On my way home recently, I saw a subway poster for Injustice: Gods Among Us, depicting DC Comics characters The Joker really to take a crowbar to the Green Lantern. That seemed interesting, but when I found out that it was a fighting game, I didn’t expect much. Most of the fighting games I’ve played will just toss a number of characters together and have them fight without any real reason to do so. The only game of recent memory to do anything different was Marvel vs. Capcom 3, where you eventually found yourself doing battle with Galactus, but even then, getting to that point was merely a set of random battles from Point A to Point C. After finding out that Ed Boon, creator of Mortal Kombat was involved, I had a feeling the fighting would be good but still empty.
Injustice’s single player game is done in such a way that it gives every character (24 in all, half heroes / half villains) a chance to shine or fall. I haven’t gone all the way through it, but each chapter of the game focuses on a particular hero and the events in that have him or her confronting an enemy to further push the narrative. While I’m not familiar with the story behind it (I’ve always been more of a Marvel than DC fan), it’s compelling enough that I at least want to know what happens next.
The story starts with the full on destruction of Metropolis at the hands of The Joker. As Batman interrogates him, Superman intervenes and we come to find that The Joker somehow manipulated him into killing Lois Lane and his unborn son. The result of this knowledge causes the scene to end in a way that reflects some of the darker tones of the Warner Animated movies like Batman: Under the Red Hood. It shifts to an alternate universe story where – from what I tell – Superman is the ruler of the world with some of the heroes siding with him and becoming your enemies. Can he be defeated? Only crazy button mashing and timing will tell.
As fighting games go, the mechanics to Injustice are very simple. Rooted in the Mortal Kombat style of fighting, you have your basics. Back lets you block anything coming at you high or from the air. Down blocks low sweeps and kicks. Using the diamond formation of console buttons, your light attacks from the 360’s X button / PS3s Square button. Medium Attacks are the 360s Y button / PS3’s Triangle and Heavy comes from the A button / X on the PS3. It’s a good layout that helps the battle flow fast. Combos are also very easy to execute, most of them being of the quick left, right, button press or down, forward button variety. The B button / Circle acts as a special character feature. I thought this was really cool in that every character has either an ability that can be enhanced – Green Lantern charges his ring, Aquaman creates a water shield or Superman uses the Sun to make him stronger. For those were are less than meta, their gadgets / weapons change. Batman brings in a swarm of mini bats, Nightwing’s escrimas fuse together to form a staff and Wonder Woman switches from her lasso to her sword & shield.
InJustice also uses a meter system similar to Street Fighter IV. As you get hurt or string attacks, this meter will fill up in stages. You can use a stage to pull off more advanced moves or if you allow it max out, you can unleash a Signature Move. Some of them are very cool – Both Superman and The Flash have one that I love to do – while others – like Green Lantern’s and The Joker are smile inducing. These are fun, but it would have been nice to maybe incorporate 2 different ones per character. That’s just me.
The backgrounds are used very well in Injustice. If you happen to be near an object that can be used – say a car that’s parked in front of Wayne Manor, a quick bumper button tap lets you smack your opponent with it or throw it at them. Other stages have multiple levels that let you take the battle high or low and damage your enemy in the process. From the street of Gotham City, I sent Solomon Grundy into a chemical truck that exploded, and sent him flying upwards, bouncing off of various apartments until he landed on the roof of a building. That was downright awesome, and strung together with the right combo just adds to the feeling that you’re working with some pretty powerful characters. I haven’t smiled like that since some of my little brother’s Dragonball Z games. Other locations include the Hall of Justice, The Batcave, Atlantis, Themyscira, Arkham Asylum and The Fortress of Solitude. Some of the other locations have multiple levels that be accessed.
And that power can easily be abused, especially when the game goes online. As previously mentioned, the players are divided between those with superpowered abilities (Shazam, Superman, Green Lantern) and the weapons based fighters. I gave the online game a try, which has a number of different modes. While the one on one battles are nice, I liked the Survivor Mode that puts a player as the one everyone needs to dethrone. What’s sweet here is that you can alternate from a theatre mode that lets you watch two people fight or switch over to the current list of people who have waiting to take on the winner. The reigning champ only has so much health to work with from game to game, and I watched one fellow using Black Adam keep everyone at bay with distance shots. Another used Superman and just kept lasering the opponent. It has room for some cheezy moves, but that’s common with just about any fighter, I think. My Nightwing couldn’t even get close. Then again, I’m not the best fighter in the ring. Every fight you have, whether it’s offline or online gives you some sort of XP, which can be used to unlock and use new Portrait Cards, alternate costumes and backgrounds for your Badge (made popular by Call of Duty).
In terms of problems, the only complaint I have about Injustice is that I hoped there would have been more tailoring to the relationships between the characters. Other than that, the game’s just grand. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 had this system where depending on who you chose and who you were up against, you would get some banter that was character specific. For example, if your tag team of 3 in that game were made up of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, you’d have an opponent recognize that group as the Avengers. If X-23 faced off against Wolverine, she’d ask him who really was the best at what they do. Injustice does this to a small degree, only happening when you perform a Wager match in a round. Wager matches allow you to bet some of your Meter Power. This results in a scene where the players throw a line at each other before charging at full speed. Whoever wins gains some health. The loser has the opponent’s meter level match his or her damage. Sometimes it works out, other times, it’s just alright. I wanted more of that. My favorite so far is the Nightwing / Joker interaction:
Joker: “I liked you better as Robin.” / Nightwing: “I liked you better in Arkham.”
Overall, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a great game to play if you’re in either into fighting games or are a fan of the DC Universe. I’m curious as to what the downloadable content is going to contain.