Injustice: Gods Among Us XBox 360 Review
If you’ve played Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and haven’t seen the trailers for this game, you may have some low expectations from Netherrealm and WB Games with this release based on DC Comics franchises, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Alternatively, with how well the Mortal Kombat reboot game was received, at least within its genre, you may have high hopes for the game. The real riddle is this – which preconceived notion is actually correct?
With this being a fighting game, it seems more fitting to talk about the mechanics first, and then go in to whether or not they work within the different plots and missions that the game has to offer. Luckily, the game actually has a tutorial mode available before players jump in to the story, so for the mechanics that aren’t so obvious, this is rather helpful. Although, as with all fighting games lately, there are combinations, special moves, and an ultimate move of doom (okay, it’s called a Super Move), there are a few caveats to it. You can amp up your special moves by draining the Super Move meter. There is a secondary combat power that varies from character to character, which either switches fighting styles, offers a temporary boost, creates an additional attack option, or damages opponents for a short amount of time. None of these options repeats between characters, at least in combat style. Similarly, the special moves of each character seem to be finely tuned to the combat style required to be successful with the characters in question. There are a total of twenty-four characters – twelve heroes, twelve villains – from across the DC spectrum, and although you do have major icons like Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor, and The Joker present, you also have lesser-known characters like Captain Marvel (Shazaam in the game), Killer Frost, Ares, and Raven. Admittedly, some characters that players might have wanted to see are subsequently left out, but that’s a small gripe, considering that the game has already got DLC on the way. Each character plays just a little differently, which lets players use unique strategies with each of them. They also have alternate costumes available, which, if nothing else, provides some interesting visuals.
There are two major differences in this game from other arcade-style fighters. One difference is the Level Transitions, wherein one fighter can knock another out of one stage, do an insane amount of damage, and get to a separate part of the same level. Doing this does reward experience, so there is more of a payoff than just seeing an enemy thrown through multiple concrete floors, smacked in to explosives, and banged off of helicopters and other mechanisms. The other difference, which also rewards experience for doing it, is the Clash system. Instead of using the Super Meter to do a Super Move, the player can, after losing their first health bar, choose to wager it in a combo-breaking sequence. Depending on whether the player initiated the Clash or is defending against it, victory means regaining some health or dealing heavy amounts of damage. The dialogue that happens during the Clash is always entertaining, and if done during Story Mode, it actually relates to the plot. Everything about the game mechanics makes actual game play quite entertaining.
As for what you use these mechanics to do, the major point behind why the game is called Injustice is something that Story Mode reveals. In an alternate universe, The Joker deceives Superman in to not only killing Lois Lane and his child, but also, with their deaths, to set off a nuclear explosion in Metropolis. Subsequently, even though Batman tries to get Joker to reveal how he got the nuke, Superman comes in and kills him. Five years later (fans of the current comic runs of World’s Finest and Earth 2 will get the reference), in the regular DC continuity (we’ll assume it’s New Earth), there’s a huge battle between heroes and villains underway in Metropolis. The regular Batman fights his way through Arkham Asylum to see if the Joker (still alive in the regular continuity) has used the chaos to escape. After fighting through a slew of villains, Batman encounters the Clown Prince of Crime, ready to detonate a nuclear device in Metropolis, and just waiting for Batman to show up to make it happen. Before the bomb can go off, a portal opens and sucks Batman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan, because obviously none of the others are popular enough to warrant being in the game, even though they’re far more awesome), Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman in to the parallel universe, dragging Joker along for the ride. It turns out that the Superman that killed Joker has turned Earth in to a totalitarian state under his One Earth Government, wherein heroes and villains enforce justice with lethal consequences. It smacks of Earth Three, except that they believe that they’re doing good and keeping the peace. The rest of the game involves both the New Earth heroes and individuals from the parallel universe joining together to depose the despot Superman and bring his allies to justice. Most of the plot is just typical fights that still do further the story, but there are also reaction instance events, wherein the player has to press certain button combinations in order to either not be disadvantaged against a foe, or to gain an advantage against said enemy. The ending of the game feels very fitting, but it does leave room open for a sequel, which could be quite interesting if done right.
As for the other modes, Battle mode is the typical “go up against a sequence of enemies and win so that you can see a special ending for the character you use” bit. However, because just fighting through the ladder is obviously a little bit dull after a while, there are two dozen different modes of Battle that one can use, each of which provides its own challenge, and each of which makes the game seem new and more challenging. The only real issue with the Classic battle mode, which provides character endings, is that there is only one ending for each character, and they seem to be based upon whether or not said character was an enemy or an ally – or both – in Story Mode. There is also a S.T.A.R. Labs mode, which offers a series of mini-stories through which players guide each individual character, attempting to accomplish a series of three goals (succeed in the mission, plus two flavor options) in order to unlock further missions. Some of the missions can be headaches, while others are incredibly simple. It does allow the game to expand beyond the basic parts of the fighting genre, and it tests individuals with their ability to control any of the characters available, so that is a plus. Finally, the Multiplayer game play (mostly only available if you use the service your console requires to access the mode) is mostly just going one-on-one with other players, but there are three modes. There is the regular one-on-one fight, which is just the typical game. There are also two “top of the chart” modes, with King of the Hill being a combat board where observers are both entered in to competition, and can bet upon who will win the match. With each win that the King gets, the extra experience available for unseating the King increases. Survival is apparently so unpopular that few people choose to play it, hence this review has no opinion either way. One great part of the game, however, is that it offers a regular offline Versus mode, so even without an internet connection, a player can still have some friends over to duke it out electronically.
The final aspect of the game, which the review has mentioned in a sidelong fashion, is the experience meter. Although players can gain quite a bit of experience during Story Mode play (it’s possible to get to level 25 by the end even if a player does quite poorly), once a player reaches level 30, it’s a far slower climb. Each level gains players certain things, mostly the ability to unlock things from the Archives section of the game, including alternate costumes, music from the game levels, concept art, and imagery (mostly from actual DC Comics issues or trade paperbacks) for an in-game data profile called a Hero Card. The card is mostly for online bragging rights, but it is still fun to mess around with it, and to try to reach the goals required to have more customization options beyond what one can unlock.
Ultimately, this game was much more a DC Comics version of the 2011 Mortal Kombat game than it was a one-sided attempt to re-make MK vs DCU. As such, Netherrealm and WB Games have made a very satisfying fighting game. It is not without some down sides, but fans of the genre, and of comics and graphic novels in general, should definitely consider putting down the cash for this game.
+ Follows the good aspects of fighting game design
+ Offers extra combat mechanics to make the game feel unique
+ Has plenty of ways to play the game
+ A story mode that is engrossing, and leaves players wanting more
+ Has characters both widely familiar, and some which are straight up fan service
+ Each character feels uniquely crafted, with the fighting style suiting him or her
+ Offline multiplayer options are available
+ Plenty of in-game extras
– Only one ending per character in Battle mode
– Some unlockables are underwhelming
– A few timing issues during combat
– Some familiar characters are not present in the game
Review Score: 9.0/10