From the makers of Mortal Kombat comes Injustice: Gods Among Us, a fighting game set in the DC comics universe and we’ve donned our capes to put it through its paces.
The first thing to say about Injustice is that you really need to check out the story. Even if you’re the sort that leaps into online or local multiplayer, trust me; this feature is executed brilliantly and deserves playing.
A surprisingly dark and emotional journey, the story has you using different DC characters for each chapter. Putting you in the boots of the likes of Superman, Green Arrow and Batman, the game steers you through a series of well scripted, excellently voice acted cut scenes which draw you into events and heighten the drama of the fights. The only minor gripe here is the inclusion of QTEs during some of these scenes, but thankfully they don’t occur too often.
I can reveal little of the plot without spoiling things. However I can say that anyone who has ever seen a cartoon or read a strip with superheroes involved will know the deal. That’s not to say it doesn’t do new things within that format, but it does adhere to a tried and tested structure. It is in fact ace, exploring themes such as the dangers of having superhumans with ultimate power and human emotions running around in the world. It’s also surprisingly (in a good way) long for a fight game’s story mode and took me just over four hours to complete.
But what of the combat? The system itself works surprisingly well and the basic mechanics will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a Mortal Kombat game before, although there is more to Injustice then that. The first thing to note is the accessibility of the game. I actually found it a bit too easy at first, so I switched to the alternate control style which required a bit more Street Fighter style joystick rotation.
The key to victory is in timing your dash in/out character movement and stringing combos together. On top of this you have the power meter which when fully charged, unleashes a visually impressive and highly damaging special attack. You can also use part of the meter to perform a stronger version of a character combo that launches your opponent into the air, ready for a tasty combo, or does a more damaging version of the ordinary attack.
Your health is a two-tiered affair, switching to the secondary health bar once the first is depleted. Your opponent does not switch to their secondary health bar once yours is depleted; it plays out like one continuous round.
What this means in gameplay terms is that winning a fight feels more rewarding since the victor nearly always has to dominate from start to finish. The downside is that there is far less chance of an ‘epic comeback’ of the sort you see in Street Fighter or other games of that ilk.
Online the fight lobbies contain huge groups of people, all challenging each other at will, which is still the best format we have for online fighting games. Despite some minor niggles (not being able to send out multiple challenges and no sorting system for opponents) I found it a pleasantly enjoyable experience with no lag issues to speak of.
Playing through this mode I was struck my just how important the environmental effects are to winning a fight. In certain areas in the level you can use objects to injure your foe. Everything from Superman chucking missiles around in a aircraft carrier to Deathstroke activating the Batmobile’s missiles. Animations are character specific too, so you won’t get Catwoman hurling chunks of scenery at people. These animations are visually arresting and do enough damage to make them a potential game changer.
Back in single player mode we get the S.T.A.R labs mode. Essentially a series of fights with specific conditions (win with depleting health, use a specific move etc) and mini games that are a slight step up from QTEs, it is a surprisingly addictive mode. It’s also massive, with a dizzying number of missions extending the lifespan of an already quite large game.
In the final analysis what shines through is the attention to detail displayed here. From the story explaining how Green Arrow could go toe to toe with Superman to the lusciously rendered menu screens.
Under all that what we have is a bit of an oddity; a game pitched midway between serious fighting game fanatics (an example; the frame rate of moves is given in the training mode) and the casual market. If you’re in the former group and want something both you and your casual friend can play together, then look no further. If you’re looking for a new game to test your formidable skills, this wont be it.
However I would add that when a game is made with as much polish and craft as Injustice, the thrill of getting a new challenge is secondary to simply admiring a brilliant visual universe wedded to a solid fight mechanic.
To sum up
It may not be Earth’s mightiest fighting game, but Injustice: Gods Among Us does have a heroic ambition about it. And that counts for a lot.
Version reviewed: Xbox 360