I’ll be honest when I say that I originally wasn’t looking forward to Injustice very much. Considering how the last DC based fighting game, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, ended up being, saying I didn’t have high hopes for Injustice would be a bit of an understatement. I ended up becoming interested in it when I realized that it was being handled by NetherRealm Studios, the same team behind the latest Mortal Kombat game. While I’ve never been much of a fan of the Mortal Kombat series, the latest game proved to me that NetherRealm knew how to make a good fighting game, and I respected them on that basis. With that in mind, I booted up Injustice, not quite sure what to expect other than the brutality of the Mortal Kombat series mixed with the prestige of DC Comics.
The core fighting itself is refreshingly fun. Since Injustice runs off of the same engine used for NetherRealm’s entry into the Mortal Kombat franchise, anyone who’s played it will immediately feel at home. Special moves are activated not with quarter circles or charges as in Street Fighter, but the simplified motions of traditional Mortal Kombat games, which normally use two directions followed by the press of a button. Injustice features 24 characters on the disc, with more coming via DLC. There are an even mix of heroes and villains, and I’m honestly happy with the characters they chose, other than the excruciating lack of Blue Beetle. Each character seems to have a well defined play style in mind, and there’s a lot of variety between the cast.
What sets Injustice apart from other current fighting games is its focus on interactivity with the stage. Throughout each stage are different objects for the players to interact with, ranging from object that can be thrown at them, traps that can be triggered, and objects that they can be hit into in order to perform some pretty serious combos. While this makes the matches a bit more interesting and makes the stage choice more important, every attack that involves the stage is unblockable, save for the latter of the stage attacks mentioned above. These attacks are also relatively fast and feature a large area with which they can hit an enemy. Considering these attacks also do a large amount of damage, it can be incredibly frustrating to fight someone online who plays defensively and by making use of the unblockable environments. Perhaps if they were easier to dodge or could be blocked, they wouldn’t be such a hassle, but as it stands, they’re something I strongly feel the game could do without.
Another example of stage interactivity can be found in the way that players can be knocked into different parts of the stage or different arenas entirely. When fighting in part of Wayne Manor, for example, a player can be hit using a special attack (X and holding away from the opponent) that will hit them through a wall or past whatever barrier is in place and into another arena. During the process, the character hit takes extra damage from various obstacles that they fly through in spectacular fashion. The whole process is fun to watch every time, and lends itself well to the brutality of the rest of the games combat.
One of the things to note is that, similar to Mortal Kombat, the characters move very stiffly unless you perform combo strings. Thankfully, these are listed in each characters move list, but it still leaves me feeling somewhat disconnected from a character unless I’ve put proper time into playing as them. In some odd way, it allows me to feel a greater connection with the character I play due to the more time I spend practicing with them, the more fluidly I can get them to move. Thankfully, every character seems to have some very basic combos that are universal. More often than not, you can expect a character to have a combo out of some simple combination of light, medium, and heavy attacks pressed without any directional input.
Injustice features a pretty nice single player Story Mode, similar to Neverrealm’s Mortal Kombat. All in all, it took me about 2 hours to complete, which is impressive for a fighting game, which usually only happens to feature an arcade mode for any true exposition. While it may not have the length of some other fighting games, such as Persona 4 Arena, it’s certainly a nice addition to the game. The story is relatively cliché in the beginning but picks up steam halfway through to become an enjoyable experience. The short version is that the Joker sets off a bomb which brings both heroes and villains to an alternate universe in which the good aligned superheroes are the leaders of an oppressive government led by Superman, and the villains lead the resistance against them. I’m not very well versed in DC comics, but there was never any point where it felt like my lack of knowledge didn’t allow me to enjoy the story. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of references to past events in the DC universe present, but it’s not an excess. Players who are relatively unaware of the DC universe can enjoy the story mode just as much as those who stay up to date on all the current series.
One of the things added into the game is a mid-match wagering system, activated when a character being hit inputs a button command. When a character is being hit, they can input the command by hitting the R2 button and moving towards the opponent, stopping all action and forcing the match into a wagering scenario, where both players are allowed to bet their meter. Win or lose, the meter is consumed, but whoever bets more meter wins the wager, and either does more damage if they were attacking or gains back a certain amount of health if they were defending. At first, this system seemed inherently flawed. More often than not, it’s never about guessing how much meter your opponent is going to use, but rather keeping your meter bar full in case your opponent seems to activate it. If they have more than you, it can be easily activated for an extra bonus to damage, making it the Cold War of fighting game meter. Upon looking into the system more, though, I learned that it can only be activated by a player once per match, and only during the second half of their life bar. This dramatically changed my outlook on the system, as it can only be employed as a “last resort” in a match in order to hopefully turn the tables on your opponent at the cost of your meter. It’s a somewhat well done gambling system in a fighting game, which is something I wasn’t expecting.
I’m rather torn on what to think on Injustice’s graphics. The character models look absolutely amazing, and I’m stunned by the amount of detail that was put into the costumes and character design. However, the entire time I was watching cutscenes in the games Story Mode, I was getting “uncanny valley” vibes; many of the characters had a somewhat soulless look to them, as if the space behind their eyes were hollow. While I may not be a fan of some of the character designs or costumes present in the game, additional outfits from the Story Mode can be unlocked by spending points that are earned in-game in the Archives mode, with additional costumes being made available via paid DLC. Archives is pretty straightforward, and allows you to unlock things such as concept art, the previously mentioned additional costumes, extra challenges for Battles mode, and even chances to gain additional experience points for a limited amount of time.
As far as additional single player modes go, there is a small bit of variance from the story mode. Among them are modes entitled S.T.A.R. Labs, Battles, and the traditional Training mode. S.T.A.R. Labs pits you going through different scenarios as each character (10 for each character, totaling 240 without the inclusion of any DLC), starting with Superman. In each scenario, you have a chance to earn up to three stars, with additional scenarios being unlocked depending on how many stars you’ve earned. Eventually, you can move onto a new character after completing enough, but the mode did little to entice me to keep playing. Some of the challenges had very vague criteria, such as an early one which states that the player must “cross the line” a specific number of times. The trouble is, the player can’t actually move during that scenario, but instead is in a laser vision battle as Superman fighting against an evil Superman. I feel rather silly having typed that out, but the point remains that some of the goals they hoped to accomplish in S.T.A.R. Labs just doesn’t provide a fun or interesting experience for the player, and can sometimes come across as more frustrating than anyone else. Not to say that all of the scenarios present are similar to this, but it was certainly enough for me to not want to continue playing it.
Battles mode is a bit more enjoyable, appearing as a simple survival mode at first, but offering a bit more depth and complexity at a closer glance. From the start, there are only a handful of Battles options available, including fighting through a random selection of heroes and villains, strictly heroes or villains, and then modes where you constantly lose health throughout the fight or various other conditions. All in all, there are 20 Battles available, with some of the later ones being surprisingly creative. For example, the 15th challenge, Random Fighter, pits you against a pre-chosen list of opponents, but forces the player to fight as a randomly selected character that’s different in each fight. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting from a mode like this, and I’m glad to say I was pleased with how NetherRealm handled it.
Training mode is fairly predictable fare, although it does have some features that make me happy to see included. Among them are the abilities to tag certain moves or combos to the screen while playing (as opposed to looking through move lists and trying to remember them offhand) as well as the ability to reset positions with the press of a button, immediately bringing characters back to the center so that the player can work on a specific setup. This is definitely nothing fundamentally game-changing, but nice touches that help make things fast and convenient. What is a surprise, though, is the inclusion of frame data in the move list for each character (in case you were wondering what frame data is, you can check it out here!)
All in all, I rather like Injustice, which was a surprise for me. I’ve never been one to enjoy the Mortal Kombat style of fighting games, but Injustice kept things interesting and original enough for me to have fun learning the ins and outs of the system. There are certainly some flaws in the stage interactivity, but it’s the only real blemish on an otherwise great fighting game. It’s unfortunate, though, that the blemish has to be such an integral part of the game. Regardless of that one misstep, Injustice is a fantastic fighting game, and even though I was always more of a Street Fighter fan than a Mortal Kombat fan, this is a game that’s worth checking out if you enjoy the genre.
+ A surprisingly entertaining story once you get past the first hour
+ A fun addition to the fighting game genre
+ Full featured, with NetherRealms doing a lot to ensure that the player has a wealth of data and tools at their disposal.
– The interactive objects in the background are completely unblockable, leaving a lot of the metagame revolving around controlling them. Their fast speed coupled with this can lead to a lot of frustration.
– Lack of detail in some of the graphics left me disappointed. Considering how much work seems to have been put into the stage and character design, seeing random backgrounds look unfinished was a turn-off.
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Injustice: Gods Among Us was published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment and developed by NetherRealms Studios. It was released on April 16th, 2013, at the MSRP of $59.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review. The time spent for this review was spent across finishing the Story Mode, a few hours in training mode, and then getting frustrated by a sub-par college campus internet connection while trying to play online matches.