Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, WiiU //Genre: Fighting
Platform played on: Xbox 360
Developer: NetherRealm Studios //Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
*Please note: Having played the game on Xbox 360, I did not get a chance to try out any exclusive Wii U controls and gamepad options
Injustice: Gods Among Us allows gamers to finally get the answers to a question we are always asking; What would happen if you took a bunch of DC heroes and villains, and put them in a fighting game… with a story?
Like NetherRealm’s other fighter, Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us features a story with cut-scenes to break up the action. Actually, it is more like ‘Injustice features a story with fighting to break up the cut-scenes’. The story of Injustice actually continues on from the comic series of the same name. If you have not been reading the comics, or even if you have been reading the comics, you may find the start of Injustice a bit confusing.
Injustice’s plot explores an intriguing idea; What would happen if something happened to Superman that made him want to control the world? Sure, Superman has been affected by Kryptonite before and done bad things, but this story does not feature Kryptonite as the catalyst for Superman’s wrong deeds. Instead, it features the death of a loved one as the catalyst. It also turns out that this Superman is in a different dimension to the normal DC universe. The surprising thing about this ‘other’ dimension is that the line between hero and villain is blurred because of Superman’s actions. Some heroes and villains are intimidated by Superman and join him, while the others choose to fight against him. Subsequently, the Batman in this dimension (that is, the one where Superman becomes a dictator) creates a device that brings some of the heroes from the ‘normal’ dimension to the ‘other’ dimension so that they can help him (the ‘other’ Batman) stop Superman. I bet you are confused already, and that was only a few sentences.
While the story mode presents an interesting concept, it is quite predictable (except for a few moments) and I feel it dragged on for a bit too long. I got to the credits of story mode in just under 6 hours on normal difficulty, but this time will vary based on difficulty and your skill level.
The most important thing to take away from the story mode is the short explanation as to how heroes like Batman and Green Arrow can withstand the strength of Superman and other stronger characters. How, I hear you asking? A tablet (as in a pill) of course, but let’s not dwell on that, let’s just say thanks to the tablet for allowing us to pit Superman and Batman, or Joker and Shazam, or Aquaman and Green Lantern against each other.
Speaking of those match-ups, Injustice is a fighting game first and foremost. Just like most fighting games, you have access to 3 basic attacks, special moves, special moves with a bit more ‘UMPH!’, and a super move. Each character in the roster of 24 (plus 4 DLC characters, one of which, Lobo, is out now) plays differently- with a few exceptions- and all have different strengths and weaknesses. The super moves are all really stylistic and over the top, but are great fun to watch. After a while though, it can get boring waiting for the cinematic to finish, however, it will always be enjoyable to see the Batmobile slam into someone. I am not that good at fighting games, but Injustice is similar to the Mortal Kombat franchise in that the controls are easy enough to grasp that you want to take the time to experiment with moves and combos.
Injustice tries to mix combat up with a few new elements. Instead of the usual ‘best of three rounds wins the match’ mechanic in most fighting games (excluding MvC), Injustice features a system where both characters have two life bars. The first layer is called ‘armour’ and the second layer is health. You have to deplete both of your opponent’s bars to win the match. However, once someone’s armour bar gets destroyed, the game is stopped for a few seconds. It’s an interesting design choice because it creates many more strategic options, whether you are winning or on the back foot. Do you use your super move to deplete your opponent’s armour and give yourself a breather or do you keep backing away hoping for the right moment to go into a massive combo that will turn the tides? There are so many things to consider during a fight, just regarding health.
Injustice’s unique combat mechanics are focused on turning the tide of the match. Interactive objects allow you to get out of tight spots, create that much needed distance between an aggressive opponent, or stop your opponent from gaining the momentum you had only a few seconds prior. Stage transitions are stylistic and cinematic, yet they can cause the momentum of a match to shift in your favour if you manage to get your opponent to the edge of the arena; either that or they jump over you and hit you into a level transition. The Clash system, while largely only used by the AI and based on betting meter to gain health or do more damage (depending on whether you instigate the clash or not), allows for a break in the action so you can regain your composure. Finally, each character has a special power that helps them. For example, Superman can gain super strength which makes his attacks stronger for a short while, or Lex can create a shield that absorbs a certain amount of attacks. Almost every character’s special power has a cooldown which stops it from breaking the game. All of these unique mechanics add something fresh to the tried and true formula of 2D fighters, and I really enjoyed them all.
Injustice is not without its problems though. After a while, it becomes obvious that the characters do not seem to be well balanced. There are definitely some characters that are better than others, and some characters that do not really stand a chance based on their move set (cough *Bane* cough). However, I feel Injustice is more about fun with friends than being the most balanced fighter for tournaments. On the contrary, the amount of characters with attacks that can be ‘spammed’ is alarming. This is not a problem when you are playing with friends and laughing about who can spam Deathstroke’s machine gun the best, but trying to play the game online without spamming moves, and winning, is extremely difficult.
Another problem I had with the game is the difficulty scaling system. If you keep winning, the game automatically increases the difficulty to give you more of a challenge, however, if you keep losing the game decreases the difficulty. I like the idea of this system, but it lead to so many unsatisfying wins. Sure, winning against a hard opponent when you have set it to normal is satisfying. However, that satisfaction is taken away when you keep losing to a harder opponent and then finally win, but realise the game has lowered the difficulty so much that the opponent hardly does anything. Sometimes increasing the difficulty gets annoying for other reasons. If I wanted to play on hard, I would have chosen hard, but I didn’t and I still have to fight opponents on hard anyway. I understand the curve will be great for players who are trying to test their skills, but when I’m just playing for fun, I don’t want to have to lose fives times before I can win, it feels cheap.
While the gameplay of a fighting game is the main feature, the visuals and audio of Injustice are on par with its gameplay. Injustice is a nice looking game, not great, not bad, nice. There is nothing that is going to blow you away, but the animated art style makes character models look crisp and smooth, and the frame rate stayed constant during my playtime. Each arena in Injustice has its own dramatic, super hero-esque score that fits the story and normal fighting. The voice acting is okay, but no one is going to be talking about it for awards, but they are not going to be talking about it being bad either (which is a good thing, isn’t it?). The game’s sound effects are also fitting for a fighting game. Attacks sound like they pack a punch and every other move sounds like two heroes (or villains) going at it- satisfying any who has every loved super heroes… so everyone.
Injustice is a fun fighting game that successfully implements some new features to mix up the strategy and flow of fights. While Injustice is a blast to play with friends, competitive players may find the balancing and move spamming to be a problem for professional play. Injustice’s large variety of game modes, and characters to suit all players make it the perfect fighter for gamers who may not be that familiar with fighting game mechanics. Finally, a fighting game where an age old question can be answered again and again and again!
+ DC characters in a fighting game
+ New combat mechanics differentiate Injustice from the pack
+ Fun with friends, fun in general
+ Story explores an interesting concept
+ Difficulty scaling system
– Some characters feel unbalanced
– Difficulty scaling system
Overall Rating: 8.5/10