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Over the past week I’ve spent a great deal of time with Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is the new fighting game featuring a wide variety of DC characters from Mortal Kombat creator NetherRealm. Going into it I knew that the fighting mechanics would be top-notch because of NetherRealm’s pedigree in the genre, but I was unsure how their formula would work in the DC Comics universe. It’s not like you can have Superman ripping spines out of his enemies and friends alike, so NetherRealm had a daunting task of convincing fans of their brand of brutality that they could make it work in the less gory world of DC Comics.

I’m happy to report that they did just that, and in the process they created one of the greatest comic book experiences in video game form. The story mode in this game is one of the greatest Justice League movies I’ve seen, and the best part about it is that it’s interactive.  Please continue on to the full review to find out if this is a game that you should be playing, because it’s definitely more than your standard fighter.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

9 out of 10 Buddhas

(Xbox 360 version used for review purposes)

The Awesome

  • Fantastic DC comics story
  • Wide variety of game modes
  • High replay value
  • Great fighting game mechanics

The Not so Awesome

  • Overwhelming amount of moves to learn
  • AI gets a little cheap on higher difficulties

Buy or Rent: Definitely a buy if you’re a fighting game fan, or a DC comics fan.

 

Story

NetherRealm changed the notion of what a fighting game story can entail in the last Mortal Kombat, and they carried that mantra through to Injustice: Gods Among Us. The single player campaign is essentially a 5-hour interactive Justice League movie that features a great story, mixed with superhero match-ups that have been debated amongst comic book fans for decades. Fanboys can live out their dreams of seeing Superman battle Batman, as well as Lex Luthor, and many other dream team match-ups in between. Best of all, NetherRealm made it clear that the battles could actually happen through some clever storytelling mechanics, because let’s face it, no one can beat Superman without some serious help.

I loved how seamlessly the story based cutscenes transitioned into actual gameplay, because it made me feel as if I were actually participating in the story that this game had to tell. Imagine flipping through the panels of your favorite DC comic book and having the ability to influence the outcome of the battles taking place on its pages. That’s the feeling that Injustice’s story mode evokes, and it’s the main reason why I had such a blast playing through it.

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Story scenes flow right into the action

The story itself is one that could only exist in comic book land, but that doesn’t mean it’s so far-fetched that it’s beyond ridiculous. In fact, it plays with the same concepts of alternate dimensions, the multiverse, and how decisions can impact the future of a particular dimension differently than others, which is very similar to Irrational’s BioShock Infinite. I found that playing through that game really helped me to keep track of what was taking place in Injustice as it jumped between two different dimensions and featured iconic characters at times battling themselves.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of Injustice’s story, because it really is an entertaining bit of comic book lore, but I can tell you that it portrays some of the most popular DC characters in a light that you may have never seen them in before. The main antagonist is not someone you’d expect, and this character ends up doing things that you never thought he could. Some of his actions may shock you, but that’s what makes this such a memorable video game tale, as well as a great entry in the long line of DC Comics lore. Personally, I enjoyed it so much that I’m willing to say that Injustice’s story is worth the price of admission alone, but there’s plenty of additional content to keep gamers happy even if they don’t appreciate the concept of a campaign woven into a fighting game.

Gameplay

Injustice: Gods Among Us features a gamut of single player game modes that each earn a spot in the limelight. The actual gameplay contained within each mode is very similar to other fighting games, but NetherRealm did mix in some unique additions like QTEs to set Injustice apart from the pack. They also made the stages a major part of each fight by including interactive objects that can be used to inflict damage on your enemies, or to send your foe into a different part of the level through a brutal transition. Rather than lump all of Injustice’s gameplay types together, I’d like to break down each mode individually to paint the clearest picture I can of the joys that each can bring.

Story Mode

I’ve detailed this game mode above, but I just want to reinforce how excellent it is. This menu selection provides 4-6 hours of awesome interactive comic book action, and it provides a solid DC Comics story that casts iconic characters in a new light. DC fans owe it to themselves to play through this game type, and it will definitely spark some debates from hardcore fans.

Battle Mode

This mode closely resembles the traditional tournament ladder found in nearly every fighting game, but it doesn’t stop there. Battle mode features the classic fighting game mechanic of taking on a lineup of characters en route to beating a boss, which results in an ending highlighted by a narrated voice over set to a static screen explaining the fate of the winner.

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Battle Mode features the standard fighting game ladder mechanic that pits you against 10 randomly chosen fighters

This nostalgic fighting game mechanic isn’t the only type of match that you can face in Battle mode though. You can choose to tackle special matches that have some sort of handicap, or requirement added to them to give the experience a unique twist. One type of match may force you to start with limited health, while another may require you to only battle superheroes. Many of these alterations to the standard battle mode game type need to be unlocked through playing the game and performing certain feats, so they provide all sorts of replay value for Injustice: Gods Among Us.

S.T.A.R. Lab Mode

I have to say that the S.T.A.R. Lab mode is my second favorite game type (story mode #1) featured in Injustice. These character specific missions offer the most variety in gameplay out of all of the modes combined. Each Lab is centered around a DC character, and everyone on the roster is represented, which results in nearly 240 missions to conquer in total.

Mission objectives range from beating more than one enemy, to QTEs, platform-like sections, time based objectives, and others. This variety helps to break up the action, and it makes each character lab’s story unique.

The Rest

The other two single player modes are Single Fight and Practice, which are both self-explanatory. What makes all of these modes engaging is the fact that each of them can lead to new unlocks. Unlockable content is heavily present in Injustice: Gods Among Us, so it’s nice to be able to gain them without having to play the same game mode over and over again. The level of variety in this game is staggering, and I haven’t even touched on the fact that it also features a multiplayer component, so Injustice definitely features enough content to justify its price tag.

Graphics

NetherRealm did a fine job squeezing every bit of processing power out of the aging Xbox 360’s GPU. Once again the Unreal Engine 3 is used to perfection to bring the superheroes and villains of DC’s universe to life. Each character is perfectly rendered to represent their style first made famous in the pages of DC’s comic books. The stages also feature a living feel to them, and nearly every one sports interactive objects, as well as the ability to brutally change locations by bashing your opponent through a breakable section of the level.

The actual gameplay of Injustice: Gods Among Us didn’t feature a single framerate glitch, or other graphical flutters. In fact, I found the in-game engine graphics to be superior to the cutscenes, because they seemed much more clear and crisp than the movie-like interludes featured in the single player campaign.

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Character models are expertly rendered in Injustice

Each character’s move set reflects their powers perfectly, and Injustice does a great job animating that in each match. Every character is true to their comic book roots, and I think NetherRealm did a great job animating each one in a way that made them feel both familiar and new at the same time.

My biggest complaint about the visuals in this game is the fact that Wonder Woman features ridiculously large breasts. It’s as if the designer charged with creating her had some sort of unhealthy obsession with her chest, because she sports some torpedoes unlike you’ve ever seen in female video game character design. Wonder Woman makes the original Lara Croft look like she has “A” cups, which to me is a step back in the “let’s make more realistic female video game characters” movement that is taking place in the gaming industry right now.

Sound

Injustice: Gods Among Us features a standard fighting game sound profile, which consists of the various sound effects required to bring the action taking place on screen to life. NetherRealm did a fine job giving audible power to the various kicks, punches, and super moves that make up each character’s arsenal. I could feel the intensity of each bone crushing blow in my living room thanks to the excellent use of bass that gave these punishing hits a feeling of weight to them. I especially liked the use of surround sound as I sent my foes through walls and other obstacles during the special level transition attacks that can inflict some serious pain.

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Sound effects help to bring each brutal blow to life

Overall, the sound design of Injustice is top-notch, but I did have an issue with one of the voice actors. There’s one character who just felt out of place due to his vocals, and I hate to say that it’s the Joker. Richard Epcar has a long line of video game voice work credits, but I just didn’t buy into him as the Joker. This could be a result of Mark Hamill’s excellent run as Batman’s biggest enemy, but Epcar was never able to convince me that he was the Clown Prince of Crime.

Multiplayer

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a $60 dollar title that’s worth its price tag even if it didn’t have multiplayer, but that didn’t stop NetherRealm from including it. Injustice can be played both locally and online, so gamers have the chance to garner bragging rights in their living room, as well as online. Regardless of where you choose to play multiplayer you have to decide between 1v1 matches, King of the Hill matches, and Survivor matches. Each game type offers ample opportunity to flex your digital fighting skills, so let me break down how each one works.

1v1

These types of matches pit you against another human controlled player in a battle to the finish. There aren’t any gimmicks, so these bouts play out like a standard fighting match. The goal is to beat down your opponent’s shield and life bar to zero all while preventing them from doing the same thing to your character. Players can choose to remain in the same lobby at the end of each match, but for the most part these are one-off battles.

King of the Hill

If you’re old enough to remember arcades, then this mode will be very similar to you. In those days the winner of each match would stay on the arcade cabinet while challengers placed quarters on the screen to signify that they wanted to challenge the “King”. If the challenger won the duel then he/she would take over the “King” spot and stay there until they lost, or got bored of beating everyone’s ass in the arcade.

This is exactly how the KOTH multiplayer mode takes place in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Challengers sit in a queue and watch the “King” take on his/her competitors in a viewing window, and when it’s their time to play, they take on the “King” for a chance to assume his/her mantle. If your skills are solid enough you can remain in the “King” position until someone who is better than you knocks you off.

It’s a fun take on the arcade fighting game experience, and a great place to watch how other gamers play the game. You may not be able to remain “King” for long, but you’ll definitely learn a few trick of the trade while waiting for your next match in the King of the Hill game mode.

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Superman is naturally a popular character for King of the Hill matches

Survivor

This mode functions exactly the same as KOTH with one major difference. In Survivor mode you do not regain your health in between challengers. If someone beat you within an inch of your life, but you still managed to squeak out a win, you will begin the next match with only a tiny sliver of health left. This mode offers a chance for less skilled gamers to pull out some surprising victories, and winners rarely stay on top. If you like the concept of KOTH, but don’t want to face the same amazingly talented gamer in each match, then Survivor is the game type for you.

Final Thoughts

Injustice: Gods Among Us is further proof that NetherRealm is one of the best fighting game developers in the world; if not the best in the genre. The ability of this outfit to incorporate a believable and entertaining story into a fighting game is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be downplayed. Before Mortal Kombat 9, fighting games were glorified ladder matches with a few static storyboards to vaguely fill in the motivations of each fighter. NetherRealm has taken this concept to new heights in Injustice: Gods Among Us, and I must say that its single player story mode features one of the best DC Comics stories I’ve ever consumed.

The fun doesn’t end there though, as this game features a plethora of single and multiplayer game modes that easily justify its price tag. Fully completing this game requires a heavy time investment, so the replay value of Injustice: Gods Among Us is very high. I had a few issues with some of the voice work, but overall they’re aren’t any major problems in this game. With that being said I have to give Injustice a strong 9 out of 10 Buddhas. It’s well worth your time if you’re a fighting game fan, or just a superfan of the DC Comics universe. Once again NetherRealm has crafted another gem of a fighter, so don’t miss out on this unique gaming experience in 2013.

 

Injustice: Gods Among Us Launch Trailer [HD]

 

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Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he's not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB's Star Wars Time podcast show.