Platform: PS3/PS4/360/Wii U/PC
Originally Reviewed: 2013
We gamers are a spoiled bunch aren’t we? The gaming medium allows us to virtually enact so many nerd fantasies that we most certainly take for granted. A lot of these fantasies inevitably end up with one recognisable pop culture character fighting another, and Injustice: Gods Among Us certainly ticks a lot of the boxes for all the ‘I wish I could shoot Green Lantern point blank in the face with a rocket launcher’ thoughts you could ever have.
Of course, DC Comics characters have been in a beat ‘em up before, with 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe from Midway. Except that game wasn’t very good. No such worries here, as NetherRealm Studios have taken, and clearly learned from, their experience with the recent Mortal Kombat reboot and created a viciously entertaining super hero smash up.
The Mortal Kombat reboot was okay, but was far too one-dimensional and became repetitive after about ten minutes. NetherRealm clearly realised this, and one of Injustice’s biggest strengths is the sheer amount of variety that’s on offer from one fight to the next. From ridiculous special moves to superbly violent area transitions, there is hilarity, excitement and insane levels of destruction only a few button presses away at all times. Seeing Batman get smashed through a wall of Arkham Asylum where Joker, Two Face, Penguin and more are waiting to consecutively pound the living shit out of him is one of those nerd fantasies I mentioned earlier. It made me and a buddy scream with laughter. It was bloody awesome.
Another major improvement from your typical Mortal Kombat game is that Injustice is a lot more forgiving on the ol’ button combos. All of the main hero/villain-specific moves can be performed with a simple 2 direction, 1 button combination. Yes, it’s clichéd, but Injustice really is that easy to get to grips with and, of course, skilled players will find huge levels of depth in juggling opponents for huge combos. The game works with light, medium, heavy and character specific attacks which can be combined with tons of environmental carnage, a Street Fighter IV-style special meter, crazy Marvel vs Capcom-esque special moves and a “clash” system that can utilised to revitalise a losing character mid-fight.
There really is a lot of depth to be uncovered in the mechanics, but at the base level even novice players can cause absolute carnage with relative ease. For example, the special moves can be performed (with a full special meter) with a simple press of LT and RT, and man-oh-man do they deliver far more than the player deserves from such lack of button pressing effort. We’re talking folks getting run over with Batmobiles, eaten by sharks, punched into orbit, blown up, vaporised and so much more. Each character moveset is brilliantly representative of its owner, while a decent level of balance ensures that all characters are worth having a go with.
When speaking to co-editor David about Injustice, he told me of his interest in the game thanks to ‘rumours of it actually having a story.’ His sources were correct, and not only that; he was understating the level of fan service on offer in the story mode of the game. It might not be the cleverest or most subtle of tales – don’t expect any Nolan Batman writing here – but the story of the game will surely have any DC fans salivating at the understanding of the characters on show in the writing.
The story follows a tale of alternate universes. In a different reality, The Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn son. Alternate Superman is clearly a little bit miffed at the accidental murder of his nearest and dearest so he goes into hiding to wallow in self-pity. Nah, just kidding – he goes bat shit mental, kills Joker and starts to take over the world. Superman forms a new regime of heroes and villains, doing battle against Batman’s army of insurgents. Early on, our reality’s heroes get sucked into this parallel reality and things start to get complicated, as Superman’s corrupted heroes are eager to throw down in fisticuffs with their alternate forms in order to flush them back out and keep their new world order intact.
The story is played out through cut scenes and the occasional QTE section, and while it certainly isn’t the greatest super hero story ever told, it’s a really cool way to approach the normally mind-numbing beat ‘em up single player mode. Players are guided through the story arcs of a huge number of the characters, allowing for plenty of variety to keep them chugging along. You’re never stuck with one character for hours, you get a really cool sample of lots of your favourite heroes in one sitting and you get a proper story to go with it.
The story mode even has a number of recognisable voice actors from the various cartoon series’ of the many characters in the game. Unfortunately, having been so spoiled by the impeccable Joker performances of Mark Hammill in… well, everything, he is sorely missed in Injustice as we are left with a very below-par version of the Clown Prince. Despite this, the Joker is a low point in a decent cast putting on pretty solid performances.
The only other real bugbear with Injustice is that the graphics are pretty poor for this stage of a console life cycle. The character models look fine during the action, a few dodgy animations aside, but there’s an overall lack of texture and sharpness. It doesn’t look disgusting, but the visuals can only be described as satisfactory at best. Luckily, the fighting is where the game looks the most impressive, and the carnage isn’t spoiled – it’s just the cut scenes and close ups that could have been better.
Whether in single player or with a mate, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a huge improvement on NetherRealm’s previous console fighter and takes the best aspects of Mortal Kombat and improves on pretty much everything that game had to offer. With easier combos, tons of variety and depth and guaranteed earth-shattering destruction, Injustice is a real blast to play and, when combined with a solid story mode packed with fan service, is certainly a worthy rival, maybe even equal, to Marvel’s established fighting series.