper spacing. It's important understand if the weapon has a sweet spot were it doesn't reach or if can be beat out with a quick air-to-air attack.
I'll be sure to go more in-depth on this topic, but for now let's move on to dashing in.
In injustice, there are a select few characters that have punishable dash-ins. Most are safe, unless you are looking for it; it can be difficult to react to dash-ins if you are not expecting it (too busy looking for a jump-in or special move)
To prevent characters with safe dashes from getting in, stay just outside their dash range (or jump range) and throw out normals with quick start up or quick recovery (having both is perfect and is a bonus for most characters). Having it plus on block/safe on block is also a plus as well.
When timed right, the opponents dash-in will be stuffed by your normal and depending on the character will grant frame advantage. If it’s blocked, then no damage done on your part. If they jump in, the short recovery on the normal should give you enough time to block the jump in.
Nubcakes stuffed dash in
Sonic Fox stuffed dash in
Another way to further improve this is to create an option select when throwing out normals. You can throw out a safe normal and during the startup frames input a safe special (or a special that grants frame advantage which would be a plus). For example, for Cyborg throwing out a d1 and buffering it with sonic disruptor can create the following option select situation on a dashing in opponent:
- If hit, they are sent 3/4ths across the screen
- If it whiffs then just a d1 comes out (quick recovery)
- If blocked then plus frame advantage (be mindful that this does have a gap in it however).
In addition, if you’re ballsy enough and make a godlike read, you can buffer it into super or an unsafe/high-reward special. If it hits, it can create mental damage to your opponent. Just be sure to continue of that momentum (or be sure it’s a game winner).
Learning to walk-in is a core element of playing footsies. It’s a deep topic, and I plan to make a separate thread entirely based off this concept. However, I will attempt to summarize the importance of walking forward as best as I can.
An important part when it comes to playing footsies is making yourself appear vulnerable to bait your opponent. Walking forward is the easiest and simplest way to do this.
For example, if you kept walking forward to your opponent, without stopping, eventually your opponent is going to…
1. Throw out a special
2. Throw out a normal
3. Jump in attack
…to prevent you from walking in. When walking forward, you must read what an opponent’s natural reaction will be and either counterattack before the option comes out, jump-in attack, or walk back for the whiff punish.
A common misconception is that because a character has slow walk speed it prevents them from playing an effective neutral game. This isn’t entirely true; a slow walkspeed makes footsies more difficult but does not eliminate it entirely from a fighting game. Finding the range to walk in and out of is more strict, but not impossible.
Also, walking forward helps you properly space yourself outside jump-attack range and character normals and close space. Although walking back, jumping, and dashing are all good movement options, you aren’t getting the full range of movement if you don’t know when to walk forward. Each character's walk forward speed in injustice is faster than their walk back speed, so be sure to utilize it as well.
At times, a dash in can put you too close into your opponents attack range, and a dash back can take you completely out of jump range. Walking forward or back helps a player find the specific range to be at in a matchup. Which leads me to my next point.
A lot of times your will notice players walking back and forth to jostle for position. There are two reasons why players do this:
1. To move in and out of an opponent’s attack range. They are hoping to bait a poke or normal and whiff punish, or they are looking for the jump in to anti-air.
2. To stay in place. A lot of times, players have a tendency to just hold back, causing you to lose ground. Jostling back and forth keeps a player in place and ready to react to block or input a special on reaction (Ex. Jostling flash player buffering torpedo)
Be mindful however of jostling. If you are jostling back and forth in the neutral game and are not threatening to walk forward, doing so is pretty pointless. Never be afraid to call your opponents bluff. If they are going to keep walking back and forth, walk in and grab the moment you read they are going to walk forward, or throw out a normal.
Rational Jim walk-up grab
It may sound crazy but most opponents looking for the whiff punish are waiting for you to hang yourself. When both you and your opponent walk forward, the distance between the two characters is considerably decreased. This is the best opportunity to throw your opponent of guard.
What if your opponent continues to walk back? Then walk them into the corner! A player with an efficient neutral game will know how to close space and force their opponent on their backside. Once you have your opponent in the corner, keep them there as long as possible to frustrate the player and limit their options. The majority of the cast has an amazing corner game, so don’t give up the positioning so easily. Make them pay!
The topics I mentioned cannot be learned overnight. They take time to practice and learn effectively in game. It’s important to identify situations with your character to use these situations effectively. For each point, I plan to make a more detailed thread of each, so don't worry if some of the concepts don't explain themselves at the moment.
The more you play, the more natural these concepts will be, to the point you won't even have to think about them. This is generally the point you want to reach, were identifying situations becomes natural. Hopefully this can spark some more needed discussion, I'm still trying to improve my fundamentals as a player as well.
(thread continually being edited)
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