Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us
What happens when heroes start teaming up with villains and everyone is fighting each other? Well, Marvel's Civil War but imagine that with DC characters. Toss in a good base of Mortal Kombat and you get Injustice: Gods Among Us. Is this concoction any good though?
- Worth The Time?Mostly
- Things LovedIn-fight visuals are great with fine character and environment details. Combat is rewarding and complex while the variety of modes offer plenty of distractions. Online component is particularly good fun and well put together. Despite a steep learning curve, the game is quite easy to get into and start enjoying. Multi-tiered interactive environments are refreshingly different in a fighter.
- Things HatedThe supposedly engaging narrative is ridiculous and bad while cutscene animations are terrible. Many character designs are hard to look at while a number of quick-time events serve no other purpose than to bore you.
- RecommendationDC fans will have a blast while there's a lot to like for hardcore fighters too. If you fit into both categories then this is your lucky day.
- Name: Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: 2-8
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U
- Developer: NetherRealm Studios
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Price: R549
- Reviewed On: PS3
My recently mended PS3 took strain, the five year old but still quite functional Sixaxis controller in my hands creaked with each furious barrage of button mashing, the plastic casing threatening to split in two. These were the conditions under which I played Injustice: Gods Among Us and it certainly was a fun experience in the briefest of descriptions.
Now, the Sixaxis nearly fell apart because I was not playing a calm and slow-paced stealth title or a reserved shooter but rather a manic brawler filled with intense hard-hitting fights that really do test a fighting noob such as me. Even aficionados seem to find the learning curve steep. The PS3 was not taking strain because of the game’s graphical demands, we’ll get to this a little later on, but rather because shortly after its return I thrust it into a world of abuse with prolonged exposure to Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite.
Enough waffle, time to start meleeing my keyboard and pummel a review out. Now, when you think about a fighting game involving characters laid on top of a Mortal Kombat foundation, most people shudder and remember the best left forgotten Mortal Kombat Vs DC Universe. This game was a poor attempt at aping Marvel Vs Capcom and it failed. That was when anything associated with MK was bad but since then we’ve actually had a very good Mortal Kombat game come along so surely a game which builds on that can’t be too bad. To be succinct and answer that unspoken question, it isn’t bad but Injustice does do a lot to separate itself from a brother whose initials can be mistaken for a South African music channel.
Straight off, Injustice attempts to set itself apart from contemporaries by aiming to have an engaging narrative. Sure, there’s a narrative and it’s even of the sort that you’d see across the pages of a comic book but it is so silly that you can barely keep a straight face. The notion of Superman losing faith in humanity and what happens subsequently is certainly interesting and I always like a good multiverse story (I’m not trying to give too much away here) but the characterisation and key plot points are banal and tedious. NetherRealms did manage to get most of the cast of the Justice League animated series involved though so Kudos to them. This does add some familiarity to the characters and also explains why all the voices seemed so natural for those characters.
Typically we wouldn’t give the story in a fighting game a second glance, all you need is a basic premise really and as far as I’m concerned “he said mean things to me” is reason enough to start a cross-country battle royale between two dozen people. The developer claimed they were focussing on creating a good driving narrative and yet here we are with disappointment on our faces. As a semblance of a premise it’s great though and does well to enact a Marvel Civil War type of affair where you have villains teaming up with heroes and vice versa in favour of a greater cause. There’s also a justification given for why characters such as Green Arrow can go up against Superman without having their spine broken but it’s not exactly something anyone with a pair of synapses would buy into so your best bet is to suspend belief. Truth be told, I was usually having too much fun to care about the fact that Batman really shouldn’t have survived that last grenade launcher to the face.
How it works is that the story mode takes on an interactive movie type of format, similar to the recent Mortal Kombat. Every situation that can lead to a fight eventually does and it’s great hopping from one hero/villain to the next and fighting your share of opponents before moving onto the next character. Each character plays differently, has a different fighting style and as such needs to be utilised in a different manner to succeed. There’s certainly no shortage of variety on that front and the character specific gameplay mechanics just add to the depth and diversity of it all. It does get a little tiresome though when the whole alternate universe facet of the story spawns more self vs self fights than anybody cares to have in a game. It’s like masturbation but with fists. Wait a minute…
Moving on, the game lacks a proper tutorial for novices and so it took me a bit of time to truly figure out what I was doing but once I did, the controls are intuitive and simple but that doesn’t mean Injustice is easy. It is in fact a challenging beast to master, even for the hardcore amongst you. This is thanks to a chasmic depth to the various gameplay mechanics and the tactics required in managing one’s meter.
Each character plays very differently, Aquaman relies heavily on speed and close-range attacks while someone like Green Lantern or Batman can succeed by keeping some distance and using their tools wisely. Characters vary greatly in terms of strength, speed, use of environment and their most effective attacks so it takes some time to truly master each one. This also means that fights are diverse and thanks to the MK DNA these same fights are intense, hard-hitting affairs that are often a spectatcle to watch.
There are around 24 DC characters comprising all the names you’d expect such as Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Joker, Lex Luthor, Flash and more. It’s a packed roster but it must be said that many of the default costumes are not too great. They’re meant to be armoured up versions of the normal costumes but come across as weird looking and there is a special place in my heart for the hate I carry towards the Earth One Superman’s costume. There are tons of unlockable skins including Batman Beyond and the Arrow TV series costume but many of these can only be unlocked by playing the unashamedly pay-to-win iOS version of the game. A real shame indeed.
With regards to controls and finer mechanics, the game uses a three button system where different face buttons deliver attacks of varying strength and directional blocking allows for quicker counters and faster cross-ups. The game sticks to its MK roots but improves greatly. Combining any combination of attack buttons with directional inputs produces a dizzying multitude of attacks for any situation and the staccato chaining system of combos is as satisfying as it is bone-crunching.
Each character has traits specific to them based on their abilities and this changes the way they deliver even the most basic attacks while the fourth face button is for character specific mechanics which allow for even more variation. Superman gets a stats boost by effectively going Kaioken while Wonder Woman switches stances between lasso and sword. It’s all very specialised and interesting to see how NetherRealms has incorporated each character’s traits in terms of fighting mechanics.
Each time you land an attack which utilises that character’s special abilities, throwing a gas canister while fighting as Joker for example, your meter fills a little more. Typically this would only be used for ultra moves but in this case your meter can either be used to activate those character specific mechanics, be spent on a wager in a Clash (combo breaker) or you could let it fill and then unleash your ultra attack on your opponent. These are often a spectacle to behold.
In addition to all this, the environments are littered with interactive objects which can be triggered or thrown at opponents and each environment is multi-tiered. To get to the next tier you simply have to initiate a level transition which is not only fun to watch but deals a great deal of damage to your enemy. The trouble here is that level transitions cannot be blocked and so an ultra attack followed by a level transition could be an insta-kill. This is not the only balancing issue. On the whole, each character’s strengths and weaknesses come together to form a diverse brawler rather than a game where everybody only wants certain characters and the rest are all useless. That said, one or two characters, Green Lantern in particular is overpowered while Wonder Woman seems pitifully weak.
Despite this, the fighting system feels rewarding, especially when you’re chaining combos together and get to cap it off with a spectacular finisher such as Superman’s where he sends his opponent into space before pummelling them back down to Earth.
The game also comes laced with a few bitterly dull and tiresome QTE’s but they’re a small price to pay for a title that offers so much. There’s the STAR Labs challenges which provide you with hundreds of tasks under unique conditions. Then there’s Battles which serves as your standard arcade-style ladder with unlockable tiers that apply different modifiers to fights such as time constraints or having to fight with a random character. There are also character specific endings for this mode. Of course there’s the run of the mill versus mode and of course a very solid multiplayer as it borrows very much from Mortal Kombat.
You can have up to 8 players in either King of the Hill or Survivor. The key difference being that in the latter a player’s health does not instantly regenerate after each fight. Spectators can also vote on the fight taking place as they watch on while a lobby facilitates some social interaction between players before they beat the crap out of each other’s virtual self. There’s also good ol’ 1v1. The online mode comes complete with a host of fun facts such as the number of capes destroyed and other such valuable nuggets of information.
Briefly, the game looks great and well detailed during fights but it suddenly becomes terrible during cutscenes. Facial animations are animatronic, Wonder Woman looks like a man and textures rise and fall like a teenager’s moods. It’s shoddy to say the least but at least the game looks good when it counts.
It may be far from perfect but Injustice is a good fighting game with plenty of variety and it certainly tries to do a lot, succeeding pretty admirably in most areas. The mechanics are sound and with a fighting system this deep, hardcore fighters could pore many hours into mastering characters. At face value though, it is great fun and a thoroughly satisfying experience to play as your favourite heroes and villains bashing each other to kingdom come.