Nearly a full week has passed and yet GNN still doesn’t have a review of Injustice: Gods Among Us online. You might be asking why, which leads me to tell you that this has been the most difficult review I have ever written. Seriously. After 10+ hours of gameplay, as well as multiple writing attempts, I have found myself unsure of what my thoughts are in regards to NetherRealm Studios’ latest fighting game entry.
For those of you that have not read the Injustice comic series, you should know that I’m going to at least spoil the first three issues and the basic premise of the series. Injustice tells the story of what guilt can do to a man, even the purest of men. In the story, Superman is drugged and tricked by The Joker into killing his wife Lois Lane, along with their unborn child. If that wasn’t enough, her heart is rigged to an explosive device that subsequently demolishes Metropolis. Superman, riddled by guilt snaps and murders The Joker outright, launching him on a path towards corruption. With Wonder Woman at this side Superman sets out to bring peace to the world at any cost, thus setting up the One Earth Government.
On another Earth the Justice League is working to stop Lex Luthor and his cohorts from a series of violence, culminating in giving The Joker a nuclear weapon. Right as the events near their destructive end the group is pulled into the world of the Injustice comics five years on. These events ripple out through the universe in NeatherRealm Studios’ awesome narrative storytelling style that they near-perfected in 2011’s Mortal Kombat not-so-reboot. While I’m not as practiced in the world of fighting games — the Mortal Kombat series is the only one I’ve truly enjoyed and spent significant time with — I think I can speak for most people when I say that this kind of single-player content should be essential, if not required in modern fighting games. Imagine Street Fighter with a dedicated story mode with full cinematic story moments and individual character battle stories, in addition to the highly popular multiplayer modes. Yes, I know the game has its story mode, but personally I never found it to live even halfway up to the MK series.
[pullquote][…]I’m not asking for Batman to sound like he’s being given a colonoscopy against his will every time he throws a batarang[…][/pullquote]The story mode in Injustice, while not quite as lively as the most recent Mortal Kombat, tells a very interesting story full of shocking moments well-played scenes. Almost any scene with Green Arrow in it ends up being worth quite a few laughs, which breaks up the mode nicely. My one issue with it is the decision to only allow us to play as the series heroes. Personally I would have liked to have the opportunity to play the villains of the game, while they’re setting up all their nefarious deeds. Yes, The Joker is a villain obviously, but his story isn’t played as a villain in my honest opinion. It’s not heroic by any means either, but in the end he just feels neutral.
Let’s not even get started on the mode’s ending, because obviously I won’t spoil it for you all. Allow me to say however that I found it to be highly disappointing, particularly after Mortal Kombat’s mostly surprising cliffhanger.
Battle Mode is also a bit disappointing from a story perspective. While I haven’t finished the game as every character, so far I have found the individual endings to be fairly dull. They don’t really set up a future for the character in any kind of legitimate way — I’m only assuming that there is a plan for a sequel in the books — and in most cases their isn’t any growth. Well, except for Harley Quinn that is, but she’s almost always the exception to the rule.
Combat in Injustice is everything you would expect of a fighting game from NetherRealm Studios, from the combo system to the ‘dial-a-combo’ special moves. Everything but the Mortal Kombat fatality system is intact, which is fine because how would fatalities really work in the DC universe? The game also adds in two new features in the ‘clash system’ and ‘super moves’. The clash system facilitates evening up battles based on a bit of a luck system. When your health drops to one bar — the equivalent of losing one round — you can trigger a clash which allows you to wager your built up power to potentially heal your character, while your opponent wagers in an effort to do major damage to you. These clashes, while annoying at times when you’re playing well, are some of the coolest moments in the game. Seeing the characters square off, shouting at each other, before running headlong into an explosive encounter is always entertaining.
The new ‘super moves’ in the game work like a combination of fatalities and ‘x-ray moves’, but ultimately they’re just an in-match finisher. The moves can be used at anytime once your power meter is maxed out, but it can be said that watching Superman knock a person out of orbit should be reserved for the final moment of a battle. These moves typically work as massive damage outputs, but with some characters like Solomon Grundy they give the character temporary invulnerability before they trigger the move. Proper use of, or not properly avoiding, a super move can completely change the tide of any battle in the game.
Personally, while I love the new features of combat, I find the overall experience to be uneven. I’m not an expert at fighting games by any means — barely competent probably applies — but I personally find it frustrating that the timing never seems to be 100% accurate, even when playing offline. Many times I find myself repeatedly attempting to do the same combo time and again while my character simply double-dashes around, flailing like spasmodic ferret. This has never been a problem for me in the past, but maybe it is just a dwindling lack of skill.
One thing that I do find interesting however is how useless special moves suddenly feel. We all know at least half a dozen special moves from the Mortal Kombat series, due in no small part to their practicality. It didn’t hurt that most of the characters shouted ridiculously insane things while doing them. Now I’m not asking for Batman to sound like he’s being given a colonoscopy against his will every time he throws a batarang or anything. It just feels like the moves serve no real need as most matches even on the hard difficulty can be won with little to no use of them. The lack of necessity in them feels like a step back, which is a bit disheartening.
Right off the bat let me just say that I can’t give a detailed account regarding the multiplayer component of this game. My skill is so dreadfully lacking that every single time I hop into an online match I’m destroyed in a matter of seconds. What I can say is that the interface for multiplayer and speed of connection is better than my other experiences with online fighting games.
The other side of longevity and replayability for Injustice lies in the games’ archive. This is the area of the game that you unlock costumes, concept art and view both unlocked endings and other imagery. The system is simple in that it works in conjunction with the leveling system to give you access cards and armory keys: the cards unlock further battle modes, concept art and xp boosts; while the armory keys unlock an additional costume for each character. This area is meant, like Mortal Kombat’s crypt to add replay value to the game as you quest to unlock everything. The major issue is that there just isn’t a lot to unlock.
At this point I’ve unlocked nearly every item available and yet there are still plenty of blank spaces where more items should be. These items however are only available by playing through the game’s iOS tie-in, something that is not possible due to my aversion to Apple products. A minor gripe perhaps, but I remember a time when I sat down to play a fighting game and the days disappeared in a flurry of endings and unlocked costumes & characters. Now everything is DLC, both paid and acquired otherwise, most of which I have trouble justifying as the game just doesn’t feel worthy of the price.
Speaking of costumes, and because I have nowhere else to put this, what the hell is up with Wonder Woman? Seriously, I know woman in comics sometimes have disproportionate bodies, but she is completely a thing of nightmares. Her chest compared to her shoulders and hips make no sense whatsoever, which just leads to a disturbing experience when she’s on-screen.
Finish Him! (Sort of)
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a perfectly serviceable, enjoyable experience. If you are a die-hard fan of the DC Universe or of fighting games as a whole, you’ll find a lot to love here. If you are however more of a casual fighting game fan, or someone such as myself who was expecting an update Mortal Kombat mixed with the DC Universe, then you might want to consider leaving this one as a rental.
3 out of 5 bananas
Joshua is the Director of Gaming for Geek News Network and Editor-in-chief for Constantly Calibrating. He is a co-host of both the GNN Gaming Podcast, Constantly Calibrating Podcast, and further podcasts that even he is unaware of. You can read more of his thoughts on gaming and everything else on Twitter @BearPunch.
"A man of many talents; Joshua is a gamer, writer, Sith Lord in training and a wannabe Time Lord. Assuming the mantle of Director of Gaming for Geek News Network, Joshua has made it his goal to bring the gaming division of GNN forward.
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You can read more of Joshua’s semi-regular thoughts on Twitter @BearPunch. He also co-hosts the GNN Gaming Podcast and the ”Constantly Calibrating Podcast.
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