NetherRealm Studios knows its way around a fighting game. Having spent decades with the Mortal Kombat series, the developer has occasionally delved into the world of licensed games, mainly involving DC Comics. Injustice: Gods Among Us is the latest example of this, pitting a roster full of DC heroes and villains against each other in deadly combat. Those with no attachment to the cast of combatants may find themselves lost in the story Injustice weaves, but underneath the absurd costumes is a solid game.
Players steeped in Mortal Kombat’s overall design will be at home with Injustice, even if slight changes have been made. Blocking is now regulated to back on the directional pad, and the main three attacks are classified as strong, medium, and weak. Variation comes into play for every fighter, as each has his or her own unique special move mapped to the remaining face button.
X-ray attacks have also carried over in the form of special attacks, each of which have their own extended scene that plays out as damage is dealt. Superman sends opponents hurtling downward from space, The Flash takes a few trips around the globe, and Aquaman calls in his shark buddies. They’re all well produced and never last long enough to be annoying. These attacks are fueled by a “super meter,” similar to those found throughout the genre.
Perhaps the most notable change comes in the form of environmental attacks, which are mapped to the R1 button. Stages are packed with cars to be thrown, turrets to be manned, and fancy computers to smash. The sheer number of different attacks is actually quite daunting at first, and will quickly become key to winning most fights. More competitive combatants may wish to disable these randomizers, which is entirely possible, but having them adds a nice touch of chaos. NetherRealm made a conscious decision to integrate this new mechanic, and the effort shows.
Even with these changes, the same core moveset of Mortal Kombat is still present. Chaining together a few simple combos for any one hero is easy enough, and with only a few moves in your arsenal, holding your own online is an achievable goal. Combat is quick, responsive, and satisfying. Rounds are also a thing of the past, as players are simply given two health bars. This helps make the fights seem much more cohesive, and keeps the action moving. However, outside of the core mechanics, there’s a fair amount to criticize.
The story mode in Injustice reminds me why I’m not the biggest comic book fan. Previous NetherRealm games aren’t exactly known for their storytelling prowess. But, one doesn’t go to those games for groundbreaking narrative experiences – the attraction is the absolute absurdity of everything. Injustice loses some of those extremes in favor of a more fan service-filled, teen-rated experience. Unfortunately, from my non-fan perspective, it suffers because of it.
Injustice loves its one-liners, and trust me, you will be drowning in them. Granted, these story bits are only meant to connect one fight to another. But as the game progressively takes on a more serious tone, the cringe-inducing moments begin to accumulate. Much like the comic inspirations, I found it difficult to take anything seriously with the often obnoxious character designs and general absurdity of the premise. Functioning as a lengthy tutorial, the story mode is great; as a piece of fiction, it’s pretty bad.
Character design as a whole isn’t doing Injustice any favors either. From Wonder Woman’s somewhat disturbing proportions to Killer Frost’s unfortunate faux hawk, the choices range from odd to just plain tired. Again, this is coming from the perspective of a non-fan, but the costumes fall apart under scrutiny.
But, outside of the story mode, the single player experience is still quite robust. S.T.A.R. challenges give the player more than 200 matches with varying stipulations, much like the challenge tower from Mortal Kombat. Players can also construct their own battles with a slew of modifiers. NetherRealm has shown once again that when it comes to the sheer quantity of single-player content in a fighter, the competition doesn’t even come close.
Multiplayer functions as well as can be expected. My various forays into the online scene worked with minimal lag, and most of the hiccups were problems on my end. Playing online also unlocks various pieces of flare that can be attacked to a “Hero Card,” which shows the online community an array of stats.
Even with my complaints, I still think Injustice: Gods Among Us is a good game. I genuinely enjoy the combat, and there’s an absurd amount of content to chew through. As someone without any investment into the worlds of DC Comics, the wrapper surrounding it just becomes too cheesy. Fans of NetherRealm Studios can still have a good time, but even die-hard DC fans will probably find the premise to be bit overwrought.
Injustice: Gods Among Us was developed by NetherRealm Studios and published by Warner Brothers Interactive. A PS3 copy was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes.