Injustice: Gods Among Us
Everyone knows that the Hulk is not very likeable when he is angry but what about Superman? Injustice: Gods Among Us gives comic book fans the chance to see what the outcome is when the man of steel is pushed to the edge. Of course, few super heroes have the ability to stand toe to toe with Kal-El but Injustice has a perfectly good, if highly implausible explanation for what is undoubtedly one of the biggest showdowns in the DC universe.
After the highly successful Mortal Kombat reboot, everyone was expecting Injustice to be a simple reskin. To the credit of NetherRealm Studios, they have actually gone the extra mile and created a fighter that might appear similar to Mortal Kombat on the surface, is actually a different beast once you get into it.
Fights still take place on a 2D plane, but characters and levels are rendered in 3D, allowing for some awesome effects like bouncing your opponent off the background or smacking them with bits of the scenery. Each fight only lasts one round, but all fighters have two health bars that have to be depleted ala Darkstalkers. The controls are also a departure from Mortal Kombat and you now have light, medium and heavy attack buttons instead of the usual high/low punches and kicks. The dedicated block button has been swapped for a Street Fighter style blocking system and characters also have a “trait” button that grants them some sort of advantage such as extra power in the case of Superman and a change of weapons for Wonder Woman. The controls can feel a bit stiff at first, but it is definitely very newcomer friendly with attacks that are easy to pull off.
The game seems to have been designed with accessibility in mind as just about anything you do looks impressive. Stages are littered with interactive elements that can be used to inflict pain on your foes. Bulky characters such as Doomsday and Solomon Grundy can pick up background objects such as cars and statues before smashing them into opponents, while lighter characters might simply use them as springboards or use bombs to detonate them. It can feel a bit unbalanced, especially when you are up against a foe that is ripping everything to shreds, but with some practice you should be able to hold your own.
The game unfortunately has no tag team mode and the violence is obviously not on the scale of Mortal Kombat. Don’t get me wrong, you can inflict some serious hurt on your opponents, especially with the eye-popping special attacks, but there are no fountains of blood spraying everywhere and intestines spilling out of gaping wounds. You can wager your power meter once you are on your second health bar for the chance of extra damage or some regeneration and these clashes are pretty spectacular looking. Levels are multi-tiered and taking a leaf from the Dead Or Alive playback, you can knock your opponent through some scenery and into a new area. It looks pretty impressive when Bane knocks an opponent through the side of a building and through multiple floors but rather strange when Harley Quinn does the same. The “power pills” explanation does stretch the incredulity somewhat, but this is a comic book license after all, so some wacky plot elements are to be expected.
Following in the footsteps of Mortal Kombat, the game has a rather nice story mode that explains why there are super heroes and villains running around beating the tar out of each other and occasionally themselves. The whole Superman regime versus Batman insurgency storyline sounds like it came straight from the pages of a comic book and is great for players who prefer a solo experience. Then there is the battle mode that has multiple ladders to conquer. You can opt for straightforward classical battles or take on only villains, fight with certain handicaps or take on every character in the game with only a single health bar, depending on your level of skill/insanity. Each character has their own ending in battle mode and with a sizable roster that includes Aquaman, Doomsday, Nightwing, Sinestro, Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, The Joker and Batman, you are looking at a lot of playtime to master them all. There is already a selection of DLC characters available as well, so I suppose a “complete” edition of the game might be lurking somewhere in the future.
Each victory in the game earns you experience points and as you level up you will unlock costumes, music and concept art. Losses results in a loss of experience points so some training is advisable before taking the fight online. The online multiplayer is pretty smooth and I had no problem finding opponents and taking part in lag free matches. The final icing on the already sizable cake is the “S.T.A.R Labs” challenges which give you 240 wacky tasks to complete with different characters. These range from straightforward battles all the way to some goofy mini-games and should keep you busy for ages. Each challenge earns you between one and three stars depending on how well you follow instructions and while there are some that are quite frustrating this mode is entertaining overall.
The game is very polished and while the character models are not as detailed as the awesome renders that adorn the title screen, they are still quite impressive. All the characters feel truly different, which is more than what I can say about some of the Mortal Kombat cast. Stages are very impressive with some major destruction happening in the background as the fights progress. Buildings collapse, things explode and by the time your opponent bites the dust, most of the level is in ruin as well. With locations ranging from the Batcave, Arkham Asylum, Metropolis, The Fortress of Solitude and Atlantis you will want to keep your eyes peeled for background cameos as well. Some of the stage transitions, while undoubtedly impressive the first few times, can drag on a bit once you have seen them over and over but this is a small price to pay. The audio is very good with voice-overs done by a cast that know their characters well. The music is also pretty good and fits the game perfectly.
While I had a lot of fun with the game and it came very close, it doesn’t quite beat Mortal Kombat. It is definitely a great game and one that will provide you with hours of entertainment, especially if you are a fan of the license. There are some minor niggles and balance issues but I am sure that these will be addressed in due time by NetherRealm Studios. If Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe whetted your appetite for some superhero brawling then Injustice should definitely satisfy your cravings.
*Review originally published 2013.