What’s wrong with all the DC’s superheroes and supervillains in one single game? Absolutely nothing! Injustice: Gods Among Us is the game for every fan out there. Even for the ones who don’t like fighting games. The creators of Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm Studios, managed to develop a game and a story with a special regard towards the original material.
The story unfolds when a tricked Superman, after killing his wife and unborn child and destroying Metropolis, kills The Joker, the mind behind the plan, in a fit of rage. During a total of twelve chapters you will fight as different characters; against the ones who joined a derailed Superman in his mission to keep the world free of conflict. The story feels like your normal weekly comic or animated JLA movie. The awesome thing is that when it comes to the fighting you get to take the reins. For a DC fan it’s like nirvana. Every character feels unique and well characterized, with a combat style true to the very own nature and style of the superhero or supervillain. The respect towards the source material is evident in every aspect of the game.
Speaking of combat, the game uses the Mortal Kombat engine; with a gameplay focused on throws and juggling. There are no rounds, you have two lifebars, with a forced break after consuming the first one, to avoid an infinite combo; which you can manage to achieve, studying the moves list and exploiting the juggle mechanic and the interactive objects. Every arena has different objects which you can interact with; every character will use them in different ways. Power characters will throw and destroy said objects while gadget based characters will simply use the environment or plant an explosive to deal more damage. The problem with the mechanic is the fact that everyone goes for them at the beginning of a match, especially in multiplayer. But you can turn them off if you want. In addition to this, level transictions can move the fight to a different area of the map dealing damage to the player that gets thrown away. They also can be turned off, if you want a more genuine “fighting experience” but the overall environment delivers the feeling of a true clash between superheroes destroying the environment and using everything at their disposal.
During the battle you can build up a super meter, which you can use a part of it to power up a special move or you can use it all to unleash the character’s signature super move. Near the super meter you have an icon for a specialty, an ability which grants you a power boost, a shield or different special moves; these traits are unique to each fighter and play into their particular abilities and histories.
The overall game seems balanced but some characters have a tendency to overuse range attacks to keep you away and shoot you from afar, while others are based heavily on grabbing. It’s the variety of a fighting game but the way it is now, if you like a character that has an entire moves list of close quarter attacks and only one range attack you’re doomed at not being able to use entirely your favorite character and to spam a single special attack. The fighting games’ community can give a lot of feedback and adjustments can be made with a simple update. NetherRealm announced they want to treat Injustice: Gods Among Us as tournaments’ material so a bilateral exchange is fundamental.
And maybe a real and complete tutorial, with a deep section for how to chain attacks for a single character, would be preferable to the existing one. After teaching you the basis the game leaves you to yourself, experimenting random combinations of attacks. Clashes are another interesting mechanic. When activated, they instantly interrupt a combo, and then both players can bet an amount of their super meter. If the fighter who initiated the clash spends more, he regains health proportional to the amount spent; otherwise, he takes damage proportional to what his opponent spent. Clashes can be used only once per round, per character, and only if the initiator is down to his second health bar. The problem is that they seem a distraction and an unnecessary interruption. The good thing, however, are the one-liners that get exchanged during the bets.
After beating the excellent story mode you can venture in battles of 10 matches, from a normal one which unlocks an ending for each character to tweaked modes like an health bar slowly draining, only heroes, only villains or a steady health bar which doesn’t refill after each fight. There are even mini-games, called S.T.A.R. Lab Missions, 10 levels for each fighter, telling a story and requiring you to complete specific challenges in order to proceed. The problem is that you have to earn stars to unlock characters and if you want to use a specific hero or villain you will have to complete all the ones before him/her. As a whole the entire section feels useless and frustrating, unless you’re a pro player there’s no way you’ll be able to collect all the stars. And that brings me to a major issue. I’ve tried the Xbox 360 version and the controls are not responsive at all. With the thumbstick most often than not the direction is not well recognised and using the d-pad is even worst. Maybe with a PS3 controller, using the d-pad will improve the controls; but if you have the chance, definitely use a fighting stick. The game deserves it and you’ll do yourself a favor.
The multiplayer is really a well crafted section, with the usual 1v1 and the “King of the Hill” and “Survivor” modes. These two last sections are arranged with a spectator mode and a queue. The first in line is the king or the survivor and the second gets a chance to beat him. If he succeeds he becomes the new king or survivor, otherwise the next in line takes a shot. The difference is that the survivor doesn’t get a health regen between battles. While watching and waiting for their turn the spectators can bet on the outcome of the match and set different challenges to get an experience bonus. The levelling system allows you to unlock alternative costumes, concepts art, different battles and the soundtrack; which unfortunately is no where to be heard during the game even with the music volume set to the maximum. It’s a shame because there are really awesome tracks.
Ultimately, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a great game, with just a little bit of imprecision on the balance side, but nothing that can’t be fixed with an update. If you’re a DC fan but you don’t care about fighting games, give this title a try; you’ll find a great way of dealing with the license and a satisfying take on every character. If you like fighting games and you don’t care about DC’s heroes you’ll find it hard to pass over some imperfections. If you’re a DC and a fighting games fan you’re in heaven. Just leave the mini-games behind, choose your favorite superhero, or supervillain, and grab a fighting stick.
+ A true, satisfying and believable story set in the DC universe
+ Great use of DC characters
+ Every fight really feels like a clash of super-human beings
– After teaching you the basic mechanics there is no tutorial at all
– Shallow mini-games