A few years ago NetherRealm Studios put out Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe to mixed results. Since the title featured DC Characters, many hoped that it would feel like an interesting experimental hybrid of a fighting game, but sadly it turned out feeling more like a Mortal Kombat game with DC Character skins. Fast foward years later and after the successful reboot of Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm decided to give the concept of a DC fighting game one more chance, to much better though, although still flawed results.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (PlayStation 3 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Wii U)
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release: April 16, 2013
Injustice: Gods Among Us features an interesting concept for its improved story mode that has been a staple for NetherRealm’s fighting games this generation. The Joker has tricked Superman into destroying Metropolis and killing his wife and unborn child in the process, and after starting his own dictatorship along with other heroes and villains. While some followed Superman, others tried to oppose him and with his support wearing thin, Batman decides to bring in heroes from another universe for aid. For those who are very familiar with DC Comics or even other DC Comics related media won’t find the story premise completely fresh but the presentation makes up for it.
In a way as it was hyped up before by reps for NetherRealm Studios, it does feel like story mode 3.0 in the sense that while some cutscenes only aid to help string along the player to his next fight, most cutscenes made me feel like I was actually watching a more adult themed DC Comics cartoon and made the story just as engaging as I had hoped.
In terms of learning how these heroes can take beatings like they never could have before, the story actually presents a very plausible explanation for this and comic book fans will surely find it simple enough to where they will wonder how they didn’t come up with a theory like it on their own before learning about it. It certainly makes Superman punching Aquaman into space, slamming him back down to earth much more enjoyable when there’s a solid explanation for how Big Tuna can brush that off and reenter the fray.
Another addition to the story mode are mini-game moments scattered sparingly throughout the game to help break up the intense action. These usually delve into having Green Arrow avoid objects thrown at him by hitting them with arrows or having Batman throw batarangs to slow down an approaching threat. At first the mini-games are short and sweet, but later ones start to drag on way too long and actually turn into an annoying distraction. The story overall is good but drastically short, even shorter than the story for Mortal Kombat, and the most hardcore players will be able to get through it in one sitting. Besides the story, Injustice features a challenge tower mode called S.T.A.R. Labs that features various challenges that vary on difficulty.
S.T.A.R. Labs uses a three star system to grade the player on how the player does on each mission, while getting one star is usually easy since all you have to do is beat the main mission, getting two or three stars can sometimes become problematic since they involve completing additional objectives for each mission. While I like how this mode does incorporate some character specific challenges like rescuing civilians as Flash while fighting Doomsday or having Catwoman sneaking into the batcave, the difficulty spike for the S.T.A.R. Labs missions can get ridiculous at times and has a higher difficulty spike compared to the challenge tower in Mortal Kombat.
Since Injustice is running on a slightly upgraded engine that also powered the Mortal Kombat reboot, it does feature subtle similarities to Mortal Kombat but I applaud NetherRealm for making Injustice feel like its own game. Having to hold back to block is a new addition that will surely give Mortal Kombat veterans a learning curve, and ditching the four button attack button layout in favor of giving the “O”/”B” button a character trait button such as Batman summoning mini-robot bats or Flash’s ability to slow down time help separate this game from Mortal Kombat.
More changes include characters having more weight to them without feeling sluggish or slow, interactive objects in the environment can help players out in a jam and level transitions are a spectacle to watch and can sometimes turn the tide in a fight just as much as a successfully landed supermove can. Supermoves are another spectacle to see in the game and are a great replacement for fatalities found in Mortal Kombat with the best part being you don’t have to wait until the match is basically over to use them.
My only issues with the gameplay are the fact that the big “power” characters such as Bane, Doomsday and Solomon Grundy have a tendency to exhibit Shao Khan/Goro abilities such as being able to have attacks on them phase through as if the opposing player is just hitting thin air. This wouldn’t be an issue if these characters were not playable, but sadly this can and will feel cheap at times especially during online play.
The other issue with the gameplay for Injustice and this is mainly concerning offline play is with the game’s Clash system that involves using the “RT”/”R2” button while an opponent is issuing a combo on you to activate a wager system when you get down to your second health bar to bet parts of your super meter to either gain back health if you are the attacker or bonus damage if you are the defender.
The A.I in Injustice loves to spam the wager system and since it can only be activate when taking combos, I almost had to just forgo on attacking my A.I opponents as I normally would just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with them winning the clash and extending the match. It is possible to just go through the match and not use your super meter that way you can just have a tie in the clash but that would still limit the player’s abilities in game.
In terms of online play, NetherRealm has definitely improved their netcode for Injustice and after trying out ranked, player matches and various KOTH lobbies I’ve barely had any lag issues compared to Mortal Kombat and the few rare times that I did, the game would automatically end the match usually either before it even began or right at the start. My only complaint for the online mode is that it does take an odd amount of time to find matches with my usual serch times for ranked and player matches being a good one to two and sometimes three whole minutes.
Another good note is that NetherRealm went the Gears of War route and not only can you level up and unlock new items from playing multiplayer, but from every other game mode as well including story mode and battles (arcade mode).
Injustice: Gods Among Us is fun game with good mechanics with fan service galore and most importantly, it doesn’t feel like a Mortal Kombat clone. Even with the short story, few overpowered playable characters, and a somewhat frustrating challenge mode, Injustice is definitely one of the best fighting games of the year.