When NetherRealm Studios announced that it would be developing ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ it set in motion an endless comparison between the upcoming title and ‘Mortal Kombat’. What NetherRealms accomplished however will make think you twice about what a fighting game can offer.
The framing device for all this fighting is woven into the story for the game. Most of the story has been built up by the comic-book series that came out before the launch. If you haven’t read the few issues that were released, and are planning on picking up the game, I would really recommend them. Not because you will miss anything crucial, but it does offer a welcomed depth to the narrative. Ultimately it’s Superman that causes this fray, after he decides that the world simply can not be trusted to protect itself, Superman assumes the role of savior and tyrant. This forms the divide, one side against another. The story isn’t without it’s overly dramatic moments and classic comic-book emotional rages but it does offer some fantastic twists. None that I will spoil for you.
I won’t deny there are some parallels that can be drawn between Mortal Kombat and Injustice, but I won’t be comparing the two any further. Injustice is its own game, a unique game and one that can stand on its own. There is a general combat-mechanic that exists between all the fighters, something that an experienced player would be accustomed to in a fighting game. Characters generally have a quad-set of heavy, medium and light attacks, paired with their trademark superpowers. Since the superpowers are such a major part of each characters personality I will start with them.
I’m a Green Lantern guy (we have the same name after all) and when I blasted Wonder Woman across the arena basically into the Earth’s core it felt great.
These powers are spread across a wide array of attacks, positions and speeds. These aren’t just ‘skinned’ attacks that are mirrored off another character, each superpower is completely unique and takes it’s own personal strategy to master and defend against. There’s basic powers like powering up Bane with his trade-mark VENOM, but then there are really interesting powers. Flash for example, you would think that your moves would just be super-fast and grant the ability to chain lightning combos, but NetherRealm really thought outside of the box. Instead, Flash is so fast that his opponent appears to be in slow-motion, while Flash continues to fight at normal speed. It’s just a great example of the little differences that can shine through when a developer takes the time to really think out a mechanic. Einstein would be proud of them, relatively speaking.
Average (casual) fighters will still be able to do combos, chain-attacks together and unleash some fantastic animations. The game has your standard combo-sets and even the more complicated combos aren’t very difficult to master. Although these chains are easily managed, the fighting is not. There are some great mechanics worked into this game for the more advanced player to test themselves against. The game adjusts difficulty by adding different elements, like a gauge that one must monitor for ultimate finishing maneuvers, or to execute overly-charge standard attacks. It’s another layer of difficulty for the advanced player and I was happy to see these small additions built into advanced game-modes. Not because I’m a great fighter, just the opposite. It allows me to battle it out with people more my speed while others fight against the best the internet has to offer.
One of the great features of the standard fights are just how fast and how seamless the combat is, at any level of difficulty. The animation is wonderful in this game and the physics involved are exactly what I’d hoped for when battling against such powerful icons. Punches, slams and powers, they all have a certain weight to them; which let me really get into the idea that I was punching someone through a skyscraper with superhuman strength. The game also deters you from just button-mashing, instead it’s the precise and thought-out attacks and maneuvers that work best.
The animation is wonderful in this game and the physics involved are exactly what I’d hoped for when battling against such powerful icons.There is plenty to keep you busy in the game, there are 24 fighters in total at launch and more are surely on the way with DLC and expansion going forward. Even your average comic moviegoer will know the majority of these characters and some of your favorites are surely to be present on the roster. The characters, like I mentioned before, are extremely well crafted and designed to mimic their DC Comic counterparts exactly. Levels play a large part in the battles, offering these unique moments in the game when you can get the upper-hand in a fight. These dynamic arenas are a great addition, and I suggest you learn them early. Though you will probably learn the same way I did when they are used against the first time. There’s also another popular mechanic in the game where you will move from location to location via cut-scene. Now these can be great, or annoying, it really depends how picky you are going to be. The problem is if it fits to the character you are playing. I’m a Green Lantern guy (we have the same name after all) and when I blasted Wonder Woman across the arena basically into the Earth’s core it felt great. Play that as Batman, and it just seems…off. Batman can’t do that, but I’m playing a game where a ring gives me powers so I’m not going to argue about it any farther.
Here’s the oddest part of my play-through, the cut-scenes actually look less detailed than the fighting scenes. It was so strange that I consulted other reviewers to make sure it wasn’t happening on my system of choice. I’m not sure exactly what happened in the development process but the cut-scenes are so well done otherwise that it wasn’t a major flaw. Honestly, if it was the other way around, it would have been worse so I’ll take the lesser of two evils.
For single-players you have S.T.A.R. Labs, which gives you a lot of single-player options and challenges to check off your list. There are some great mechanics built in here, like ladder-matches and handicap battles. If you were worried about single-player content being on the weaker side, I thought it was one of the best offerings a fighter had developed so far.
Step outside the online matches with human opponents for a while so I can talk about another key part of the game, the leveling structure. While you are playing the game, both online and solo, you are earning points. These points let you unlock different challenges in Battle modes. It’s something that you don’t normally see in a fighter and something that I hope gets expanded. In this game it kind of feels like a test, to see how well it plays out with the fans but I think that people will want more options with the system moving forward.
After you beat the game a few times with your favorite characters you will most likely wander into multiplayer modes. These were a lot of fun, and a highlight of my gaming experience. I’m normally not a multiplayer fan when it comes to fighting games (like I said earlier I’m not the greatest) but I did have a lot of fun with these game-modes. There is something for everyone, the standard “Ranked Matches”, the “Unranked”, the “Survivor” and “King of the Hill”. I think Survivor is going to be a hit, it has one player fighting off a group of opponents. Fight off as many as you can without ever getting your life-bar back and see how many you can take out before being defeated. There will be one guy that will be unstoppable, but you kind of expect that going in and that makes it more fun even if you lose.
I had no problems getting into games and staying connected. I know fighting games in the past have suffered these issues but as of right now there were no issues to report. What made Injustice great was that it was a hybrid of beautiful animation built on terrific gameplay. The characters are true to form, funny and mischievous when called for and solem and terrifying when expected. It’s not just a fighter with hero skins like I originally feared it would be. This is a game that was built specifically for powerful titans and I really like how much work went into both single-player and multi-player content.