After the long wait since first seeing glimpses at San Diego Comic-Con last Summer, Injustice: Gods Among Us arrived last week. After all the hype behind it with its roster of heroes and villains facing off against each other in a Mortal Kombat style fighting engine, “What could go wrong?” we pondered. Famous last words right? Well, luckily the team behind Injustice: Gods Among Us at NetherRealm Studios pulled through and gave the best DC fighting experience to date that could possibly rival that of the Marvel vs. Capcom series.
On the surface, there is a huge appeal to seeing who could win in a fight between Batman and Superman. Comic fans won’t deny that but to create a successful fighter, NetherRealm couldn’t play by traditional comic book rules. While Superman and Batman may be on a level playing field in a comic setting where brain matters as much as brawn, no one is ever going to believe that the Green Arrow can beat up Superman or Doomsday… like ever (sorry Arrow fans). So while the appeal of the game is the premise, it is the nuts and bolts under the hood of Injustice: Gods Among Us that make it a solid fighter.
In Injustice: Gods Among Us, players get to choose from a roster of twenty four heroes and villains from DC comics (with four more including Lobo set for DLC) in a traditional 2D fighter. Each character has special moves and abilities based off of their comic counterparts. Batman throws Batarangs. Superman shoots lasers from his eyes. Aquaman sucks at life. (Actually, that one is a joke and the Aquaman of Injustice is actually a pretty solid competitor in the arena going along with his recent revival from the joke he was in comics years ago.)
But their moves aren’t limited to just what projectile they can launch or if they can fly. Different characters interact differently with the environment around them. While Superman may grab a car and throw it, Batman may jump off it to dodge an attack. Likewise Superman may smash a dumpster over an opponent, destroying it, while Batman pushes it at them, causing damage but allowing for the weapon to get used another time.
In the game’s story mode, you find out just why Green Arrow can take a punch launching him into orbit and then be smashed back down to the earth without dying but when it comes to the actual gameplay, NetherRealm does an awesome job of balancing the combat. Larger characters are stronger, but slower. Speedy characters have more intuitive dodging and countering abilities (like Batman’s parry). The balancing is really well done and for a casual player, there are very few exceptions that lead to a character coming across as overpowered or underpowered. While on a tournament level these may become more apparent, the everyday player isn’t going to notice them.
Characters each are also given one super move that they can use after building up a meter through battle. Though impressive looking with a lot of damage, these moves actually can begin to feel a little old after playing a character for enough battles. While Marvel vs. Capcom allowed a few different super moves per character, the lineup of Injustice: Gods Among Us has only one each. While I obviously don’t know the space, time and technical limitations behind it, a little variety in this regard would have been nice.
The story of Injustice: Gods Among Us is actually a fairly intriguing one. Though ones similar to it have been explored, it hits on the question of what would happen when the most powerful being on Earth was pushed too far. And once he pushes back, who is it going to be that stops him? But more importantly, who doesn’t try to stop him? All of this is explored with some incredibly interesting results that because of the large cast of characters leaves little room for expanding on this without approaching spoiler territory. What can be said is that the characters ring fairly true to what you’d expect of them, even in their alternate dimension story that is explored.
Another important aspect of note is that the game looks brilliant. Maybe because it doesn’t have to build massive explorable worlds and has a relatively small total cast of characters, the team was able to put tons of detail into the models and environments. The transition between prerendered cut scenes and in-engine scenes is pretty seemless to just show how beautiful the game is as well.
And the Short
While Injustice: Gods Among Us is a solid fighter, it also doesn’t do anything to completely separate itself from the pack. It never makes the leap from hero to superhero, so to speak. It may be that I am a jaded gamer who has been playing fighters for the latter 2/3 of my life. But I won’t deny that Injustice: Gods Among Us is a great game. It delivers on all fronts what you want from it even though it didn’t bring to the table that added surprise you’d hope for from it. Fighting fans and DC fans alike will enjoy it, especially for multiplayer, same couch matches. Just don’t expect it to change the way you feel about super hero fighting games.
XBox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3, Wii U and iOS)
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Price: $59.99 (Standard Edition), $99.99 (Collector’s Edition), $149.99 (Battle Edition)