Beating up Superman: sure, we’ve all fantasized about it, but who among us has the chutzpah to really give a shot? You know, other than Batman, or Green Arrow, or anyone that played Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Or I guess like most of the major and minor villains in the DC Universe, themselves. Oh, and Spider-Man, that time he was imbued with kryptonite radiation. Man, it seems like everyone has taken their shot at The Man of Steel over the years. Well, get ready for another chance to beat up the Last Son of Krypton in NetherRealms’s newest fighter.
GAME NAME: Injustice: Gods Among Us
DEVELOPER(S): NetherRealms Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U
RELEASE DATE(S): April 16, 2013
Developed by NetherRealms Studios, the same people who snapped Mortal Kombat up from the jaws of irrelevancy, Injustice: Gods Amongst Us starts not in the DC Universe that you may be familiar with, but rather a parallel one, where The Joker has just tricked Superman into detonating a nuclear device and destroying Metropolis, including Lois Lane and their unborn child. Understandably, Supes is a little upset. In a rage, he kills The Joker, and puts the planet under his own brand of martial law.
Flash forward a couple years later, and back in our DC Universe, Supes, Bats, and the rest of the good guys are in the middle of foiling yet another of Lex Luthor’s various take-over-the-world attempts. Lo and behold, The Joker is spotted setting up a nuclear device in the middle of Metropolis, because The Joker is still The Joker, regardless of what dimension he is in. Our heroes rush to the scene to stop The Clown Prince of Crime, only to find the majority of them spirited away across the multiverse to the previous, Superman-oppressed reality. It is exactly the kind of overly macguffined sci-fi spider web that DC Comics are know for, so good on NetherRealms for that.
If you played the Mortal Kombat reboot, then you pretty much already know what to expect from Injustice. The game is practically the same, only with a DC makeover. You have a “Story” mode that switches characters every four battles or so, giving you some elementary experience with the majority of the roster. A “Battle” mode, reminiscent of the arcade days of fighting games has you battle your way through the roster with a single character, though Injustice gives you the option of adding further tweaks, such as quarter-health or a 30-second time limit. “S.T.A.R. Labs” gives you quick battles with a short list of bullet points to accomplish, similar to Mortal Kombat’s “Challenge Tower”.
Of course, online multiplayer, the real crux of any fighting game, as well as training modes to prep you for human opponents are included as well. Taking a page from recent Capcom fighters, your online persona can be dolled up with icons and backgrounds earned by playing the game, as serve as brag-flags to let other players online know exactly how hardcore you are. These unlockables usually come by accomplishing certain milestones, such as number of character wins or move executions, although some come form the “Archive” which serves as Injustice’s answer to MK’s “Vault”.
The controller layout for Injustice is one of the simplest and easiest to wrap your head around that I have experienced in quite a while: light, medium, and heavy attacks, a throw button, an environmental interact button, and a “power” button. Press Up to jump, Down to duck, tap twice to the side to dash, and tapping away from your opponent at just the right moment will block their attacks. Everyone has a set of combos and special attacks that matches their individual milieu, and the “power” button serves as a supplement to that individuality, changing from character-to-character and giving unique perks such as buffing your fighter or changing their fighting style or weapons. The environmental interact allows you to, when standing in an appropriate hot spot of the stage, make your battle just a little more comic book epic, using elements of the stage itself to burn, shock, explode, or otherwise make wreckage of each other around the battle arena. These environmental effects often change depending on the ability of the character as well, as the same item a nimble character bounces off of for a quick escape turns into a large, improvised projectile for a character with super strength; it is a nice touch.
As the players punch, kick, and batarang each other, each character has a “Super Meter” which fills up, and can be used to add a boost to special attacks, or, when completely full, execute a large, powerful attack, a la Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray attack. The super attacks are always over-the-top and ridiculous, which is entertaining at first, but after seeing them over and over (each character only has one super attack) they begin to feel a bit tiresome. Unlike MK, you will not be seeing any Finishing moves here; DC is not about to allow their characters to have their heads twisted off left and right, so sometimes a titanic battle will end with a disappointing short jab to the calf, or other equally suspension-of-disbelief destroying move.
The sound is exquisitely done; the bangs, pows, thuds, and every other onomatopoeia the game delivers is timed and delivered perfectly, with the added bonus that several actors tied to the characters, such as Stephen Amell (Arrow), Kevin Conroy (Batman), and Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), voice their respective heroes. The graphics also received a ton of care. The heroes and villains each come with a few unlockable costumes (with more available as DLC, natch), and exquisite detail is visible in all of them. The backgrounds of the battle arenas are equally detailed, and feature loads of appearances and nods to characters that did not make the roster’s final cut.
Though the graphics are technically dead on, some of the aesthetic choices seemed a bit weird. First off, every battle ends with the knock out punch being delivered, then the loser falls down, then stands up again to their default stance momentarily, then kneels or sits in a defeated posture–it just looks weird. Secondly, there seems to be an awful lot of blood flying around (although nowhere near Mortal Kombat levels). Granted, a super powerful foe like Doomsday socking one to a relatively normal person like Joker or Green Arrow should produce a significant amount of blood, but (in yet another DC crazy sci-fi slant) the game rationalizes these potentially one-sided battles by feeding all the characters in the game pills that essentially make them Kryptonians. Sure, Kryptonians smacking Kryptonians should produce some blood, but we are already way farther down the rabbit hole than I am comfortable with. The point is that the blood only seems to be present because NetherRealm wanted to make a more mature DC game, and they made a more mature DC game by sticking blood in it, and that seems to be the only reason the blood exists.
These are pretty minor foibles at the end of the day, and do not detract from Injustice’s total package. The fighting is well done, so much so that it has been announced as being on the roster for EVO this year, and the unlockable system, though not as deep as some other titles, will inspire fans to keep playing. The only real downside is that if you are not already a fan of fighting games in general or DC Comics, Injustice is not going to make a believer out of you. It is a solid title though, and probably deserves a spin in your favorite console at least once.