For this review of Injustice: Gods Among Us I have to wear two cowls. If that means anything to you then you probably have had more than a passing encounter with the multiverse of DC comic book characters, some the oldest in the industry and their more modern counterparts. Like me, you may even go as far to say you’re a fan of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman et al, and that is why I am going to attempt to put aside my inner fanboy and concentrate on the subtle mechanics of this fighting game.
Luckily, as this adaptation is in the hands of NetherRealms Studios, there are game mechanics and subtleties galore, both new and those brought across from 2011’s Mortal Kombat comeback. Unlike its predecessor’s cast of ninjas and cyborgs, every character in Injustice, from street level psychos to alien demigods, seems important. The variety of abilities, power sets and personalities that list encompasses gives each member of the twenty four playable characters that ship with the game their own identity. Even down to how they perform Stage Interactions, moves that allow players to utilise background scenery to cause damage to or escape from their opponents. The most over the top of these being Level Transitions that send players hurtling between sections of a single stage, usually by way of a cameo from other stars. All this creates a rich tapestry enjoyable by gamers new to the publisher’s properties and the DC efficienardos. Something often lost in other button mashers.
The pounding and crunching of a Doomsday versus Bane match is incredibly satisfying and dealing with super powered types one could presume that Injustice could be a one sided affair but the attention to detail presents a polished, balanced experience. Maybe with the exception of Deathstroke who is slightly out of kilter with his rapid gunfire making him the go-to character for online leveling. Although Deathstroke’s fighting style can be countered with a wide variety of wake-ups and juggles, including the Wager mechanic, a counter that forces combatants to “bet” a slice of their power bar to gain a sliver of regenerated health. This is very useful online, but merely annoying in the single player modes as it unnecessarily extends a match from an already inevitable conclusion. Injustice has a gradual learning curve, meaning casual fighting game fans have no need to learn long strings of combos and elaborate finishers, but the more committed are provided with frame rates and combo chains to study and perfect.
It seems NetherRealms are aware that games of this genre are not known for their deep storylines. Finding a working formula that can move fighting games beyond a truck load (sometimes literally) of punching and special moves, bookended by snippets of animation. The campaign mode continues the consideration of such a large ensemble cast, employing the same story device as found in their recent Mortal Kombat game. The player takes on the role of each character for a series of bouts, spliced with cut scenes that explore their motivations. Again, this allows for time with each of the heroes and villains meaning that each character is not superfluous, all adding a little to the larger tale. The problem is the total game length only comes in at around four hours, making it shorter than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
Even the mini games peppered throughout cannot bolster the run time. It is a surprise that the developers didn’t bring some more of these entertaining segments across from the separate and quirky S.T.A.R. Labs mode. Here you climb a ladder of competitors, each time tasked with a different match stipulation. Dodge Batman’s batarangs. Keep Superman energised using the Sun. Avoid The Riddler’s falling question marks. With a tiny amount of restructuring these may have been utilised to service the main narrative.
With Injustice, NeatherRealms have created a deep and intricate world that will sate comic and fighting game fans alike. Also adding another entry to what is adding up to a back catalogue of quality video games for DC, with a standard that maybe lacking in other media. Although it suffers from an undersized story there is more than enough to explore with the S.T.A.R. Labs missions and the now mandatory online multiplayer.
Injustice: Gods Among Us gets a super Bat-tastic 8/10
Name: Injustice: Gods Among Us
Developer: NetherRealms Studios
Platform(s): XBox 360/PS3
Release Date: April 16th, 2013