I must admit that when Injustice: Gods Among Us was first announced, I could not have been more ambivalent about its existence. I loved Mortal Kombat, which came from the same developer, but the DC Comics brand did absolutely nothing for me (heck, I’m not much of a comics person either). It was easy to make comparisons between Injustice and Mortal Kombat – but I couldn’t believe just how wrong I was when I played Injustice for the first time. And that’s not a bad thing either! Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fantastic fighting game for anyone, regardless of whether they are a DC fan or not – and hopefully by the end of this review, you’ll also know why.
The Injustice story does a good job for a fighting game though it’s worth admitting that there isn’t a very high precedent set. Like any comic book crossover, Injustice toys with the idea of alternate realities in order to bring together everyone’s individual favourites throughout the entire DC comics franchise as well as allow the good guys to act bad and vice versa (you see, everyone in alternate realities has an evil twin, of course). Injustice opens with an alternate reality – Joker has destroyed Metropolis, and tricked Superman into killing a pregnant Lois Lane. In a (arguably) realistic retaliation, Superman murders Joker and establishes a new world order (somehow). Superman’s fast growing regime is subsequently pit against Batman’s insurgency, and thus the battle between the “gods” commences. It is cliché, it’s been done to death, but it works in pushing the story along as long as you don’t think too hard about it.
Injustice at it’s core is a traditional fighting game taking place on a two dimensional plane – that is, players don’t have to worry about moving anywhere except left and right. There are three plain attack buttons, along with a fourth which is reserved for a character specific trait (ie. Killer Frost can make her attacks freeze on touch; Batman can summon bats to do his bidding). A power meter is built when attacking or taking damage, and allows players to augment their attacks to make them more powerful (ie. Sacrifice meter for two fireballs instead of one) or initiate a super move (a high damaging, multi hit move unique to each player) or a clash. A clash is basically a cinematic event where players can both bet a portion of their meter, with the greater bet winning and either recovering health or taking it off their enemy. This is, of course, accompanied with a dramatic FLY AT EACH OTHER AND CLASH IN THE AIR WITH AN ENERGY EXPLOSION sequence which feels just perfect for a game of this calibre and tone.
What really sets Injustice apart from other fighters, however, is the interactions that can be made with the environment during battle. A press of the right shoulder button is how simple it is for your character to grab an item and use it in battle, or throw your opponent into a certain item. Throwing cars, throwing enemies into computers, firing missiles – you name it, most objects in Injustice can be interacted with to cause extra damage. Pulling off certain moves near the edge of the stage can initiate a stage transition – a cinematic event that pushes both players to another arena within the same stage, damaging whoever was on the receiving end in the process. Both of these parts of the game make the fights feel not only realistic but just like what you’d see in a comic book movie fight scene. It’s very authentic.
The character roster is quite well varied too, with each character being designated as a “power” character (someone who uses brute strength to get by) or a “gadget” character (people like Catwoman who aren’t superhuman but make the most of their situations). Each character interacts with the environment differently during battle – Catwoman might rig a car to explode while Superman would just pick the car up and throw it. This variety in the attacks does a great job at making the characters believable and at the same time on a level playing field, which is to be commended. Given that there is a huge variety of characters who rely on projectiles, while other rely on weapons and close combat – there’s bound to be something for everyone. Our only real complaint is there might be a few too many Batman characters; though it’s understandable as the franchise is easily DC’s most recognisable amongst the mainstream. This might be remedied with downloadable content in the future, but I am not holding my breath.
The game does feature Wii U functionality though the implementation isn’t really anything to write home about. The screen can be mirrored (offering a de-facto way to play off-screen, much like Tekken Tag Tournament 2 did) or a move list can be displayed instead. The game does have online modes that perform rather admirably – which is a good sign for the future of Wii U and it’s online performance. What is disappointing, however, is that there is no online lobby system as featured in other versions of the game, which makes it hard to match up with other players but by no means impossible. This is the second fighting game to utilise this system where another console managed to do it just fine – which begs the question of who might be responsible for this omission. Those who don’t want to use the Gamepad can use the Classic Pro Controller as well.
In terms of longevity, Injustice: Gods Among Us is an incredibly fulfilling package. Story Mode will take players no more than five or six hours to blaze through, easily. However, other modes such as “Battle” allows players to fight a line-up of enemies with unique features enabled (such as draining health, time attack and the like) and STAR Labs. STAR Labs are over 200 missions that force players to tackle unique situations with each character without being constrained by “canon”. It’s kind of like a bite sized story mode with an emphasis on the comical – advance through a level while dodging Joker’s pies, or play a match as Superman without being hit by Batman’s kryptonite coated batarangs. There’s a lot to do here and it’ll take at least fifteen hours to get through it all – not to mention unlocking all of the concept art and costumes available.
Graphically, there are times when Injustice doesn’t really hold up to other versions of the game – however most of these times are where it matters least (during menu browsing and what not). The game itself runs very smoothly – 60fps during actual battles and 30fps during cutscenes, super moves and level transitions. Some might find this change jarring, but it seems to be a necessary compromise to get the gameplay itself running smoothly. Textures are notably detailed – more so with the Wii U upon a superficial comparison too, which is good to see. The character models do a great job at adding to each characters personality, animating well with very little shared animation between them.
Given the wide range of characters – it’s encouraging to see that Warner Brothers and Netherrealm Studios went to the effort to get as many of the original voice actors for each character as possible. Kevin Conroy returns as Batman and gives a great and consistent delivery with his appearances in other Batman games, while Jennifer Hale gives life to Hawkgirl and Killer Frost. Grey DeLisle returns from Arkham City to voice Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) while Tara Strong gives an unhinged yet perfect performance for Harley Quinn. The soundtrack is well done too, with a lot of very dramatic orchestral tracks that sometimes feel like they’ve been lifted out of the latest DC Comics blockbuster. Looking at what Injustice offers as an overall package – when considering both soundtrack and voice work, it feels like a very well cared for labour of love, adding an extra layer of authenticity.
All in all, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a very solid fighting game that does two things right – it offers the right amount of depth to lure in the competitive audience in but at the same time makes the “cool” looking stuff accessible and enjoyable to newcomers to the genre. This is a fighting game that almost anyone can enjoy, regardless of whether they are a fan of the DC Comics brand or not. It’s just a shame that some integral online feature are missing, but this is offset by admirable performance when playing the game itself. The Wii U version is not as fully featured as the other versions of Injustice available on the market, but this doesn’t invalidate the game itself – which is thoughtfully created and incredibly fun to play. Something that I can easily recommend, without hesitation.