Injustice: Gods Among Us Review (360)
The Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes tv advert capture the essence of Injustice: Gods Among Us perfectly. It’s the age old question of who would win in a fight between your favourite DC superheroes. Would Superman trump Batman in a fist fight? Or would Bane be able to break the Green Arrow’s back? Although instead of being fought in our imaginations, in the playground or even being told by one of our most cherished writers in a comic, the decision is a test of our gaming skills. So who would win between Green Arrow and Bane? The answer is simple: I would win.
This isn’t DC’s first venture with Netherrealm Studio (or Midway as they were known before they filed for bankruptcy back in 2009). In fact, it was only five years ago that Ed Boon and his team set out to create a Mortal Kombat and DC crossover, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. The game was met with a lukewarm reception and never really received the cult status that it aimed for, (unlike Capcom’s extremely successful Marvel vs. Capcom games) and it died off relatively quickly. This time, Ed Boon and co. have stepped away from the Mortal Kombat traditional button layout and mentality and tweaked Injustice and its playstyle for the better.
Injustice focuses on a story outwith the current continuity of DC comics, although there is an Injustice prelude comic which details the events leading up to the in-game story. It’s a story of literally two worlds colliding, as one set of superheroes are transported to another, alternate dimension where everything has gone a bit awry. In the new universe (or the starting universe depending on how you look at it) the Joker has killed Lois Lane and Superman’s unborn child driving the infallible Clark Kent insane. Superman goes on to start his own regime and unites the whole world under the banner “One Earth”.
This totalitarian rule of the world does not sit well with the heros that did not join Superman and lived to tell the tale, resulting in the other heroes being drawn to their universe to stop him. Yes I know, it can sound a bit confusing. All you need to know is there are some bad good guys and good bad guys. Simple.
The story is good (to an extent) and much like MK9 it allows you to dawn the role of many different heroes across the campaign. Although there are bits that seem a bit too over the top even for a comic, more often than not they are contrasted with amazing battles that you have longed to see for years. That’s the beauty of a Netherrealm story: the writing may not be absolutely perfect but it is certainly one of the best and most enjoyable stories you’ll find in a fighting game. You could however argue the story could have been made that bit better if Netherrealms/Warner Brothers had hired some more well known DC comic writers, as opposed to the two they did hire (who I am not entirely sure I have ever heard of).
But we all know the most important part of a fighting game is the fighting itself. It’s quite hard to describe Injustice’s controls as they are not quite that of the Mortal Combat controls but they don’t really meet the criteria to be compared to Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Instead, Injustice lies somewhere in between.
There are no longer two punch and kick buttons but a series of light medium, heavy and attribute buttons. The new addition of the attributes is really what brings the game to life. No two characters have the exact same trait; Flash can slow down time, Batman can summon bats, Bane can shoot some venom and Aquaman can… well he can, eh, lube up(?). These attributes are certainly what set Injustice apart from most fighters. The Joker even has a parry for those of you with sick reads/reactions who think they can be the next Daigo… only in Injustice…. with less skill.
There is also the ability to interact with the scenery too. The interaction is dependent on the character type however. If you are an “Acrobatic” you might only be able to jump off certain objects compared to a “Power” type who could grind you into a fine paste with the very same object. It’s really down to you to find a playstyle that fits, be it keepaway or an in your face playstyle. Injustice’s mechanics make sure it remains one of the most diverse and fun games to play just now. Other mechanics include push blocking, meter burn (think EX moves from Street fighter) and most interestingly the clash system.
The “Clash” system is another very unique addition that hasn’t really been seen before in fighting games. The clash meter can be activated against your opponent after you have lost your first health bar. In activating the mechanic the players are then required to bet a set amount of meter against one another. The end resulting in either health ,regen or damage. The idea behind the clash system is odd to say the least, but there is an element of meta behind it, even if it seems a tad broken. If you are both on your last bar you can let your opponent hit you if you have more meter and then spend more than them to regain health. Although guess wrong and you can eat up to 30% damage for a whole stock. The 30/30 swing just seems a bit much. Why should I wage meter if I have a full stock and I am winning? Sure you get your health back but if I have a full stock of meter I can guarantee you I will have a combo that does way more than 40% damage. It just seems like it may not have a use outside of extremely odd mind games. Needless to say I avoid using it and can’t quite wrap my head around who thought it was a good idea.
The cast is not as diverse as you would hope for a DC game. They haven’t included all the members from the Justice League of America, which strikes me as odd. Out of the cast of twenty four, at least seven of them are from Batman. Take a second to think about how only two characters are from the Green Lantern universe and the Martian Manhunter didn’t even make the cut. For a game that had so many universes and diverse heroes, it’s a shame to see that many of the returning faces were in MKvsDCU and come from a very limited range of comics. That’s not to say it is an awful cast, I would just like to see more. Although with a day one season pass offering DLC and alternate costumes further down the line, there is hope to see the cast grow throughout the year. I’ve written my own list of characters I would love to see added.
The best way to learn the cast is obviously through training mode, which is pretty damn good, but there is also the S.T.A.R. labs. The labs act as a mode similar to the tower in MK, but with even more to do. For each character in Injustice there are ten challenges, ranging from combos to some highly fun QTE, and even some unique types, like controlling Catwoman’s cat to rob a museum. Each challenge has three stars to unlock, one for completing and the other two for unique objectives that make it harder to complete the main goal, such as completing a mission unharmed or without jumping or winning with a throw. The labs inadvertently show you what moves are good or certain occasions without the need to go in to training or suffering several beatdowns online. They are great and there is a ton to do; I still haven’t reached the end and I’ve been playing them relentlessly. One criticism I would give is that you have to potentially play as characters you don’t like to unlock character’s challenges you do want, and it just so happens that my favourites characters are a way up the back.
And finally for those of you wondering when do we talk about the arcade ladder, you can rest easy. Not only is there an Arcade ladder but there are a good few, each with it’s own twist. These will be the true test of just how good you are at a game. One of the ladders even requires you to beat the whole cast on the hardest difficulty without losing. I can’t even begin to imagine that. I was scared by just reading the description and I consider myself to be relatively good at fighting games. These ladders do have to be unlocked however. This can be done by using “access cards” obtained by leveling up your profile, but you at least get to start with four/five ladders and for each one you complete there are a few bonuses and unlocks for completing them.
As I touched upon the game utilises a form of the very much loved Krypt from the Mortal Kombat games, named the Archives, in which players can use a form of currency to unlock extra costumes, concept art and customisable tiles for their hero card as well as the aforementioned arcade ladders. To gain access to access cards and armory cards (armory cards being used for outfits) the player needs to level up their profile, and this can be done in a million and one ways. You are practically awarded XP for everything in game, even losing. It’s a great addition and there are lots of cool tiles to unlock from your favourite Batman and Superman comics as well as some really cool alternate costumes, the red Nightwing being my favourite. I love being rewarded with little extras for continuous play and Injustice does exactly that. These great feelings arise from knowing that you are not just fighting for fighting’s sake but you are progressing and there is a measurable way of doing so, plus we all love rewards right? I know they had me salivating like Pavlov’s dog, even being dismayed when I leveled up and didn’t get the cherished armory card.
Once you’ve mastered your combos offline and completed all the S.T.A.R. labs you might think you’re good enough to brave it online. Here you can choose from three different game modes; 1v1, King of the Hill (KOTH) and Survivor. Ranked matches are only available as 1v1 but player matches allow you the ability to select from one of the three modes and then there are the lobbies where hundreds of people can gather to play and challenge each other to KOTH matches and so on.
The biggest downfall of the online system in Injustice is the inability to disconnect from a player upon seeing their hero card. Sometimes a player can have high disconnects or you may have played them previously and know them to have a poor connection and you are unable to disconnect until you are at the player select screen, which is frustrating as technically that’s a disconnect in itself. There is no way of creating a custom search for players with a certain level of connection or even from a specific region or with a good level of skill in both the player matches and ranked matches; something that the majority of fighting games have had since the dawn of the current generation.
Thankfully the lobbies work in a different way in which you can see the players connection before challenging them, which gives you an indication of the player before you issue them a challenge (which they can reject or accept instead of being forced to play you like in ranked/player matches). Although for those of you who prize their rank online you might not be able to do much but grin and bare it for the time being, and maybe pray for a patch or update to fix some of the online matchmaking issues. Nobody likes fighting against a laggy Deathstroke. Nobody.
And for those of you who insist on waiting ages to find the right player online, who haven’t quite got their fix of fighting from sitting in front of their consoles there is the fun FTP iPhone game available. The iOS Injustice allows you to fight through countless battles earning coins to upgrade the hero of your choosing or to purchase new heros and support cards for them. It’s pretty interesting if not a bit basic, but in terms of expanding you Injustice experience it is most definitely worth a bash, especially when you start to unlock cool costumes like the New 52 Green Lantern outfit and a Knightfall Bane outfit rather early on in to the iPhone game. Although some more elusive and tempting skins like the Batman Beyond skin might take some time to unlock. I would seriously suggest downloading this if you have some long journeys ahead of you and want to unlock some cool stuff on the console edition. It even works in reverse too; the better you do in the console edition the more you unlock in the iOS version too, so what are you waiting for? GO NOW!
Injustice is all about the fan service. It’s a game built to be both competitive and to tickle the tastebuds of the comic book collectors amongst us (or should that be among us?). Unfortunately there are a few glaring issues that stop it from being perfect, mainly the online and the lack of cool alternate costumes for free. I do understand the pre-order incentive of the codes and costumes but it feels like I am being deprived of content. Sure I have my Batman Beyond and Bane Knightfall skin but I had really hoped for a lot more alternate costumes that I didn’t have to shell out for. For fan service there isn’t enough quirky references or alternate costumes, there are a good few who only have 2 costumes and none of them allude to some of our beloved series. In terms of online features it is most certainly lacking and the combat can feel stale after a while as the combos aren’t particularly hard to scrape the 30/40% mark with half the cast. Even in day one tournaments you see the majority of players using the same combos. It isn’t fun to watch and at times, and it isn’t even that fun to play after landing the same combo about 1,000 times. It’s not a game you should actively avoid, but I wouldn’t go getting my hopes up unless there is a terrific set of DLC and freebies on the way.
7 broken backs of Batman via Bane’s backbreaking beating out of 10