The last time we saw the DC super heroes duke it out in a fighting game, it was 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. This was also the last time Midway published a Mortal Kombat game, which put to end an era of sorts.
Midway started off strong with a fighting series that rivaled Street Fighter for years, but that soon faded away with the death of arcade fighters as well as putting out titles that just weren’t up to par with standards set during the early 90’s. Thankfully, the Mortal Kombat legacy was revived in 2011 by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, which brought back fan favorite characters and going back to the tried and true 2D fighting format. Oh, and with the last game being rated T, bringing back the iconic M-rated violence helped too.
Now in 2013, in comes Injustice: Gods Among Us and rather than jumping into the next Mortal Kombat title, Warner Brothers focused on doing justice for the DC characters the same way they did for Scorpion, Sub-Zero and the rest of the Kombat cast. Right from the first sights and sounds, you will notice that every comic character here is much more rugged and brutal than most of their other iterations. Superman isn’t the goody two-shoes you’ve grown to know this time around.
What also sets Injustice apart from its peers is its unique fighting mechanics, including interactive environments and dynamically different play-styles each character possesses. Each stage includes multiple interactive objects or areas and they are context sensitive. For example, if you want to interact with the conveniently parked car in the middle of the stage, a character like Bane will slam it on his opponent, whilst an agile character like The Flash would simply springboard off of it to make a quick getaway. All of the characters also play very differently from each other with their unique abilities and movesets. Green Lantern has the ability to grab characters out of the air with “Lantern’s Might” and Nightwing can change from long range to short range fighting styles with the press of a button. Bottom line: No two characters are exactly the same — not even close.
Not that a fighting game really needs one, Injustice includes a story mode that is a completely original story written by the collaboration of NetherRealms Studios and DC writers. A grand story is told and you fight the battles that occur within it. Moral ambiguity, parallel universes and twisting plots are all here to keep you invested to continue playing. After a handful of fights following one character, you move on to the next until the narrative is finished. The cutscenes are great to watch with some awesome voice acting to boot. Voice actors, Kevin Conroy (Batman), George Newbern (Superman) and many others lend their talents to the game to bring that level of authenticity only they can bring.
While playing through the story, matches are sewn in seamlessly. Mortal Kombat (2011) did this really well for its story mode and Injustice kept what worked. It does feel that some dialogue was forced in there to have an excuse for characters to have a fight, but I guess it can’t all be perfect. Another returning feature from MK is a mission based mode called S.T.A.R. Labs. Here, a mission is laid out and your job is to complete it. These missions range from dodging certain objects during a match to completing a match in a set amount of time. Each mission varies enough to keep things fresh and there is even some text dialogue thrown in there for some reading material.
Besides standards like Single Match and Training Mode, the last of Injustice‘s single player modes is the classic arcade-style series of fights. In Battles mode, you choose a character and face 10 characters. Nothing groundbreaking, but what is cool is that there are some variations here too. You can choose to fight against heroes or villains only or put a handicap on yourself with starting matches with a quarter of health or have a steady decrease of health with poisoning.
Online mode for Injustice is fully loaded as there are both ranked and player matches, King of the Hill and Survivor modes and the rarely included online Practice mode. Earning experience points to unlock costumes, icons and backgrounds takes place playing online and offline. Online is noticeably laggier than playing locally, but it’s not entirely unplayable. The ranking system is based on a TrueSkill system, so know that losing games will hurt your level — sorry, people used to the Call of Duty system of leveling up.
There are features in the game that subtly show time and care was put into it rather than being included just knock off a tick in a checklist. One of them being the pause menu having instant access to each character’s special moves list. With all new fighting games and new players, every first few matches consists of pausing, scrolling to the moves list option, then checking out the inputs. Playing Injustice makes it easy by making it a one button stop to see the special moves with the option of going into more depth for other moves and combos. Simple but efficient. Another is the inclusion of putting in-depth details about each move, such as start up frames, recovery frames, block advantage and hit advantage. Features that are not necessary, but very much appreciated.
NetherRealms Studios put a wealth of modes and features into Injustice: Gods Among Us to give players the most bang for their buck in a fighting game. Hours can be spent playing alone and even more while playing online. There is an abundance of content to unlock, combos to experiment with and challenges that are seemingly endless. Don’t be fooled — this isn’t a side project just to fill in the gap before the next Mortal Kombat game is released. NetherRealms has put together a fleshed out and epic fighter that is quite possibly better than their flagship series.