April 22, 2013
Marvel fighting games have enjoyed something of a long and storied history over the years thanks to Capcom, while DC's heroes have been by and large underrepresented in the fight genre beyond the likes of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. With NetherRealm successfully bringing Mortal Kombat back into the spotlight a couple of years ago, the studio has turned its attention back to the DC universe for the dramatically titled Injustice: Gods Among Us. This time DC's best of the best take the limelight, without having to share it with Mortal Kombat's motley crew of Outworld psychopaths.
The excuse for DC's colourful cast of heroes and villains beating seven shades of shit out of one another this time? Superman has gone completely off the rails following a devilish deception concocted by The Joker that sees Lois and Kal-El's son murdered. This is all taking place in an alternate dimension, where heroes and villains choose to side with the rebelling Insurgency or obey the every whim of Supes as part of the dictatorial Regime, orchestrated by the blue and red spandex clad son of Krypton himself.
This world's DC cast find themselves transported into this dark alternate dimension battling Superman's blinkered reign of terror, which serves as the narrative reasoning behind all the superhuman face-punching action. Story Mode is where you'll be able to play through these events in their entirety, and it serves as an enjoyable, if somewhat hokey 2-3 hour diversion comprised of doom-laden cinematics setting up a sequence of brawls. Battle Mode, multiplayer and the mammoth-sized S.T.A.R. lab is where the real meat of Injustice lies outside of the Story Mode though, offering almost endless gameplay.
Whether you'll persevere through all 240 S.T.A.R. missions is entirely subjective, and after around 50 or so tasks, some of which were more luck than skill-based, we started to grow weary of the S.T.A.R. Lab. Like Mortal Kombat's Challenge Tower, there's a huge variety of differing objectives to complete, ranging from the silly (playing as Catwoman's cat, Isis) to the irritating (rescuing stupid civilians from rolling barrels and falling debris) and the just plain infuriating (defeating several enemies with one health bar).
Of course, the S.T.A.R. Lab isn't all bad, and there are some genuinely fun and clever missions to beat, like racing Superman around the world as the Flash or flying to the rescue while smashing rocks as Shazam. All 240 missions have a three-star rating to achieve by completing additional goals, meaning it'll take about 50 years to acquire all 720 stars. Suffice it to say, completists will be spending most of their time in this mode striving to bag that all-important three star rating for each mission. Thankfully, Injustice is a blast to play, so that shouldn't pose too much of a chore.
Injustice: Gods Among Us handles a lot like Mortal Kombat, with a similar sense of weight and impact to battles, meaning MK fans will feel immediately at home. Combos are easily strung together even for casual players, while hardened fight fans will get a kick out of the more technical aspects the fight system has to offer, like tech rolls, wake up attacks, counters et al. Character powers and destructible environments keep things interesting, while fatalities are replaced by jaw-dropping Supermoves, finishers that play out as elaborate animations.
Backdrops also have transitions to smash your rivals through, initiating a punishing journey through walls, floors, ceilings and other objects, lending to the dynamism of each stage. Stronger, larger characters can grab and throw around items, while the smaller, more nimble ones can vault off them. However, once said scenery has been chucked across the screen, it's no longer available for the lither characters to use. This instantly gives the bulky and stronger characters like Superman, Solomon Grundy and Doomsday the edge in a bout, which can seem somewhat unfair when you're playing as a character lacking the necessary strength to launch an item of scenery.
While battles are heavyweight, earth-shattering affairs, Injustice is bereft of the same kind of finesse present in Street Fighter IV, Virtua Fighter 5 and its ilk. Of course, NetherRealm's game is an altogether different beast, enabling you to settle scores between your favourite DC characters while wreaking havoc across each stage. It has only three attack buttons, with light and heavy punches joined by launchers that initiate transitions or send a character hurtling across the screen.
Charging up your power meter enables you to pull off 'meter burn' versions of special moves by pulling the right trigger after executing a special move, while a fully charged meter gives you the opportunity to launch into a devastating Supermove, which are a pleasure to watch. Unleashing your Supermove is a simple case of pressing both triggers simultaneously, meaning it's all a matter of timing, lest you miss it and waste your precious power meter.
With three of the face buttons mapped to attacks, the fourth is dedicated to each character's signature power, which range from Batman's batarangs to Lex Luthor's barrier, the Flash's ability to slow time, Catwoman's razor claws, Shazam's lightning fists or Green Arrow's erm, arrows. The left bumper lets you execute a quick throw, while the right acts as your all-purpose interaction button for chucking stuff around. As fighting game control systems go, Injustice's is remarkably simple and streamlined, meaning even the casual fight fan can get stuck in from the get-go.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is an immensely enjoyable fighting game to play alone, and also builds upon Mortal Kombat's strong multiplayer showing with a modest selection of online modes to choose from. You can enter Practice mode with a friend to hone your skills, and enjoy a simple 1v1 fight, or get yourself entrenched in the King of the Hill and Survivor modes.
Multiplayer lobbies are slick, offering smart spectator options, enabling players to vote on the outcomes of KotH scraps while watching the action unfold. As a whole, the multiplayer experience is smooth and largely free of issues like lag, making it easily up to the high standards in presentation that runs throughout the rest of the game like a stick of rock.
There's a selection of fairly simple multiplayer achievements to grab in the ranked and player matches across each mode, none of which tarnish the overall list too much. The majority of the list is dedicated to Injustice's excellent single-player modes, although some of the achievements are massively time-consuming, like levelling up to level 100, getting three-stars in all 240 S.T.A.R. missions, beating every one of the battles that need to be first unlocked in the Archives, and so on. You'll be playing for a long time before garnering that elusive 1000 Gamerscore.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is quite possibly NetherRealm's most polished and accomplished fighting game yet, featuring plenty of superheroic bombast, a deep yet intuitive fight system and a practically perfect roster of DC's finest. A fantastic entry in the fight genre, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a lovingly crafted, infinitely playable and deliriously addictive brawler that'll effortlessly consume hours of your time.
A wonderfully portentous orchestral score complements the sounds of crunching bones, punches, kicks and slaps. Meaty, satisfying stuff.
Brilliantly detailed character models, with every seam and stitch of every costume beautifully realised. Injustice is a pleasingly pretty fighting game that's nice and chunky, while the environments and special moves are packed with plenty of pyrotechnics and incidental effects. Nice.
A good balance. Easy to pick up and play for newbies, with intuitive controls, yet deep enough for fighting veterans to master. NetherRealm has clearly spent time honing and evolving its fight system since Mortal Kombat.
Hours upon hours of content to indulge in, from the straight up gratification of the Battles mode and the challenging objectives of the S.T.A.R. Lab, to the narrative-driven Story portion of the game, there's plenty to do. Multiplayer is also good clean fun that's smooth and well-presented and there are loads of bonuses to unlock.
A good spread across all of Injustice's numerous modes, the only real criticism you can level at the achievement list is the amount of grinding you'll have to put in to obtain the more time-consuming achievements. Otherwise, this is a solid list with a decent mix of tasks to complete.
Picking up perfectly where Mortal Kombat left off, Injustice: Gods Among Us cements NetherRealm's reputation as a purveyor of fighting games with real heft and substance. A heroic effort that'll put a smile upon the face of all but the most demanding DC fighting fan. Shazam!