Injustice: Gods Among Us
STORY: In an alternate reality, the Joker has destroyed Metropolis and has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn son. In retaliation, Superman murders the Joker in front of Batman in a fit of rage and establishes a new world order. A battle ensues between the forces of Superman's Regime and those allied with Batman's Insurgency. The Insurgency discovers the Justice League's universe where the Joker's plan did not succeed and transports several of its super heroes to theirs in order to help them defeat the Regime.
REVIEW: Before Injustice, the DC Comics universe crossed over to the fighting game universe only a couple times. Way back in 1995 there was Acclaim's Justice League: Task Force, and 13 years later came Midway's Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe. Needless to say, neither of those games lived up to the expectations of most fighting game fans or DC fans, nor did those games do much "justice" to the iconic DC heroes and villains. With a lot of pressure to finally do a DC fighting game right, NetherRealm Studios, backed by Warner Bros. (the team behind the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat) present their latest offering, Injustice: Gods Among Us.
When you're dealing with the likes of mega comic icons like Superman and Batman, making a game that's accessible to "beginner" fighting game players is obviously a smart idea. Injustice clearly caters to new players from the beginning, offering an in-game Tutorial as soon as you start the game. I was impressed with Injustice's streamlined, straight-to-the point Tutorial Mode to get you acquainted with the gameplay mechanics. I like a no-nonsense tutorial that doesn't try too hard to make you laugh, or take away hours of your life! Thumbs up.
In terms of gameplay, Injustice borrows a slew of proven-successful recipes from many past fighting games. Along with most of the staple mechanics you'd expect from an "MK game," Injustice's definitive gameplay draw is the environmental interaction found in each and every stage. Depending on where the fighters are standing, they are able to interact with various background objects, for instance: kicking their opponent into a helicopter, hitting a button that shoots out a missile, and/or sending their opponent flying into a new area of the stage. I was surprised to see that some of these stage elements can also be incorporated into combos, which looks pretty epic if you can pull it off.
The stage interactions also depend on the "type" of character. For instance, a power character like Doomsday or Superman can pick up a car and slam in on their opponent's head, while more agile fighters like Catwoman or Nightwing can leap off of the car in either direction. Furthermore, "gadget" characters like Batman or Joker can place explosives on a background object and quickly detonate it. While new and exciting at first... in the long run, background attacks can also become cheap and gimmicky at times. I find it strange that there's no way to "block" these environmental attacks, seeing as it shouldn't be a difficult task for most superheroes. Considering very few fighting games have ever smoothly implemented background interaction, I still give the dev-team originality points.
Taking environmental interaction a step further, certain attacks can send the opponent crashing into a new environment. When the single attack connects, a 7-10 second "transition" cut scene will occur, which basically consists of the receiving character bouncing off of random background objects, getting hit by trains or other vehicles, and/or getting the crap beat out of them by random DC characters for a short while. In my opinion, most of these cut-scenes look forced, silly, and too cinematic for a fighting game. Perhaps if the frame rate didn't drop so drastically, and the silly events that occur were less exaggerated, the end result would be more pleasing to the eye. The good news is, environmental interaction can be "turned off" for players who want to just duke it out traditionally.
The stages of Injustice are set in a variety of well known DC locations, such as Metropolis, Atlantis, Gotham City, and The Batcave. While there seem to be an over-abundance of Batman stages, the stage designs are interesting and offer impressive visual depth. Stages will also evolve... or rather, "devolve" throughout the fight, as buildings and statues come crashing down, and roofs randomly get blown out. This effect is definitely eye-catching in most cases, but sometimes it seems like the game is really "trying" too hard to make it dramatic. Things in the background often break for no apparent reason, causing the end result to be kind of melodramatic.
Of course, gimmicks like stage interaction won't hold the interest of the serious fighting game player for very long. Thankfully, NetherRealm put a lot of emphasis on the traditional 2D fighting mechanics. Injustice's core gameplay borrows a lot from Mortal Kombat (9), but also manages to feel somewhat original. Like I mentioned earlier, the game caters to beginners, offering super-easy Special Move commands, foolproof Super Moves enabled by hitting a mere "2-buttons" at the same time, and "1-button" for quick environmental interaction moves. I know technical fighting game players may scoff at such simple mechanics, but considering Injustice is a new franchise, at least the control layout makes it intuitive for almost all levels of players. Speaking of intuitive, NetherRealm Studios ditched the infamous Mortal Kombat "block button" for Injustice. Blocking is now done by holding back (and down back for crouch blocking)... Street Fighter style.
On average, most characters have about 10-13 standing priority moves, 10-15 "dial-a-combos," and 5-8 Special Moves, most of which can be turned into EX or "Meter Burn" Special Moves. Everyone's Super Move is done with the same 2 buttons (L2 + R2) rendering it completely impossible to mess one up. Of course, combining all of these together in the correct order can result in some very long, and very damaging combos. Also, due to the simplified move commands, there are quite a few "cheap and easy" combos that will take off huge chunks of damage, especially since Super Moves are so easy to connect. More complicated combos do require precise timing, but there are some very "simple" combos that really seem to do the job just fine. Personally, I think Injustice makes things a little too easy sometimes.
Injustice's Practice Mode has the standard features you'd expect from a competitive fighter, such as AI Options and Record/Playback. However, the recording feature doesn't allow you to practice against moves you've recorded, you can only watch your recordings... making it a useless feature. Another design flaw in Practice Mode is that it resets all of your settings every time you return to character select. For the die-hard players, frame data is shown on-screen for each move (in all modes), which is definitely nice. Along with frame data, all special moves (and some priority moves) actually have descriptions that tell you about the move. Having this type of information in-game is definitely a welcomed addition and something I'd like to see in other fighting games in the future.
Every character's Super Meter is visually unique, but functions the same way. The Super Meter has four sections, which can be used to perform "enhanced" special moves (AKA Capcom-style EX Specials) or initiate a super move when full. Another gameplay system called the "Clash System" incorporates players bidding on portions of their meter in secret, with the highest bidder winning the battle. The Clash is commenced with a cut-scene cinematic and results in the losing player receiving extra damage and the winning player recovering health. If you ask me, the Clash system is an unnecessary gimmick and makes many of the characters look (and sound) pretty goofy.
Next to each character's Super Meter, you'll also see a unique "character trait" icon, which is activated with a single button press (similar to Blazblue). Each character-specific trait activates extra abilities, increased damage, etc. On that note, the fighters of Injustice are indeed very different from one another, not only in terms of their abilities... but visually. Each character has distinctively unique jumping, dashing, and K.O. animations. I always appreciate when a fighting game goes extra lengths to visually diversify the roster, and Injustice did a great job at that. While the animation shines in areas such as this, there are also some visual flaws worth mentioning.
Considering this is a NetherRealm fighting game, it would be weird if I didn't bring up the animation quality, right? While they did a great job with some attacks and special moves, in typical Mortal Kombat fashion, there are still some laughably "stiff," awkward animations that leaked in... but only certain connoisseurs of fighting techniques will notice these. In fairness, NetherRealm has actually shown some of their most fluid animations to date. Damage animations look particularly good... characters do get knocked around pretty good when hit. However, I'm not sure I'm a fan of how characters quickly "spring to their feet" after the last hit. It really takes away from the satisfaction of a true K.O.
NetherRealm flexed a lot of muscle with the graphics engine, but overall, the visuals don't seem as polished as MK9. There are some great-looking effects, like stage destruction and visible damage on character costumes. However, one flaw that has plagued many past 3D MK games rears its ugly head once again. Indeed, most female faces are rendered horribly. Wonder Woman and Raven, in particular, seriously look like men from some angles. I don't know what the hell happened in the translation from the concept art to the in-game 3D graphics, but all did not go smoothly. In-game hair is also rendered generically and looks like plastic (besides Superman's, for some reason), but facial animations when characters speak in-game look believable. Besides some cheap skin textures, characters models do manage to look very good up close.
One prominent visual flaw is that the frame rate drops terribly during a lot of Super Moves, causing the on-screen action to appear "choppy". Also, many Super Moves seem to completely "take you out of the game". While this works well in some cases (like when The Flash runs around the Earth to punch his opponent), it ends up looking out of place in a lot of other situations (in Raven's or Ares's bizarre super moves which take you to other worlds, for example). It's the same case with many character win "sequences". Sometimes it works, other times... not so much (for example, when Green Lantern floats around with a bunch of 2D character sprites). . . Awkward.
Injustice's Story Mode offers more than the typical fighting game, and is actually a fun play-through. While the overall production value is impressive, the storyline itself doesn't manage to spark my interest as much. There's a lot of filler and predictable fluff. Without spoiling anything, I find the writing to be a bit lazy. Having multi-universes, and "good" and "evil" version of each character is a bit of a cop out (and gives them a free pass to kill characters off). The fluid cut scenes and entertaining dialogue kept me playing, but certain predictable scenes and random "Hey, you're here too? Let's just fight!" moments made me yawn. Also, nearly every chapter has an "unintentionally" funny moment or two... especially since the story takes itself so seriously. On a side note, I also found the first two chapters to be a bit insulting to women. Harley Quinn gets slapped around, and Wonder Woman gets a forced "charity" line or two (so that she seems important among the men talking). Good one NetherRealm.
To end on a positive note, I was impressed with how fast and seamlessly the fights started within Story Mode. There's also some unique character-to-character dialogue during "Clashes," which adds to the effect that you're actually playing a story. As I expected, the difficulty of Story Mode is pretty easy... allowing any random noob to feel like they're actually good at the game. I found the most challenging parts to actually be the mini games sprinkled throughout Story Mode. These mini game events usually involve you shooting things coming at you, or inputting specific button commands to keep the cinematic action going. As silly as they may be, the story mode mini games are fun and keep the mode entertaining.
A spiritual successor to MK9's Challenge Tower, the 1-player S.T.A.R. Labs Mission Mode is a series of missions (240 to be exact). Most S.T.A.R. Labs Missions are easy to pass, but I can see how some of them could frustrate some players. Oftentimes, one simple mistake means repeating the challenge over again, so a lot of patience is required on some missions. The missions offer a ton of variety, enough to keep me playing for quite a while. There are some really interesting challenges that'll come your way, such as: Reversed controls, fighting in the dark, fighting with low health, etc. There are also quite a few "2D side-scroller" games that'll have you beating up random bad guys, or dodging lasers (some are fun, some are repetitive). Every 10 missions is based on a different character, which are loosely based on the character's familiar storyline. The first mission for each character also acts as a mini Tutorial in some ways, as it asks you to perform special moves and basic combos in succession.
Injustice's Online Mode experience is pretty solid overall. From the few matches I played, there wasn't much lag at all. Following in line with other recent fighting games, the online experience continues to evolve and get better. Injustice's Online Mode features a few decent modes, including "King of the Hill" which allows up to 8 players in a lobby, and a 2-player Online Practice Mode. Like past MK games, the unlocking system will keep you playing for a while. Anything you do in the game will earn you XP, and you'll unlock stuff to customize your player card (AKA Hero Card - because the game "assumes" you're a hero). You'll also earn "Armory Keys" and "Access Cards" which are used to unlock concept art, music, backgrounds (where you can destroy everything at will), and new costumes.
Last Updated: 6/3/2013 Developer(s): NetherRealm Studios Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Artwork by: Justin Murray (concept art) Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U Release Date(s): April 16th, 2013 ( PS3, 360, Wii U)
June 6th, 2013 ( PS3, Wii U)
Characters: Batman, Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Solomon Grundy, Nightwing, Bane, Shazam, Cyborg, Deathstroke, Lex Luthor, Aquaman, Hawkgirl, Sinestro, Doomsday, Raven, Black Adam, Killer Frost, Ares, Lobo, Batgirl, General Zod, Scorpion
Related Games: Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe, Mortal Kombat 9, Justice League: Task Force, Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3, Marvel Super Heroes, Tatsunoko VS Capcom: Ultimate All Stars, Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition, Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, Blazblue: ChronoPhantasma
Gameplay Engine 7 / 10 Story / Theme 8.5 / 10 Overall Graphics 8.5 / 10 Animation 7 / 10 Music / Sound Effects 6.5 / 10 Innovation 8 / 10 Art Direction 7 / 10 Customization 8 / 10 Options / Extras 8 / 10 Intro / Presentation 7.5 / 10 Replayability / Fun 6.5 / 10 "Ouch" Factor 7.5 / 10 Characters 8 / 10 BOTTOM LINE
7.9 / 10
Review based on PS3 version Final Words: After 2 disappointing DC fighting games, DC fans finally have a fighting game worth playing. Injustice delivers as a new, yet traditional 2D fighting game experience, and acts as a respectable homage to old school DC superheroes and villains. For the casual fighting game player, there's a whole lot of flashy, "surface" stuff that aims to draw you in. For the more experienced players, you'll probably either end up hating or loving the game. While some fighting game fans out there are quick to jump into anything new and start studying frames... I'm not "sold" on Injustice.
Not to criticize Injustice's traditional 2D fighting game layout, but when I think of a super hero fighting game, I think of extravagant combos, super jumps, and even some proper air combat... it only makes sense right? I understand Injustice isn't trying to be Marvel VS Capcom, but it just seems odd that DC super heroes would ever fight so much on the ground (and ironically in the story mode cut-scenes, of course, they fight high up in the air). Sometimes if you squint, the gameplay just looks like Mortal Kombat all over again.
While the gameplay and combo system offers some new, intuitive elements, there are definitely some issues. Along with the ultra-simplified controls, one of my main gripes is that there are so many "spam heavy" characters in the game. With no high jumping or super jumping, and minimal dodging techniques, avoiding projectiles can be flat out annoying. Also, it's simply NOT FUN fighting against characters who have instant "homing projectiles," and those that can teleport all over the place. Lastly, stage interaction objects can't be blocked... WOW. The animations when characters grab an object and attack with it is also ridiculously fast, so good luck trying to dodge! Basically, if Superman is close to a car... you're f*cked. While fun for a while, stage interaction is still very much a gimmick to entertain the "casual" type of player.
Another thing that irks me about Injustice is that most characters appear very small on screen, making it harder to read their animations. The dev-team did put in some "readable" animations to telegraph certain moves, but when these moves are repeated (AKA spammed), some characters just end up looking silly... for example, Superman just looks retarded when he's spamming his Heat Vision. In the end, Injustice's "compact" character models really make me appreciate the exaggerated proportions of Street Fighter IV's characters, for example, which really "fill the screen" in comparison to Injustice's.
As you may know, NetherRealm Studios redesigned all of the default costumes. While I find some to be likeable, others are just plain hideous... and I know I'm not the only one who thinks so. In fact, the very first thing my girlfriend said about Injustice when she saw me playing it was - "Why did they make Batman so ugly? His costume looks like the shell of a cockroach." Indeed. While the "mechanized" look worked on some costumes, others just look overly complicated... and/or just plain ugly.
The saving grace is that NetherRealm also created a slew of alternate costumes based on several characters' past appearances in comics and TV shows... which is a huge fan service. So at least there are some solid costumes in the game, offering some nice customization options. NetherRealm is also releasing $2.99 DLC costume packs, which isn't a terrible price for 3 costumes. However, I can't say I approve of how they're releasing their DLC characters. Only 1 month after the game's release, and already there are 2 DLC characters available for $5 a pop? I can tell NetherRealm also strategically chose Lobo and Batgirl, more "likeable" characters, to be paid DLC. I call shenanigans. . .
I tried my best not to sound too negative about the game, but I'd be doing my readers an injustice if I wasn't completely honest. See what I did there? Injustice is a decent game, but it's missing a few "arcade fighting game" fundamentals (visual and gameplay) that keep it from being great. Still, compared to other superhero games (non fighting games), NetherRealm did a lot of justice for DC in the gaming realm. Maybe you'll like Injustice more than me, and I can understand why, if you do. (It really helps if you're a DC buff). To all fighting game players, I'd say Injustice definitely worth a try at the least. ~TFG Webmaster