Injustice: Gods Among Us Review

DC’s greatest heroes and villains come together in an epic fighting game that delivers exactly what fans want to see.

Pro Tip:  Pick Batman.
Pro Tip: Pick Batman.

I’m sure that all the DC fans out there remember the last time your favorite heroes showed up in a fighting game.  Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was quite some time ago, but the pain from such a mediocre game still lingers in their minds.  So, I can understand that there may be some doubt lingering in those same minds as to whether or not the creators of Mortal Kombat can truly deliver a great fighting game starring the DC characters they love.  After the successful rebirth of the Mortal Kombat franchise with 2011’s release of, well, Mortal Kombat, the 9th game in the fatality laden fighting series, Nether Realm set its sights on the DC Universe once more.  Teasing fans with little snippets of information and a few characters, they had piqued everyone’s interest and fueled our hopes that this could really be something great.  Let me tell you now, I feel they were successful in doing exactly that.

In this alternate Universe, Hal Jordan went all Yellow Lantern.
In this alternate Universe, Hal Jordan went all Yellow Lantern.

The premise behind Injustice is pretty great, from a story standpoint.  Superman, responsible for the death of Lois Lane and the destruction of Metropolis, due to a plot by the Joker, has decided that he’s been too soft on the people of Earth, and becomes the leader of a new world order.  He eliminates anyone opposed to his views and basically forces anyone else to either join him, be imprisoned, or killed.  This sets the stage for some great battles among your favorite heroes and villains, with some of them switching sides, and working with their opponents to take down Superman’s regime.  The story mode is broken up into multiple chapters, with each one focusing on a different character and their role in the struggle.  Batman leads the way, and you eventually come back around and play as him a second time.  Not all of the characters on the roster are playable in the story mode, but you touch on most of the major ones, and have fights against the rest.  The thing that impressed me the most, was the way that you flow in and out of battle.  Story cutscenes flow smoothly into combat and then just as smoothly out after you’ve won.  There are no load times, as they are all hidden behind the cinematics.  This is similar to how Mortal Kombat 9 worked, but definitely seems to flow a bit better.  The cinematics do a great job of setting you up for the next fight, and they have some really great interactions between your favorite characters, and even some matchups that you don’t get to see very often, if at all, in the comics.

The brutality of this game is evident when you throw punches like this.
The brutality of this game is evident when you throw punches like this.

The fighting system in Injustice is heavily based on that of Mortal Kombat, but forgoes the dedicated “block” button, opting for a more traditional mechanic where you hold away on the d-pad to block.  This threw me for a loop at first for this type of game, but I got used to doing so in conjunction with the Mortal Kombat style controls in no time.  Combat feels very smooth and fast-paced.  You have a great variety of moves and combos at your disposal with each character.  A beginner can step up, take a look and the move list, and feel pretty confident as they pull off some impressive looking stuff without too much trouble.  Super moves are easy to activate by pulling the left and right triggers simultaneously, but they can be dodged, blocked, or interrupted just as easily, making it necessary for advanced players to work them into combos in order to pull them off.  There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve here, but people familiar with Mortal Kombat will have an easier time getting in and mastering longer hit combos.  Injustice does something else with its combat system that I haven’t seen in any other fighting game recently.  You can interact with objects in your environment to cause damage to your opponent, or avoid his attacks.  The characters on the roster are split into two different groups for these interactions.  There are power characters and gadget characters.  The power characters might throw an object at their opponent, whereas the gadget characters might just use that same object to leap out of harm’s way.  These interactions can be turned off for tournament play, as they can be pretty powerful and really turn the tide of battle.  In addition to these hazards, you can launch your opponent into another area of the arena.  This plays out in a brutal way as the victim smashes through walls, off buildings, into other dimensions, through helicopters, gets pummeled by speeding trains, and just generally annihilated.  Massive damage is inflicted by these transitions and they’re really quite over-the-top, but in a great way that will make you grin every time you execute one.  My favorite transitions take place in the Arkham Asylum stage, where smashing your opponent through a cell door leaves them at the mercy of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin as a giant Scarecrow rips off the roof and slams them through the floor to the other tier of the arena.  If you manage to send your opponent flying through the next cell door, he or she will run into Two Face, The Riddler, Killer Croc, and The Penguin on their way back to the area you started in.  The game is stuffed full of little cameos like this, and really provides great fan service for characters that didn’t make the lineup of fighters.  Then, there’s the clash system, which can be initiated to break you out of a combo.  Once initiated a brief cutscene plays out and you can wager portions of your super meter against the other player to either regenerate some of your health, or take massive damage if your opponent bets more meter than you.  These can provide some pretty tricky situations as you have to decide whether to use your meter to prevent your opponent from gaining some health back, or save your meter for a super move later on.  The scenes can be a bit repetitive, however, and break up the pace of the match, sometimes to your detriment.

Who will win!?!? Depends on who spent more meter.
Who will win!?!? Depends on who spent more meter.

There are plenty of options outside of the story mode to keep players entertained, ranging from online king of the hill style lobbies, to single player missions in STAR Labs, and even classic style arcade modes where you go through a roster of characters one after the other.  The latter of those types is capped with a brief cutscene showing the character you cleared it with.  The STAR Labs missions put you in various scenarios and have you complete battles or short events while being constrained by unique rule sets.  Some examples of this include: playing at Catwoman’s cat and sneaking through a museum, defeating a character while your health is being drained, saving civilians from falling debris while fighting an opponent, and dodging attacks from one side of the stage to the other.  There are 10 missions for each character and you have to progress through each in order to unlock the next set of objectives.  You can earn up to 3 stars on each mission, but I found myself struggling to earn just one star on some of those missions.  The other 2 stars require fairly high levels of skill for some of the challenges to be completed.  Overall this mode adds a lot of really great content for you to work through when you just have a little bit of time to play, and one of the other modes would take too long.  A trip to the Archives will allow you to unlock concept art, stage music, and alternate costumes for the entire cast of characters.  You can also spend unlock tickets on experience point boosts, although I haven’t seen a real reason to do so, since you progress fairly quickly through the levels, and the only things they unlock are customizations for your Hero Card and more unlock tokens for spending in the Archives.  I reached level 34 just by completing the story mode and was able to unlock almost half of the alternate costumes and quite a bit of concept art and music.  I’ve seen people online as high as level 146, so you can definitely get somewhere by using those experience boosts, but I’d rather have concept art.  I mean, who wouldn’t?

Plenty of stuff to unlock in the Archives, like this alternate Aquaman skin.
Plenty of stuff to unlock in the Archives, like this alternate Aquaman skin.

The online portion of this game works really well.  I was pleased to find that matches were lag free and quick to join.  You can set up a room for people to join and then challenge one another to single combat, or start up a king of the hill style rotating match, where the winner keeps playing until he’s defeated.  Players in these lobbies can watch the match play out and chat with each other using voice chat as well as text chat.  Before each match starts everyone spectating can vote for who they think will win and if that player will complete the challenge they’re working on.  These challenges can be selected prior to starting a match and award bonus experience for things like winning the match after getting the first hit, or landing a 10 hit combo and then winning.  There’s multiple difficulty levels associated with these challenges, and greater experience point rewards for completing more difficult ones.  After the battle plays out, the game looks at the votes and adds the experience earned from correct votes into a pool that builds up until someone dethrones the king.  That person is then awarded with the pool of experience as a bonus for defeating him.  It’s a nice system and lets you not only compete, but watch others as well and pick up some different tactics that you may not have thought of.

I would like to see this format adopted by all online fighting games.
I would like to see this format adopted by all online fighting games.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a really great game for fans of the DC Universe, but I can see it being enjoyed by fans of the fighting game genre in general because of the amount of polish and content present here.  One of the only negatives that I’m able to come up with, is that at times certain character matchups can feel a bit unbalanced.  This usually presents itself when a slow character is facing a fast character, but can also be apparent when you have a projectile focused character facing off against a character without any projectile attacks.  Nether Realm did a good job of changing some of the imbalances in Mortal Kombat in order to keep it competitive, so I have confidence that they will be doing the same here.  I can’t wait for the DLC characters that are going to show up in this game.  At the time of writing this review they have announced Lobo as the first DLC character with 3 more to follow after that.  If you are a fan of the DC Universe, then you should pick this game up.  The story alone is worth the price of admission, and you’ll find plenty to occupy your time after that.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get working on my Batman combos so that I don’t get completely destroyed online.

OXIDIZATION LEVEL: 4/5