Injustice: Gods Among Us
The idea of taking beloved superheroes from the pages of comic books and churning out a fighting game isn’t anything new (Capcom’s been operated that racket since the mid ’90s), and it’s the second time NetherRealm has attempted to do right by DC Comics. Unlike Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe or the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Injustice: Gods Among Us focuses solely on comic book lore instead of creating a fantastical cross-over, resulting in a fighter that serves up as much of a fanservice spectacle as DC followers could hope for.
Taking cues from the various multiverse titles littering the DC landscape, Injustice concocts an alternate world where Superman has snapped after being tricked by the Joker into setting off a nuke, killing millions and among them Lois Lane and his unborn child. After killing Joker, Superman has since created an oppressive regime that rules over the world with an iron fist. Only Batman and his insurgency stand in their way. It’s typical fare for this kind of setup: alliances have shifted, good guys go bad, and vice-versa.
Story mode doesn’t last as long as Mortal Kombat‘s, but there’s less filler and it moves at a brisk enough pace to remain engaging. There’s nothing earth-shatteringly new here, but once again few fighting games work so hard to have an actual plot, though there are annoying quick-time events that serve no purpose other than to provide a brief distraction from the actual fighting.
Also like Mortal Kombat, Injustice offers a massive amount of modes to choose from. Battle serves up a classic arcade mode, complete with individual endings, and various mutators that spice things up. Injustice‘s most sizable mode is no doubt S.T.A.R. Labs—similar to the tower mode in Mortal Kombat. Replete with hundreds of varying challenges, players must fulfill certain goals before unlocking additional content.
These can range from Simon Says-style challenges where players have to prove their mastery over basic combos to off-the-wall challenges like exchanging volleys of arrows with Green Arrow, interrogating Catwoman, and other countless absurdities. Completing them yields armory and access keys good for unlocking alternate costumes, backgrounds, and other ancillary items.
Like any fighter, the mechanics will ultimately determine its true longevity. Injustice‘s system bears some resemblance of the dial-a-combo mechanics and meter burns of Mortal Kombat, but also incorporates elements found in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The button layout has three attack buttons (light, medium, heavy) and a button used specifically for powers. Every power is different depending on the character, resulting in unique attacks, buffs, or other little bonuses that can be used to gain an edge over the competition.
Introduced is the universal wall bounce attack which is good for juggling opponents and also used for level transitions which highlight Injustice’s emphasis on using the background as an integral strategy. A well-timed attack can send your opponent crashing through walls and getting hit by subways, depending on the environment. Objects can also be used to clobber opponents with (even integrating fluidly into combos), but the downside is that it can become a tad gimmicky. Matches have the potential to become mad dashes to see who can get to an interactive object first. Luckily, for the serious fighters out there this option can be turned off.
Most of the DC universe is represented in the roster, though it does lean a little heavily towards members of the Batman family and rogues gallery. Famous heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow face off against their respective archenemies and there’s a good balance between fighters that have super powers to those that are just handy with weaponry and martial arts.
Still, the issue of balance is an important one, and there are certainly many ways for a player to abuse them in order to get a leg-up over the competition. With characters that can withstand nuclear blasts against those whose only claim to fame is a good left hook, imbalance be perceived. Strangely enough, each character in their own way feels overpowered and in some bizarre way this creates a sense of balance. The netcode itself is hit-or-miss, depending on the connection, working at times and creating frustrations the next. The best multiplayer experience is still sitting side-by-side with another player rather than online.
Another mechanic sure to cause controversy is the Clash system. Once a player’s health has sufficiently been whittled down, they can initiate a Clash in which they wager an amount of their super meter for a chance to regain some health. In what’s become increasingly regular, it’s yet another way to attempt to give a losing player a brief reprieve to change the tide of the match. There’s no nuance or real strategy to it other than holding onto a few bars of energy just in case the match goes poorly, and more often than not it’s not much of a game-changer.
Injustice expands on what made Mortal Kombat work and goes out on a limb with some fresh mechanics—some that don’t necessarily work—and a few holdovers that could’ve stood to be jettisoned (like the useless stance button), but it’s overall an inclusive fighter that has the spectacle to reel in new players as well as enough tricks for fighting game pros to discover as time goes on. Being a NetherRealm Studios production, it has a tendency to flirt with the superfluous, but there’s tasty meat to be found in the core combat even if not all of its mechanics mesh perfectly together.