Injustice: Gods Among Us review
The idea of pitting one superhero against the other to see which was superior is a concept many have participated in since their childhood. Whether it was an argument or with action figures, we all want to know who would win in a fight between two of the world’s greatest heroes. The video game industry is well aware of this and as such, there have been numerous video games that pit various superheroes against each other. Some were successful (Marvel vs. Capcom 2) and some were not (Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe).
Injustice: Gods Among Us is the latest game in this proud tradition, featuring various heroes and villains from the DC comics universe, but its success was not guaranteed. On one end, developer Netherealm Studios made the wonderful Mortal Kombat reboot, which this game is partially based on. On the other, they created Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, whose failure caused Midway to finally shut its doors. I know I was skeptical of this game as there is a precedence that suggests that this developer doesn’t know how to treat DC comic book characters. While some of these fears are justified, the quality of the rest of the game makes up for the faults.
The combat in Injustice is very satisfying. Attacks feel impactful and skill is rewarded. Though you can see the similarities between Injustice and the Mortal Kombat reboot, Injustice is very much its own game in that it doesn’t play like other fighting games. There’s only three normal attack buttons with one superpower attack button and this layout along with the special buttons the top triggers and bumpers utilize make for a unique yet familiar control system. All 24 characters control differently from each other and there’s no one character that can be called the Ryu of the roster. Each character is given moves that make sense for them and they are numerous and by and large all very useful.
The combat emphasizes special moves, juggling, combos and environmental involvement but none are exaggerated. Juggling isn’t crazy like in Tekken and combos are elaborate quick trigger fingered affairs like in BlazBlue. Memorization is a must but not impossible. I was able to figure out and learn a 10 hit combo with Superman within 5 minutes in practice mode thanks to the extra detailed statistics for each move in the menus and the ability to display moves and combos while playing.
While emphasis is on these kinds of tactics, new players can hold their own as using special moves and various objects in the environment are just as productive. Special moves are as simple as down-back and a button press with not much else being more difficult than that and adding the Meter Burn button after it makes an even more powerful version easily. Environmental stuff is even simpler as a push of one button interacts with the level if you’re in the right position. Level transitions and Super Moves are also enjoyable and appropriately over the top and you’ll want to see each one in every level as well as get the damage they do. They can definitely tip the scales of the match.
While the combat is easily the greatest quality of Injustice, it’s not without its flaws. The wager feature, which has you spend your meter in order to win the clash, is more of an unfair way to change the scales of the fight and it completely kills the fight’s momentum. Unfortunately, while the level transitions and super moves are useful, they also break momentum. The biggest issue is that some characters are overly powerful, namely Green Lantern, Deathstroke, and Doomsday. Luckily, a lot of this might be able to be fixed with patches in the future.
Most of your time in Injustice will be spent in two different places: Battles and Multiplayer. Battles is essentially your typical arcade mode where you fight a ladder of opponents until you beat them all resulting in an ending for your character. There are also different types of ladders with different conditions that will challenge you and keep you engaged. Multiplayer offers numerous options such as joining groups, spectator mode and the ability to record and review matches. The matchmaking is also fairly accurate in matching you up with a player at your level. Lag is practically non-existent and the game has a lot of support at the moment.
While the combat is the strongest aspect of the game, what’s not the strongest aspect of the game is the story. The basis of Injustice is Superman in an alternate dimension has turned heel after the Joker tricked him to accidentally kill Lois Lane and destroy Metropolis. After killing The Joker, he essentially becomes a dictator of the world and rules under his impression that this is the only way to maintain peace and order. The plot as it unfolds in the Story mode is so contrived and dense, only DC fans will be able to appreciate it. However, those very fans will probably hate this story because these beloved characters behave in ways they never would normally in their own lore. I’m not a big comics fan but even I know Wonder Woman shouldn’t act like this.
Though the story is what you play the story mode for, the other aspects of it fairs better. The presentation of the cutscenes is well done and the voice actors give a good if not great performance. The story is broken up into chapters with the players taking control of different characters along the way. This introduces how most of the characters in the game control in an effective way, not to mention it display the diversity of the combat as well. Unfortunately, there’s also minigames in the story mode like zap cars flying at you with timed button presses that are more annoying diversions than an enjoyable method of gameplay.
Even more unfortunate is S.T.A.R. Labs, the mode that gives each character on the roster a series of challenges to complete. Many of these are minigames and fights with arbitrary objectives, such as watch out for falling debries or press the right buttons to save a citizen. You can earn up to a three star rating on a challenge if you complete several other secondary objectives but most of these objectives don’t focus on the combat. It might hold your interest for a time but the only reason you’ll play this mode ultimately is for the unlockables.
Speaking of unlockables, everything you do in Injustice earns you experience points. As you gain XP, your Hero Card profile levels up and this level is how your online matches are determined. In addition are these micro goals to accomplish that will give you additional experience, as well as unlock various items. Like how completing the Battles mode earns you that character’s ending, various other goals will unlock concept art, alternate costumes, and various portraits, emblems and backgrounds you can use to customize your Hero Card. What’s satisfying about this is while fairly insignificant, you always have a sense of progression as you play due to the constant items earned.
Graphically, Injustice looks good but nothing overly impressive. The levels are designed well and many of the characters look like you think they would. However, most of the levels are pulled from the Superman and Batman universes and lacks the diversity of the roster. Sound is capably standard and the score is appropriately epic, though unmemorable. I do like the Depeche Mode song that plays during the credits. None of this really matters though as none of it affects the gameplay.
Injustice: Gods Among Us has a lot of problems but it excels in the most important aspect, the gameplay. While many of the game’s attempts to diversify how you play the game fall flat, the combat manages to differentiate itself from other fighters with its variety and accessibility to both casual and hardcore fighting fans. I know Injustice isn’t an awesome game and titles like Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat are better. Yet I’m still playing Injustice and still training to be better because Injustice is that much fun at its most basic level. You can’t fault a game that focuses on fun.