Capcom have dominated the fighting scene since the introduction of Street Fighter II in 1991. Since then, a small handful of other companies attempted to take the reins in the fighting game community. Only Namco, SNK or Midway have come close. Midway are notable as the creators of the much loved Mortal Kombat series. Mortal Kombat became a staple series with its innovative engine and never before seen gore. After Capcom’s crossover success with Marvel and SNK, it was time for the guys at Midway to try their hand at it. Midway established a relationship with Warner Bros who own DC Comics that would enable them to make a Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe game. The game fell short, and aside from a brilliant story mode, wasn’t well made and became stale very quickly. Midway suffered liquidation in 2009 and things looked bleak for the Mortal Kombat name. Warner Bros acquired most of Midway’s assets, including Mortal Kombat. So in 2010, NetherRealm Studios was born with the announcement of a brand new Mortal Kombat; a reboot to the series. Not much excitement was garnered, but once it was released, people found that it was an excellent game with yet another enticing story mode. The success of Mortal Kombat along with the backing of Warner Bros Interactive meant that a DC only fighting game was finally sanctioned and that many had hope for it to be a good game. So is it a good game? Read on and see.
Since the story was so enchanting in their previous two games, I decided to jump straight into that and see whether Injustice was up to scratch. Boy, is it ever. NetherRealm have immediately shaken the foundations of the DC Universe with a tale that is almost unthinkable. It starts off in an alternate reality, Metropolis is in ruins. A giant bomb has turned the once thriving city into a desolate wasteland. It then cuts away to an interrogation. Batman is berating The Joker and asking why he did what he did. Superman blasts through the wall and completely out of character, then throws Batman to the side and pummels the life out of The Joker. Quite literally, he kills The Joker. As any fan of DC Comics will tell you, this is completely out of character. Cut to our reality (well, their reality), Earth’s most well-known heroes are amidst a battle when they are transported to a reality much like their own, but much different. It turns out that many years had passed since Superman killed Joker, and it is being run as a completely policed state. Superman now being a dictator who controls all. Live by his rules, or die at his hand. This is the fear that Superman has instilled into the world to create order. Superman runs a faction known as The Regime. They are the ones who supposedly uphold the law as Superman tells it. A group known as The Insurgency are the only ones who oppose The Regime. They are number one on the most wanted list and they are spearheaded by none other than, you guessed it; the god-damned Batman. Batman and Harley Quinn are the only ones left that will uphold justice. Perhaps the heroes who have just arrived will help them; maybe some of them just won’t be able to grasp the fact that some of the most notorious villains in their world just might be good in this one. It’s the lore of the DC Universe that makes this an intriguing story.
The story in Injustice is in a word, fantastic. NetherRealm have taken well established characters and ran in their own direction. It’s mostly the shock factor that makes it work all round. There are some moments that may genuinely leave you speechless. It also features what I would call the most shocking moment I’ve seen in a game for years. Every character has their own reason for fighting in the well-crafted story. Warner Bros made a great decision in allowing NetherRealm to officially create their own DC Universe as it gives them free rein to take limited characters like Superman and give them emotional depth like you may have never seen. The story works just like Mortal Kombat and MK vs DCU did. Each chapter is dedicated to one character. Finish your cut-scene laden chapter and you will move on to the next character. The story should take approximately 2 to 3 hours to complete and trust me; you won’t want it to end. But you will be left extremely satisfied.
Story mode isn’t the only place it’s at. The game also has several Battle modes. Classic Battle is basically the equivalent to Arcade mode which is in all fighting games. Defeat a series of characters before taking on the final boss which will unlock your character’s ending. There are also several other Battle modes to choose from, all with different settings and options. If you need more on your plate, each character has 10 S.T.A.R. lab missions each. It’s a sort of trial mode that helps you learn how to play each character, very similar to Mortal Kombat’s Challenge Tower. Each S.T.A.R. lab mission has 3 stars to obtain; trying to get all the stars will completionists busy for hours upon hours.
Multiplayer offers up a nice range of modes for you to duke it out online with. There’s the classic 1vs1 mode that never fails, survival is a new mode that sees you fight with one health bar until you finally lose, and king of the hill makes a return from Mortal Kombat. The net-code is almost a mirror of Mortal Kombat’s. If you and your opponent don’t have a perfect connection with each other, you’re in for a bad time. It’s a disappointment as online play is the only thing that keeps a fighter going after the initial gust of casual players give up on the game. The game may not survive in a tournament setting due to the lack of stable connectivity online.
The graphics are nothing to shout about in the game. They’re not bad, they’re just, meh. Scenery and backgrounds are pretty damn good. The sunny skies of Metropolis and the dark backdrop of Gotham City are captured beautifully. The stages look fantastic and are completely destructible and interactive. The graphical problems in the game stem from the character models themselves. They are poorly rendered and have no definition. It’s almost like when you open up a create-a-character mode on a wrestling game and are greeted with the generic default face at the start. It’s a shame as every costume has beautiful detail and has clearly had a lot of work put into them.
The voice acting is wonderfully done in the game. You can see that NetherRealm have invested heavily in getting people who can really play the roles. Although Mark Hamill would not reprise his excellent work as The Joker, Richard Epcar does the role justice. Kevin Conroy returns as the voice of Batman, a role he has been doing since the 90s. Tara Strong returns as the down-right scary Raven and the insatiable Harley Quinn after doing splendid work on the Arkham franchise. Even Stephen Amell who plays Oliver Queen in the live action Arrow show lent his voice acting skills to Green Arrow’s alternate costume. The score goes with every action and emotion throughout the story and the fights and complements everything within the game.
The core gameplay is truly the heart of a fighting game, and may I say that Injustice might just be NetherRealm’s best work yet. It’s easy to pick up if you’re not familiar with fighting games and even NetherRealm’s rigid control process can be altered to match the smooth motions and easy to handle inputs of the Street Fighter series. NetherRealm have clearly put in the time to make this game accessible to casuals while still making it deep enough for the hardcore crowd to enjoy. The new control system is very much akin to Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s. The X and Y buttons are now simply light and heavy attacks while the A button is now a special attack button that can set up launchers, overheads, and wall bounces. The B button activates your special character trait. For example, Nightwing’s special trait means that he can combine his two escrima sticks into one staff, bringing a whole new play style and move set to the character. The game handles very much like Mortal Kombat, strings and combos are a tad easier to hit in this iteration, however.
The newest inclusion in the fights is the stage interactions. There are three character classes that dictate how you will interact with them. For example, a car in the corner of a stage can be bounced off of and used to escape by an acrobatic character. A gadget character will attach an explosive to it to make it blow up. A power character will just pick that car up and slam it straight on your opponent’s head. Most stages have a centre-piece that you can kick your character into for a sort of interactive wall bounce that will extend combos. Another new feature is the inclusion of stage transitions. One well-placed attack can send your foe hurtling through the air or through buildings into another area of the stages. All stages but one have a couple different areas that you can run to if your current setting is boring you. These are good as the stage transitions in themselves lead to high damage and add a whole other way to play the game.
The inclusion of the frame data in the move-lists is quite frankly a beautiful addition. No longer do you have to trawl through internet forums trying to find specific data to see if you can combo this thing into that thing. Being able to string combos together that I hadn’t thought possible before with the help of a simple pause menu is the most helpful thing that has ever been included in fighting games. The hardcore players will appreciate this more than anyone else.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is by far NetherRealm’s most well-made game. The combination of a huge cast of characters, with several alternate costumes keeps things fresh. A 2-3 hour long story mode combined with S.T.A.R. Labs and Classic Battle mode will take weeks if not months to complete. Working to unlock all of the costumes will keep you busy all by itself. Injustice: Gods Among Us is the epitome of fan service, and a damn good game.