When you were a kid, you probably had a superhero you looked up to. And you knew they could beat everyone. Fans of the World’s Greatest Detective knew Batman could take on any superhero with only his wits and his gadgets. Girls that looked up to her knew that no man of any strength could stand up to the leader of the Amazons, Wonder Woman.
But what happens when the superheroes we admire most are the things we should most fear?
This is the question posed by Injustice: Gods Among Us, the latest release from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios. The fighter set in the DC Universe takes the premise of “Could X beat Y?” and build it into a Mortal Kombat-esque fighter of super proportions.
The title, released for PS3, XBox 360, and Wii U with a T for Teen rating, brings to life some of the most famous locales in the DC Universe such as Metropolis, Gotham City, Arkham Asylum, Atlantis, and stately Wayne Manor, and invites 24 of the comic universe’s greatest heroes and villains to wreck everything and everyone.
And trust me… it’s something you’ll want to do over and over again.
The Story Mode campaign is deeper than most fighters would even try to offer, but just what players would expect from a DC Comics game. And in true DC fashion, the story is a little convoluted so follow along:
Metropolis is wiped out. Gone. Obliterated. Millions dead, and Superman is nowhere to be seen. Authorities have linked the bomb to Batman’s archnemesis The Joker. As Batman interrogates Jokey, Superman crashes through the wall, and loses his crap on the insane criminal, to the point where even Batman has to step in and save the criminal.
Meanwhile, in a parallel universe (yes, you heard right) the Justice League is fighting off villainy left and right, including Bane and Lex Luthor, when Batman (this universe’s Batman, that is) discovers that (this universe’s) Joker has planted a bomb in Metropolis (sound familiar?). Batman finds The Joker in Metropolis knocking Harley Quinn around, and fights him, while the Justice League rushes to meet Bats, and just as The Joker is about to push the button on the bomb, a rip in some cosmic, comic-convenient fabric sucks The Joker and Batman into another universe (the first one we were in, just several years later). Batman and Joker continue to fight, when the “One Earth” army surrounds them. It is up to the heroes to overthrow the leader of One Earth, but the difficult task is not how, but who… as in who is friend, and who is foe.
Story Mode is set up in much the same way as several comics can become intertwined into one universal arc, really giving it the comic book feel. I can’t give away much more about the story without going into spoilers, but at the end of the twelve chapters, I couldn’t help but to want more… not because there was anything lacking from it. Quite the opposite – the story was so rich, so full, I just didn’t want it to end. It was truly as if DC and WBIE had made Story Mode an interactive superhero movie. The best part: not only were cut scenes skippable, if necessary, but pauseable as well.
Finally, someone lets you pause cutscenes. It took this long, but someone figured it out.
The graphics are nothing less than superb. The characters look like they’ve been lifted from the pages of the comics themselves, and the animation of the cutscenes is sleek and nearly flawless. Fans will recognize their favorite DC landmarks, and will enjoy trashing them during the fight. I also love the fact that you can not only trash the scenery, but use it as weapons to conquer your foes, be it remotely firing off missiles from the Batmobile in the Batcave, or smashing your enemy with an active giant robot in Striker’s Island. Most settings are multi-tiered as well; smashing your enemy up against a transition point will fling them in true comic book style to the other tier – because who wouldn’t want to smash The Joker up and over stately Wayne Manor via painfully being dragged along the roof?
Gameplay is easy to pick up, but not oversimplified. Characters have basic attacks based on their superpowers, as well as a series of throws and counterattacks. Each character also has a special “character ability” related to superpowers; for example, Green Lantern can use his ring to enhance attacks, Harley Quinn can pull surprises out of her box, and Wonder Woman can switch between her sword & shield and her Lasso of Truth. Fighters have a “super meter” which fills when damage is taken or when combos are successfully executed, allowing for Super Moves, which come with cinematic greatness and heavy damage. Some are actually pretty funny, while others… holy bejesus.
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For those playing on the Wii U, playing might take a little bit of getting used to as compared to other fighting games due to the set up of the Gamepad, but I found myself adjusting quickly. If you have a Classic Controller though, you may want to consider breaking it out for this game. Also exclusive to the Wii U is “off-screen play” which is perfect for homes with big families or roommates. What you see on screen is what you see on the Gamepad. Very pleased that WBIE went to include that functionality.
Online play is pretty standard to other fighting games. Players can play online for exhibition or compete in ranked games with the fighter of their choice. As you level up, either in online play or other modes, you gain access cards and armory cards, which can be spent in the Archives (modeled after the Hall of Justice) to unlock new skins, abilities, sound tests, and other goodies. Players don’t have to go online for some versus action; an offline two-player mode is available. (Wii U players, only one Gamepad can be paired to a console; a second player will need a Classic Controller.)
The game also has modes known as Battle and S.T.A.R. Labs. Battle is the classic ladder-climb with a twist: players can fight in Classic Battle – pick a character and fight opponents – or in variations of the Battle. Variations include Heroes Only and Villains Only where players can pick a hero or a villain to face the other side of the law; Poisoned, where your health bar slowly drains as the fight wears on; or Survivor, where your health bar carries over after each fight. It brings some variety and challenge to the basic ladder-climb set up, so you can enjoy on your own without having to find someone online.
S.T.A.R. Labs is Injustice‘s mission-based mode, based on the S.T.A.R. Labs international chain of private research facilities. Players are put through a series of tests ranging from the simple to the diabolically hard while fighting in “simulated” fights designed by S.T.A.R. Scientists.
If there’s any sort of black mark on this game, it’s S.T.A.R. Labs Mode, and it’s a minor one. When you first play the mode, roughly about ten missions are available to play. Unfortunately (unless you’re a big fan) the only character you can start with is Superman. Stars must be earned in the available missions to earn more missions; however, the next thirteen-ish or so are all Batman missions. So now you can only be Superman or Batman. I would have liked to start with other characters in their own mission arc as well. And the learning curve on some of these is steep, such as one of Superman’s missions which takes place in the Fortress of Solitude, where Catwoman has spread kryptonite all around, and you have to not get hit for twenty seconds. Sounds easy, right? Now remember this: Catwoman is skilled with long-range attacks, nimble and quick, and pretty much everything in the Fortress of Solitude can be flung at your opponent. Twenty seconds is FOREVER.
Comparisons will promptly be made between this and the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat – and it should, considering that NetherRealm studios made both, and both run on modified versions of Unreal Engine 3. But two keys are to be considered here: even with a T rating, the use of blood is present, but not nearly as much as in Mortal Kombat. In fact, true to DC form, the second notable differentiation is that superheroes never kill anyone after winning a fight. For those with children or younger siblings who wonder if they can let the younger among us play, your worries should be minimized.
Fans of fighting games, superheroes, and great storylines should all find something they love inside Injustice: Gods Among Us. Posing the question, “Who would win in a fight between X and Y?,” players will enjoy finding out the answers again and again.
Well, I mean, unless you get Aquaman involved. Because he can control sharks. Friggin’ sharks, man. You don’t mess with friggin’ sharks.
OM NOM NOM…
Final Score: 4.9 out of 5