Injustice: Gods Among Us Review
A bunch of DC characters playing Mortal Kombat
Coming off the success of their last major release, 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot, NetherRealm Studios has once again released a very well polished and engaging fighting game with Injustice: Gods Among Us. By using some tricks borrowed from Mortal Kombat along with some new tweaks and refinements, Injustice simultaneously shows how great the core mechanics of this generation's fighters are and how little they have changed.
The story itself, as contrived and a bit bland as it might be, does a great job at serving any fan’s desire to see some of comics’ most beloved characters throw down. It starts off with the shaky and ridiculous premise of multiple universes existing and interacting. In one reality, Superman and the gang are just as normal and canonical as usual while another reality stars a murderous Man of Steel commanding mankind and abusing all of his powers to control and conquer. The plot’s trajectory is obvious and silly, but it works well to ensure that each major character gets their shining moment, which leads to a diverse campaign that encourages players to give just about every character a try. Despite using just about every comic book trope imaginable (the number of times a character encounters a doppelganger gets a little absurd), the story never strays to unbearable or terrible territory.
Of course, none of the story would go over very well if the combat wasn’t challenging and engaging. Just like Mortal Kombat, Injustice works incredibly well in terms of gameplay mechanics. A finely tuned fighting system and a large cast of unique characters both make for some of the best gameplay of the genre in awhile. Though Injustice looks and feels very similar to its spiritual predecessor, some minute differences separate the two titles. Each face button controls a different type of attack with varying degrees of strength, the exception being one “special” attack for each character. This special stack is fashioned after each character’s personality or abilities. Batman hurls tiny, electric bats at you while Flash controls time for his opponent, making them slower while he lashes out at normal speed. The addition of the special attack is an easy, accessible mechanic that goes a long way in making each character standout from the rest.
The special moves (not to be confused with the singular special button) are where Injustice starts to feel almost identical to Mortal Kombat. A combination of directions followed by a face button delivers a special move, and the commands are so familiar that anyone who has any experience with fighting games can figure them out after a little trial and error without looking anything up.
A super meter gets filled up as players perform specials or get pummeled too much. That meter can be used for two things: “meter burners” that enhance regular special moves at the cost of a fraction of the entire meter or a super ability that uses all of the meter. The super abilities, each a visual spectacle in their own right, have your avatars hurling devastating and stylish blows that can easily change the direction a fight is heading. They’re incredibly easy to pull off and a treat to watch, so I found myself avoiding meter burners almost entirely until I managed to land a super ability.
There’s also a mechanic that gives players close to death a chance to get some health back by gambling some of their super meter. With a quick tap of a trigger and a forward motion, you’re able to perform a clash with your opponent. You and your enemy will each bet a chunk of your super meter. The one who bet more ends up winning. If you’re the challenger and you win the clash, you get back a little health. If you win over a challenger, however, you simply deal a little bit of damage. For how much super meter you have to bet to guarantee a win, it almost never seems worth it to perform a clash. However, from my experience, almost every AI opponent I fought was bound to save some super meter until the end of the match just to clash with me.
The combat system in Injustice is great, but I could never shake that Mortal Kombat feeling while playing. For better or for worse (and honestly, it’s mostly for better), Injustice struggles to be its own game because of how similar it is to Mortal Kombat. In fact, the only aspect of the controls I didn’t like in Injustice was something that was changed from the basics of Mortal Kombat the block button. Instead of holding down a trigger to perform a block, Injustice tasks you with holding the back direction, something that also makes your character walk backwards if not timed with an opponent’s attacks. In other words, I think I would have actually liked if Injustice played even more like Mortal Kombat. It’s a catch-22, I know, on one hand, to say the game struggles to find an identity while also saying it needs to conform more to another game, but I do believe it ends up working more to the game’s strengths than its weaknesses.
You Get to Kick Batman into a Flying Helicopter……and it’s really quite fun. The interactivity of each stage in Injustice plays such a huge part in both the game’s combat and visuals that it stands out as one of most the entertaining parts of the game. Whether you’re smashing your opponent into a flying helicopter or picking up random, docile looking robot to throw at your opponent’s head, the stage you play on winds up being essential to how you play and how fun the game is. By pressing a trigger (or rather a bumper on the Xbox controller) button while standing near an interactive part of any level, your character can use the surroundings to chain combos and land effective, health-decimating hits.
Almost every stage features transitions as well. By performing a heavy attack on an opponent near a transition area, you can send your foe out of that area of the stage and into another. Your opponent gets tossed through a meat grinder as they’re hurled through walls and tossed all around for your amusement. Planning and successfully executing a transition is incredibly satisfying and an absolute blast to watch. Watching someone get side-kicked into the elevator leading to the Bat Cave or being hurled from one end of Metropolis to the other a pleasure that never seems to get old.
An Expected Suite of Modes
As is expected of any fighter nowadays, Injustice boasts a large variety of modes outside of the single player. Just as expected, these modes are almost entirely structured like Mortal Kombat; S.T.A.R. Labs acts as a replacement for the Challenge Tower and the regular ladder fights presented in just about every fighting game are there as well. The ladder fights, however, get an interesting twist with a variety of types. Some are mundane like playing an all hero or all villain ladder while others are insanely difficult like defeating every single character in the game with a single health-bar.
Ultimately, even if it seems a little derivative of other fighters, there’s a wealth of content to tackle with Injustice, and any fan could easily spend hundreds of hours mastering each character and game mode. The only qualm I have with any of the modes comes along with the game’s online play. Games like Survivor and King of the Hill work fine, but every time I tried to find a one-on-one match, particularly a ranked one, the time it took for the server to locate another player wasn’t worth the wait. It’s a problem that will likely be solved as the developers address server issues, but for now, it’s incredibly frustrating.
Overall ImpressionThe 2D fighter has reigned supreme this generation, and games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter IV have done a lot to evolve the fighting genre by crafting well polished, engaging mechanics and controls. Injustice works well by following what has been developed in other fighting games, and it certainly is a fun, well made entry to the genre. However, it also highlights where fighters still struggle in terms of delivering a decent narrative. Any fighting game or DC fan should definitely give Injustice a go, but don’t expect to do anything you haven't done in equal, if not better, fighting games.
- Refined and engaging combat
- Tons of content
- Aquaman isn't terrible
- A little derivative
- Ridiculous narrative and storytelling
- Some connectivity issues for online multiplayer