Injustice: Gods Among Us is a game that focuses on one of the most disastrous ‘what ifs’ in DC Comics: What would happen if Superman lost his mind? The answer is to create a menacing one-world government fueled by his descent into madness. Built in the same vein as the successful Mortal Kombat games, NetherRealm Studio has scaled down the gratuitous violence just a bit and replaces it with sheer superhuman spectacle.
NetherRealm have gone one step further over other fighting games with Injustice as it not only contains the usual arcade and versus modes, but it also contains a fully fleshed out story mode as well. Injustice preys on Superman’s worst fear: that he is unknowingly used as a weapon. The consequences of this leads the Man of Steel down a dark path where he struggles with himself to do the right thing for mankind. Over the course of the the story the player takes on the role of several iconic heroes (and villains) of the DC universe as the fallout of the events are revealed.
Characters in Injustice build individual fighting styles off of the same basic set of controls. One quick combo for Superman has the same basic controls as a similar attack for Batman, but only the speed of the strike differs. Heroes (and villains) each have a ‘power’ they can call upon during combat. Injustice introduces these mechanics with Batman during the tutorial, allowing the Dark Knight to call upon mechanical bats that will circle him until instructed to attack an opponent by the player. Similarly, Superman is able to increase his strength for a short amount of time. Characters can also perform a ‘wager’, a move where each player bets an amount of their super meter against the other with the winner dealing damage or restoring their health.
Each character falls into the category of either ‘tech’ or ‘super-powered’, the main difference here is how fast a characters is. The larger, stronger characters are often slower to move, but also harder for an opponent to knock down. Many pieces of the environment can be interacted with, and the different types of characters use the objects in different ways. Batman, for example, could take an opponent and smash his face into the bonnet of a car. Superman would pickup the same car and hit his opponent with it. Each stage is also split into two to three different areas, and once an unlucky player is backed into a corner they can knocked into another section, suffering many injuries along the way.
Injustice also has a series of challenges, found within the S.T.A.R. Labs section of the game. The player is given just enough story to justify progressing through ten challenges per character. Progression through the missions can range from simple to fairly difficult, as not all are battles are against an AI opponent. Some require the player to dodge/destroy objects which can prove somewhat annoying given how some of the moves are performed. Not all mission need be completed though, as players can earn one to three stars per mission. The barrier for progression is low enough that getting ten stars over the ten missions is all that is required for the next set of ten.
As Injustice is primarily a multiplayer game, it does come with an online matchmaking service. Here players are paired up for single bouts against each other. Because the game is still fairly new, the skill level of the majority of players is fairly low. Characters with ranged attacks are favoured over melee, and fights are often won by sitting back and firing at an opponent. This is quite sad when much effort has been spent to make each character feel different, though as the game matures, so should the level of play rise.
Injustice for the most part looks like a 2D beat ’em up. It is only when characters interact with the environment that the arenas comes alive. Opponents can be knocked into the background, and transitions to other areas all show that there is a 3D world around the player. When a super move is performed the camera uses more angles than the singular focus found while in normal combat. Landing one of these moves and seeing a characters actions on the screen feels like a player has accomplished something. Character models are well designed and additional costumes can be unlocked through play or by purchasing DLC packs. At least four new chracters planned for the game further down the line.
While the music does add to the atmosphere of a fight, there is little to differentiate tracks between one another. Pieces can be unlocked for listening outside of the arena, and while they are not bad, they are unlikely to be found on any playlists. The vocal work does shine in game, as the main story is fully voice acted. When players perform a wager, each character speaks a sentence based on who they are fighting. Little details like this add much to the game. Voice actors from the various animated shows have reprised their roles for the game.
The strength of Injustice lie in its ability to make a player feel powerful regardless of their skill level. A single well-place combo or super move brings out the wonder in controlling an iconic hero or villain. Injustice is approachable at first, but playing online right now can feel like an exercise in frustration at times. Veterans of the fighting genre (especially Mortal Kombat) will feel right at home here. Fans of the DC universe will appreciate the game for its story.