Crazy but, it’s true, it’s merely been just over a year since the first announcement of NetherRealm studios DC superhero fighter Injustice: Gods Among Us, a title that piqued interest and raised hopes of superhero fans everywhere. The developer is no stranger to the genre, headed by Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon and hot off the heels of MK’s 2011 reboot it’s no surprise that expectations are running high. But have they been successful, have they created a title more worthy of the starring iconic hero’s than their paltry last attempt Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe? In short and thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes.
Instantly noticeable is that NetherRealm studios have learnt much from past mistakes and crucially from their reboot of Mortal Kombat – important lessons that have been put into practice in Injustice. That’s not to say Injustice is Mortal Kombat painted with a super hero brush; similarities are recognisable but welcome. The best bit’s have been taken and expanded upon, that which does not fit removed and, new suitable fresh mechanics implemented. The aforementioned disappointing cross-over between the two franchises had no doubt left a bitter taste in the mouth of hardcore fan’s of both. After-all DC has it’s own world rich with lore, setting and a diverse range of recognisable faces, something that has been noted – Injustice brims with attention to detail, a mesmerising homage to the stories which inspired it.
Like it’s relative Injustice is fronted by a unique by a 5-6 hour campaign mode that sees you play the story through the perspective of multiple cast members. It’s unlike a fighter to feature a serious narrative as a key selling point; Injustice admirably attempts to and, more impressively succeeds in making story a primary reason to play. Set in a dark alternate universe where Superman has become emotionally unhinged after being deceived into accidently killing his own wife, Lois Lane, by Joker. The guilt ridden former hero has stopped all war by effectively seizing control over the worlds population as head of his own oppressive regime. The line between hero and villain has become blurred as most rush to serve Superman in his conquest whilst a small remainder resist his dictatorship as part of the insurgency, lead by none other than the infamous Batman.
The story as a whole is a interesting idea, although sometimes a little more depth would be appreciated it’s hard to dislike what’s on offer – those aching to discover more could read the stand alone comic tie in for added exposition, however it would have nice to have in game. What really lets it down is the poor graphical quality in scenes outside of the battles, main characters retain their beauty but just about everything else looks muddy, jaggy and generally disappointing. Although sad it’s not critically damaging, as a whole it’s still a enjoyable comic book journey that keeps you gripped from beginning to end with plenty of action and, handfuls of humour. It’s helped in no small part to familiar and talented voice actors filing their roles as the icons, including the fabulous Kevin Conroy reprising his long time role once again as Batman.
There’s no shortage in the playable cast either with the 24 character strong roster making great use of the DC license picking out some instantly recognisable favourites like Batman, Superman, Wonder woman and Flash. Even less well-known DC hero’s like the Teen Titans have been given love with Cyborg, Raven and Nightwing all playable. They’re some much more obscure choices for hardcore fans too, like Killerfrost – the diverse line-up is welcome giving some of DC’s lesser names to take a deserved turn in the limelight. Of course there are those who feel missing but it’s not damaging – it was always going to be the case, lets not forget Batman’s rouges alone could fill out a whole roster.
The care and attention to detail that has gone into transitioning these fighters from comic book to game – something that is new for a lot of the cast is absolutely immaculate, each character moves, sounds and fights exactly as you’d expect. They’re no palette swaps to be found here every cast member brings something utterly unique to the table, each with the own differentiated fighting style – Green Lantern conjures constructs to aid in his struggle whilst Deathstroke shoots and slashes through his opponents, all animated flawlessly. The reverence and care that has been undertaken is evident throughout particularly with supermoves, (Injustice’s take on x-ray attacks) special attacks and unique powers, all of which remain true to their inspiration – for example Batman can temporarily call upon the aid of remote control bats whilst Doomsday becomes temporarily immune to knock back effects.
Where Injustice really sets itself apart from both it’s ancestor and the competition is in destructible; interactive environments. Whilst I’m sure many will find these to be cheap or annoying they work surprising well adding to the immersion, besides turning them off is always an option. If Superman is being beaten down he may very well pick up a car to catastrophically hurl into his opponent. Fighters are split into to two groups, power and gadget, other power characters will like Superman lift the car whilst gadget ones like Batman may use the car to leap through the air to flank their rival. Stage transitions are violent affair too allowing players to move between multiple battlefields in a single stage. They can be a bit out of character at times, watching Flash kick Solomon Grundy up through a 30 story building comes off a bit… impossible? However when performed by power characters looks awesome.
Like Mortal Kombat before it Injustice features a plethora of game modes providing plenty to do. Once your done with the story mode there’s a more traditional battle mode that has players select a character and fight through opponents until they face off against Superman earning a ending cut scene. In addition to the standard ladder battle mode also has twenty different types of challenges to fight through, ranging from the traditional ten fights to impossible a mode where you must fight the whole of Injustice’s cast with one health bar. Also making a welcome return is a re-skinned challenge tower named the S.T.A.R lab where players can engage in one off challenges as each character, a total of 10 levels per combatant means 240 stages in total for completion with three possible ranks to earn on each. Of course featured is a fully fledged online mode, which features standard friendly and ranked match options – I encountered no issues with lag whilst online – unlike the sort it’s predecessor was renowned for. Of course there’s a standard local versus mode to experience as well.
The host of game modes are all tied together under a single levelling system, experience is earned through all actions in any mode offline or online. Levelling up rewards players with tokens that can be used to unlock a wide range of collectables in game from new costumes to concept art. On top of that there’s unique icons and backgrounds that can be unlocked for your in game ID by accomplishing specific challenges. The biggest let down is that due to tying in with an iOS app version of the game all of the costumes cannot be unlocked unless you also play this version, effectively locking some players out of gathering all the collectables.
Like the Mortal Kombat reboot Injustice is very accessible being easy to pick up and play when compared to others in the genre, players should be able to select their fan favourite, seit back and enjoy. There’s five levels of difficulty that should happily accommodate players of all skill levels, even then if it’s still too tough Injustice will automatically make rounds easier each time you engage in them reducing the frustration of road block – no one should be stuck for long.
Injustice: Gods among us really is a beautifully realised homage to a world that so many adore, the story alone is worth the price of admission for super fans. Silky smooth animation, and wonderfully realised faithful recreation of so many popular characters make battles a spectacle to behold – it’s almost as fun to watch as to play. NetherRealm has clearly learnt much from Mortal Kombat and, though some resemblance shines through it’s for the better never infringing on the authenticity of the DC universe. Fans of the DC universe or Mortal Kombat’s last outing should find this a must play, with so much packed in it’s easily worth the asking price, it remains to be seen however, whether or not it’ll be just as loved by fighting fans.