Injustice: Gods Among Us
NetherRealm Studios has created some of the most enjoyable fighting games of this generation. Hot on the heels of Mortal Kombat comes Injustice: Gods Among Us. Injustice is the second DC Comics fighter from Ed Boon’s studio, after Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, and it is certainly the more enjoyable of the two.
Like the previous MK game, Injustice is a methodically paced, 2D, one-on-one fighting game. It has a heavy emphasis on juggles, but a very different control scheme from MK. For example, Injustice is the first NetherRealm game to feature a “back to block” mechanic, instead of a dedicated blocking button. That said, the pacing of the animation and the range of attacks for each character means that skilled Mortal Kombat players will quickly feel at home here.
Injustice opens with an optional tutorial which is targeted at inexperienced fighting game players. The basic tutorial will teach you about movement and the different varieties of attack and defence moves on offer. The advanced tutorial teaches more complex techniques such as cancels. By design, the help offered here is extremely minimal, but it should be enough to help newcomers through the Very Easy and Easy difficulty settings. However, 2D fighting veterans will want to skip this out and go straight to experimenting in the Practice mode.
Get into a match and you’ll immediately notice that this is a gorgeous game with some of the most outrageous screen-filling special moves you could ever hope for. Seeing The Flash run around the entire planet to build momentum for a single punch always gets a laugh when you’re playing on the couch with a friend. Some of the special move animations do take a little while to complete though and they will definitely get repetitive after a while.
As well as character specific supers, such as Deathstroke’s firearms, NetherRealm have included some new combat systems which perfectly suit the comic book setting. Each character has a unique trait performed with the circle button, which uses a separate meter from your supers. For example, Bane can dose himself with extra Venom to make his attacks more powerful and Wonder Woman can switch weapons between her lasso or sword and shield.
There’s also a brilliant clash system, which allows you to knock back an attack if you have a chunk of super meter. Each character then wagers an amount of their remaining super meter before flying at each other and smashing together in the centre of the screen. If the person who initiated the clash wagers the most super, they regain health. If the defender of the clash wagers the most super, they do a large amount of damage. The visual effects for this are spectacular and certain character combinations, such as Joker and Batman will result in some great unique dialogue.
On top of all of these systems, there are interactive objects strewn all over the backgrounds. Characters can be knocked into the background, throw bombs at each other, bounce off an object to escape danger and more, all with a tap of R1 when you’re stood by the appropriate item. Some of these interactions also depend on your character. For instance, light characters will bounce off the Bat-signal to land behind their opponent, while heavy characters will simply pick it up and throw it at the other player. Combined with the crazy stage transitions which can be executed with a charged heavy attack at the edge of the screen, the interactive objects make for some incredibly cinematic battles. However, you can break their competitive advantage by simply using them all up right at the start of a match.
Story mode takes the narrative lessons learned from MK and expands them into the crazy DC Comics universe. As you might expect, it all gets a little convoluted as the writers have to come up with excuses for heroes and villains to fight with characters who would normally be their allies, not to mention the major problem of justifying weaker characters like Catwoman being able to beat up Superman and Doomsday. Having said that, if you try not to think about it too much the narrative is actually a lot of fun and is very similar in tone to the recent Marvel Avengers movie. It’s very short and won’t last more than two or three hours for the best players, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable and there is plenty more content elsewhere in the game.
The real meat of the single player is in Battle mode and S.T.A.R. Labs. Battle is a traditional arcade mode where you play through several matches in order to unlock individual story endings for each character. Injustice gives this extra longevity with modifiers which can be unlocked to create completely new variations of this basic concept. They range from challenging you to beat the entire roster in one sitting, to gameplay tweaks such as regaining health for each attack you successfully land on your rival.
S.T.A.R. Labs is Injustice’s version of the Challenge Tower from the last MK title. There are mini-stories containing several small missions for each character, such as taking on Lex Luthor’s henchmen as Superman to rescue Lois Lane. Each mission will offer small gameplay variations like dodging falling debris during a fight. There are even some appearances by characters that aren’t listed on the main roster. One of Batman’s S.T.A.R. Labs missions has you repeatedly dodging an enraged Killer Croc. Each of these only takes a few minutes to play, but there is a huge list to get through and earning three stars on each one will surely challenge even the best fighting game players.
Multiplayer features a standard offline versus mode and a variety of online match-ups. There are basic player, ranked and private matches and the popular King of the Hill mode from Mortal Kombat. This is basically a “winner stays on” match where several players wait in a lobby for their chance to knock the king off the hill. If you can do so, you become the king and the cycle continues. There’s a spectator and chat system to entertain you while you wait for your turn to challenge, but there is still an awful lot of sitting around in lobbies so this mode won’t be to everyone’s taste. Injustice’s online play is very stable though, with very little noticeable lag and none of the horrific connection issues which plagued Mortal Kombat when it launched.
To add even more content to the game, there is a levelling system. You gain experience points in every mode which can be spent to unlock artwork and logos for your online profile as well as concept art, music and costumes. Unfortunately there really aren’t enough costumes and there are no hidden characters. This probably means that you should expect a lot of DLC for Injustice. This is pretty disappointing when you consider that there are plenty of key DC characters which don’t feature in the game at the moment, especially villains.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is an absolutely brilliant fighting game which is worthy of a place on any beat-em-up fan’s shelf. DC Comics fans will get a big kick out seeing their heroes battle through bloody brawls too. There are some niggling issues, such as the slightly disappointing character roster and the repetitive special move animations, but this is still the best 2D fighter since the last Mortal Kombat.