Injustice: Gods Among Us – Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
One of the age old questions in the comics: what would happen if the superheroes we rely on suddenly turn on us, wielding their powers for evil instead of good? NetherRealm Studios, the developers who brought to us more than a decade of Mortal Kombat titles, explores the answer to this question in their latest entrant in the fighting game genre, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Weaving a masterful story that centers on Superman and Batman, NetherRealm allows players to dance in the grey areas between good and evil.
Injustice: Gods Among Us features a captivating story focused on Superman’s downward spiral into tyranny after he’s lost everything he loves. The opening scene in the game’s single-player Story mode sees Batman interrogating Joker, and nothing seems unusual – until Superman makes a dramatic entrance. We learn that Joker has finally succeeded in veritably destroying Metropolis and pushing Superman past the point of no return, and Superman will stop at nothing to get his vengeance.
Yet, in a different universe (our universe), five years in the past, we see the Justice League fighting against a bevy of super-villains. Joker leads Batman in a merry chase to the heart of Metropolis, where he’s set up explosives. The cinematic slows down, and you see Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Flash, Aquaman, and Shazam speeding/flying towards what may very quickly become ground zero. Tensions are high, and it looks like circumstances are about to parallel the first scene we witnessed. Then something happens, and our heroes and favourite villain are teleported into a world where everything’s been turned upside down.
Players will see what happens when Superman loses everything and his moral compass points everywhere but true North. With his tunnel vision that humans must be protected, Superman has created his One Earth, where every superhero in the DC universe now works under the Man of Steel’s tyrannical rule – with the exception of Batman. The Dark Knight is now Enemy #1, leading the Insurgency in a revolt against High Councilor Superman and his band of fear-mongerers.
Intrigued? The first five minutes of the Story mode is sure to draw you in, and it’s highly recommended to play through the game in the single-player campaign before jumping into any other mode. The plot is cleverly written and gives a masterful explanation as to why you not only have superheroes fighting supervillains, but also heroes and villains fighting their own brethren. Furthermore, you’ll explore the inner-workings – and move lists – of the main characters, as each chapter has you stepping into the shoes of a different hero or villain. No playing favourites here!
If you get bored playing solo, you can invite some friends over from some good old-fashioned ass-whooping in Local Versus – or if it pleases you, jump online to check out the slew of modes available there. Online, you can choose to compete in Ranked Matches and Player Matches, which includes 1v1, King of the Hill, or Survivor modes. Whether you choose to play locally or Online, there’s definitely no shortage of fun in the Multiplayer modes.
Injustice: Gods Among Us has a balanced roster of 24 characters, with a little something for everyone. Aside from the obvious favourites like Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern, you can pick their respective arch-nemeses: Joker, Lex Luthor, or Sinestro. Fancy playing a quick and nimble character? You’ve got Robin, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn vying for your attention. Big, burly hulks more your thing? No worries, you can choose between Doomsday, Bane, Solomon Grundy. Wanting to wield some feminine power? There’s Wonder Woman, Raven, Killer Frost too.
For those who have played Mortal Kombat (or any kind of fighting game, for that matter), Injustice: Gods Among Us will feel familiar in its gameplay. Very simply, it’s a fight till whoever’s left standing. I say that instead of ‘to the death’, as unlike Mortal Kombat, when someone’s health runs out, rather than falling over dead, the character just thuds to the floor on his/her butt, slapping the ground with a palm as if to say, ‘Ok, I’m done’.
Whether you win or lose a round, you’re rewarded XP – you just get more if you win, is all! You’ll also gain Access Cards and Armory Keys as you progress through the game (regardless of the mode you’re playing in). These can be used in the Archives (found in Bonus Content) to purchase extra content, such as different character skins, concept art, music, backgrounds, various battles – just to name a few.
In addition to basic punches, kicks, throws, jumps and blocks, characters also have their own unique set of moves using their iconic weapons and/or powers. For example, Catwoman uses her speed, claws, and whip; Aquaman uses his trident, summoning water and electricity; the Green Lantern uses his ring to create devastating items, etc. Some of these moves are reminiscent of Mortal Kombat characters. When Batman fires his grappling hook at his airborne opponent and yanks his foe towards him growling, “Get down here,” you can’t help but flash back to MK’s Scorpion and his signature move. Thankfully, NetherRealm used these familiar moves in characters that make sense (can you imagine someone like Catwoman executing the Scorpion move?), so it doesn’t feel like a rip-off and rather a nod to their famous franchise.
Similar to the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, you can chain together attacks to make Combos, which will fill your Super Move gauge at the bottom of your screen. Each section of the gauge can be spent to enhance an attack or break an opponent’s combo chain. Once that meter is full, get ready to wreak havoc on your opponent in an often hilarious special attack cutscene. These Super Moves are over-the-top and are sure to have you and your friends cracking up in no time. For example, Batman will beat his enemy senseless while programming his Batmobile to run over his foe as a coup de grace; Doomsday punches his opponents through the ground and keeps going from one side of the Earth and back up; and Harley Quinn runs at her enemy in a fake-out punch, only to slide through her foe’s legs while placing an explosive under him.
Another entertaining feature in this game is the 3D environments. NetherRealms added an additional layer to the arenas, making it possible to interact with objects in your surroundings – and this isn’t limited to destroying surfaces that you land against. During your battles, you might notice R1 flashing next to your health bar intermittently. By pressing R1 at the right time, this allows you to throw objects (e.g. a chair, piano, boulder, car, dumpster, aquarium) at your opponent, swing from a chandelier, toss your foe into the background only to have him/her bounce back… the list goes on! Not only that, but you may just be lucky enough to find that one spot at the edge of the arena that’ll slam your opponent up, down, or across to a whole new level. Even in the most tense of times, these scenes are sure to make you crack a smile – at the very least.
Unfortunately, not everything is worth smiling about in this game. You will quickly find that during the local Versus (and most other Single Player modes), you can carry on a conversation during the load times of each round. It’s when you stop chatting and stare at the loading screen that you realize that ‘My god, this is taking a bloody long time!’ Also, if you and your friend decide to choose the same character (and you’d jumped into Versus right from the get-go), there’s very little differentiation between the two ‘twins’. Instead of having blatantly different colours or outfits, NetherRealm opted for very similar hues for the matching characters, making it a nightmare to discern which character is currently doing the ass-kicking mid-battle. It got to a point where my friend and I had to scrutinize our characters, looking for that tiny shade difference. Sure, you could button-mash, praying that you’re aiming in the right direction (you’ll eventually land that kick, right?), but it would’ve been nice for the developers to have made at least one noticeable difference from the start, rather than requiring people to play through the game to unlock alternate skins.
Furthermore, Injustice: Gods Among Us lacks any type of finishing moves such as the Mortal Kombat fatalities. These brutal combos often required quite a bit of finesse to pull off the rapid button taps that triggered them, giving the surviving player one last chance to gloat over his/her opponent. Removing these makes the game feel a bit incomplete, especially considering that even the 2008 Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe featured “Heroic Brutalities” for the characters. Although it can be argued that Injustice’s Special Moves are similar in nature, you’re still left wanting a bit more at the end of the round, making each fight feel somewhat anticlimactic.
Aside from the Story and Versus modes that most players will gravitate to, NetherRealm added quite a bit of replay value to this new DC-centric fighting game. For those of you seeking to perfect your skills, jump into Training to practice your moves as any character. This mode gives you the chance to learn and master move-sets, providing an AI enemy that can have varying difficulties (from just standing there to fighting back like a pro), and identifying each of your button-presses in real time. The Battles mode is very much like Mortal Kombat’s Tower; here, you’ll select any character and fight a series of enemies one by one. At the end of your chosen character’s final battle, you’ll watch a snippet of his/her story in addendum to whatever happens in Story mode.
If you want even more content, head over to the S.T.A.R. Labs, which contains 240 character-specific challenges (such as quick-time events where you must match the buttons shown on-screen, avoid getting hit for the full round, or executing move combos a certain number of times). Each character has 10 missions, and upon successfully completing each one, players will earn up to three stars. Collect enough stars, and the next set of challenges will unlock. While the Labs definitely add to the plot, players will feel like they’re reading a comic rather than watching a movie, as all dialogue in the S.T.A.R. Labs are text-based with no voice-acting.
Although there are a few issues present in Injustice, you’ll be hard-pressed to do anything other than marvel at the game’s graphics. From the menu through to the credits, Injustice is truly a work of art. The battle arenas are taken from different DC comics, allowing you to play in various spots of Wayne Manor (including the Bat Cave), Wonder Woman’s Themyscira, the Justice League’s Watch Tower, Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, and more! Each environment is dynamic and carefully detailed, giving players something to explore through battles. It’ll become a game within itself, trying to find out what pieces of the environment you can interact with and in what ways.
Oftentimes in games, you’ll have an either/or situation for graphics: the environments are awesome and the characters leave something to be desired, or vice versa. Not surprisingly, the character designs in Injustice are of the same high caliber as their surroundings. Minute changes between one universe’s heroes and another’s give players an idea of the types of hardships High Councilor Superman and his world has had to deal with. Even though there are only five years between our two universes, you can clearly see the years etched in the ‘evil’ Superman’s face, as if his ordeals have added decades to his mind and heart. Or clever costuming lets you have a glimpse of a Harley Quinn who’s matured and gained independence away from Joker, versus her alternate counterpart’s school-girl ways. The subtle detailing in character design is arguably more powerful than discourse.
To further add to the realism, sound effects are injected at appropriate moments. Everything from electricity sparking out of a broken wire to the squealing wheels of the Batmobile is timed with precision, breathing life into the pretty visuals. Not only do inanimate objects sound real, but the superb voice actors infuse such emotion into these comic book characters that it’s easy to empathize with them. The developers obviously chose the actors carefully, as the majority of them are old-hands at lending their voices to characters. For instance, Superman is George Newbern, who played the same character in Superman vs. The Elite and the DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection; Firefly’s Adam Baldwin (who’s no stranger to the big screen or video games) puts his voice to good use as the Green Lantern; and Stephen Arnell who plays Green Arrow also portrays the same character in the new TV series Arrow. Whether they’re new or veterans to the comic genre, Injustice’s voice actors truly complete the package, and fans will be wishing that they could hear more in the other Single Player modes!
Every blockbuster hit (be it a movie or game) needs a grand score to accompany it, and this game has that in spades. The orchestral music is as beautiful as the visuals are, solemn and haunting at times of sorrow during the cutscenes, or building to a crescendo as a raging battle climaxes. For each situation, a fitting song plays in the background, sometimes fading to accent each grunt of pain or snarl of frustration. Unlike some games where players may want to turn down the volume to drown out boring or annoying music, Injustice: Gods Among Us features a superb soundtrack that will at times pull at your heartstrings, or motivate you to go to war. Players will most likely be turning up the sound system just to get that fire in their blood.
At the end of the day, Injustice: Gods Among Us is true to its name. It’s a surprisingly well-rounded package of spectacular visuals, immersive sound effects, great voice actors, and a truly compelling story that explores the darker side of humanity, showing us once again that these heroes are very much human in their emotions. Although there are a few issues, namely the long load times, indiscernible differences in matching characters’ outfits, and lack of ‘fatality’ moves, your frustrations will quickly melt into laughter as you play through this game. Whether you’re delving into the Story or pummeling your friends in Versus Mode, this is one hell of an entertaining title that should make its way onto people’s shelves.
Final score: 4.25/5
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