When publishers contact the same developer to make similar titles, it’s inevitable to have comparisons made on both titles. This is true for Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is blessed with being created by the makers of the modern Mortal Kombat game. As such, similarities in its core design are certainly present, but Injustice is more than the sum of its parts. This is a fighting game with lore that will go beyond a simple punch up. Superheroes fighting for the fate of the Earth come with a lot more tenacity and Injustice portrays this perfectly.
After a brief tutorial of the game’s mechanics, we’re whisked away in the premise of the game’s universe. Always locked in eternal conflict, a recent evolution in dynamic between superheroes and villains has caused the world to be drenched into a totalitarian regime. Yet, this oppressive era isn’t brought on by some master criminal as one would expect. Due to a shift in morals, the superheroes are the ones who use their strengths to suppress the world under their supreme rule.
More so than its story, it’s the way in which it’s presented that is remarkable in Injustice. The main story mode is played as an actual motion picture, interlaced perfectly with battles in the player’s control. Rather than interactive movies, where key elements seem told in narrative rather than the player’s choice, here the fights between heroes that are pivotal to the game’s progress are given to the player. By also dipping into the alternate dimensions of the DC Universe, this brawler has a perfect excuse for strange encounters where the fighter is the same person on each end. Branded with different costumes, opponents are in fact completely different people, yet the same in essence. As simple as it is, this execution fully makes use of the best traits of this story and that with thrilling results that spur players to continue playing, just to find out what happens next. This is interactive narrative of the highest caliber, elbowing peers like The Walking Dead games for space.
Hal Jordan/Green Lantern shows his American appreciation with his ode to American History X
Aside from ample cutscenes with riveting, orchestrated soundtracks to add to the emotion, there are fluent character animations to make this universe credible. Slick and swift strikes accompanied by dramatic camera angles further the action movie theme. Models don’t necessarily follow the same expertise, yet the activity of set pieces is enough to suspend disbelief. Instead, the biggest clincher in this feature are the fighting arenas with huge backgrounds and interactive objects aplenty. Dark cityscapes pan out as players are punched through skyscrapers to land on some distant rooftop and look over the city in a new perspective. Grimy factories are a source of barrels to bash over the opponent’s skull, while nearby reactors can be used to set fighters ablaze. While characters are dueling in the foreground, backdrops rumble with vivacity and carnage occurs at all times, demonstrating what chaos ensues when superheroes do battle.
Still, gameplay isn’t as chaotic as one would think from the never-ceasing destruction. To truly become powerful, Injustice relies on precise timing when combining strikes. Soft punches can be switched with harder blows, but it’s the finesse of chaining these together that wins fights. Each character has their set of abilities to topple foes, which yield unique playing styles for most of the flock. There is a rare dud or two in the fighting roster, but most fighters will rely on their strengths to create a certain strategy. For instance, Aquaman has little moves, but those he can unleash are much more potent. Another example comes from Superman that can use his special powers, a trait everyone possesses, to temporarily become even more powerful. Lex can use this system to put up a shield, while Wonder Woman uses her ability to switch between lasso and sword. Each character has their thing that makes them click.
These are not the same Jokers. Crazy, right?
Additionally, moves that range from close up wallops to remote gunfire will add to a super meter. When full, this can be used to perform a special sequence, which will seamlessly start a cinematic where the character of choice dishes out severe punishment. From opening an alternate dimension to trap enemies to just blasting a gargantuan cannon on a person’s face; once more each fighter will have their trope to fall back on. This meter can alternatively be used to wager, where both sides bet an amount of their gauge and the victor either deals more damage or receives health in return. It can only be applied once per match, so there are no worries of abusing this system.
Several mini-games are also peppered throughout the story, where heroes fire upon oncoming enemies or need to dodge their attacks with button prompts. These games can also be found outside of the story in different challenge modes. For instance, one mode will simply require players to survive a random team of opponents, while more elaborate modes will feature side-scrolling adventures and such little alterations to change the pace.
Additionally, each battle adds to an experience level that can be used to unlock more costumes and other aesthetic changes to the game. Some of these will require a form of currency, but this offers players the choice of just what to unlock. Those that would rather receive additional content for their favorite character will certainly appreciate that more than a random assortment.
Finally, those that want to measure their worth beyond the toughest of artificial intelligence can do so online or locally against a friend. Connecting seems to go off rather effortlessly and throws players in a lobby with a neat theater mode that allows for a simple overview and zooms in for a full view when desired. Aside from regular and ranked matches, players can also fight for supremacy in King of the Hill, where they can send challenges to steal the crown of the most prized opponent. Alternatively, they can test their tenacity in a Survival mode. Matches follow themselves up smoothly and with no mentionable latency issues to be found. As experience keeps stacking online and players can unlock new things from completing challenges here as well, there are enough incentives to dive into a few brawls over the net.
Slight cosmetic blemishes aside, Injustice: Gods Among Us brings it and brings it hard. With a story mode that is beyond any fighting game of its time and plenty of incentives, any competing titles will have to try hard to do better this year. Its stunning atmosphere goes hand in hand with precise controls, impacting moves and a solid online presence. Hell, this story is enjoyable just to watch without the interaction. Luckily, this is a game though; the gameplay is more than welcome.