I can’t say I was ever into DC Comics as a child and so my knowledge of its heroes and villains is restricted to that of TV and film, I suspect I may not be alone here and while I may not be the biggest fan of DC, I was particularly interested to see how Injustice: Gods Among Us would play for one simple reason – NetherRealm. The awesome studio behind the Mortal Kombat series and more recently the MK reboot which included a superb story mixing up all of the characters forcing you to use different fight styles – so what can they bring to the DC universe?
Superman has gone insane and has become a self-proclaimed god ruling over Earth, what led to this? The Joker laid a cruel trap where Superman sees his beloved Lois Lane die at his hand, causing millions more to die in a nuclear blast. The Joker tricked him into believing Lois was Doomsday and her heart was linked to a nuclear device, Superman’s rage spins out of control, kind of like Anakin Skywalker turning to the Dark Side. In this reality you’re either with Superman or you die. Hero or villain, it matters not, Superman has banded them together to make his own superhero army.
Who can stand against him? Batman has eluded Superman’s capture and pulls across a Justice League from another reality. As we cross over to this reality, which I presume is our modern-day DC timeframe; you’re introduced to each of the game’s heroes and villains, each conveniently dropping their name into an introductory cutscene so you needn’t worry if your DC knowledge is as limited as mine. NetherRealm tell the story well, leaving only one or two plot holes or absurdities in their storytelling and just like Mortal Kombat 9, you’ll get to play as the majority of Injustice’s characters.
As well as their famous combat style, NetherRealm also introduce transition areas, similar to those excellent levels from Mortal Kombat where you could knock your opponent into a new part of the level. This has returned on a grander scale, levels are much larger and beg you to knock your opponent through them to find new areas to fight in. Each transition treats you to a cutscene in which you pummel your opponent or watch them crash through the environment until the new area is revealed and you can continue the fight. You can also interact with each level and pick up objects to hurl at your foe, activate traps or kick your opponent into large objects in the background – each character will react differently to each object depending on their size and physique.
Throws are restricted to two different versions; each can be countered if you press the correct counter button. So if your opponent goes for a LB throw, you can break it by also pressing LB. No fighter would be complete these days without a super bar, the bar is filled by pulling off special moves. You can use a single unit of this bar to add some extra punch to your special moves by pressing RT or you can use the full bar to trigger a super move. Unlike Streetfighter, all you need do is pull the LT and RT together, some would argue there is no skill involved in pulling off Super moves and I tend to agree.
Each hero and villain also has character specific powers that can be used by pressing the B button. These range from power ups to projectile weapons giving an added depth to the punch, kick and special move combat. Another addition to the standard fighting mechanic is the removal of rounds, instead you have two health bars. Once your first bar is depleted there is a slight pause in combat before the action continues, once into this second bar you can activate a wager which is tied directly into your special move bar. When activated, each player chooses an amount of their Super Meter to gamble against their opponents chosen amount. One player is always the defender and one the attacker. If the defender wins the clash, then they recover a chunk of health that is determined by the difference of the two wagers, but should they lose then they will receive damage based on the difference of the two meters. The AI will rely on wagers far more than you will and always after you’ve just depleted your special move bar! Thankfully wagers are rather ineffectual, it’s an interesting concept but it all felt a little pointless and never really turned the tide of battle for me.
Attacks can be strung together just like any other fighter and you can even juggle your opponent in the air. I did find the combat to be a little sluggish at times which does mean you can plan for attacks far easier as your brain isn’t racing to keep up with the action. Blocking can be done by pulling the left stick away from your opponent or down and by tweaking it with the RT at the right moment you can push your opponent back a bit giving you some breathing room to get out of a corner. With all the different styles and abilities of the characters, it would have been awesome to pair up with another character to tag team another pair, alas Injustice is a solo experience restricted to the use of one character at a time.
Over the story mode’s 49 fights you’ll never feel like any are a poor rematch bout, each one not only fits in seamlessly to the story but each is fought with different characters and never feels like a grind or an over familiar match. You will be forced to use characters you love and loathe, but it’s easily completed even for newcomers. At the end of it you will have a handful of characters that you enjoyed using and can begin experimenting with further, story mode is very much like dipping your toe in the water.
Next up it’s tempting to jump into the multiplayer scene, although first it’s worth checking out S.T.A.R. Labs, these give you different mission objectives with each of the characters – you will most certainly improve your skills here! S.T.A.R. Labs stole the show for me, offering not just challenging versus battles with mutators thrown in, but a mode full of fun mini games, some of which are touched upon during the main story. The only downside to this mode is that you have to go through its set route of progression which means to get to your favourite character you may have a long journey to collect enough stars to unlock them.
You can also take to Single Fight for a quick dose of combat or take on Battle Mode for more of a challenge. This mode gives you a set of foes to face off against with mutators enabled that affect your health bar. In this mode there is also a Classic Battle, much like the arcade mode from MK it gives you the chance to experience alternative endings for each of the characters and you can also ramp up the difficulty, perfect if you found the Story mode too easy.
If multiplayer is your thing then you won’t be disappointed with all that Injustice has to offer. As well as Player and Ranked matches you can also setup or join rooms, this enables you to easily find like-minded players or a more relaxed group of gamers. This is brilliant for those who aren’t well versed in fighters; you can grab some online time without fear of being victimised by the fighting veterans out there.
Injustice may lack the speed of some fighters but its combination of interesting combat moves mixed with slugging it out proved to be a novel entry in a genre dominated by games that pull special move after special move, for me Injustice feels more like the boxing of fighting games. With a whole host of single player content and the added bonus of multiplayer rooms there’s plenty for fight fans to enjoy and if you happen to be a DC fan then Injustice: Gods Among Us is a win-win situation, even with a bare minimum of DC knowledge I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.