April 30, 2013
Injustice: Gods Among Us takes place following the destruction of Metropolis. With his beloved city in ruin and the death of Lois Lane and their unborn son on his hands, a bereaved Superman fiercely confronts the man responsible for tampering with his mind, the Joker. Despite Batman's pleas, the Man of Steel gives in to rage and slays the Clown Prince. Breaking the no-kill cardinal rule creates a rift further amplified as Superman rebuilds Metropolis as the capital of his new world, Regime. With the world powers and most of the planet's meta-human heroes and villains consolidated under his rule, Superman becomes Earth's dictator, his only opposition in the form of Batman and his Insurgency.
But, this all takes place on an alternate Earth. The Justice League of the mainstream universe we know and love have just wrapped up foiling another one of Luthor's schemes for global domination. Or so they thought. Luthor reveals his trump card: the Joker and an armed nuke. As members of the League rush to Metropolis to stop him everyone in the set blast radius is suddenly transported to Regime in Superman's universe. What ensues is a battle royale with the lives of two dimensions hanging in the balance.
This premise is the rundown of Story Mode. Amongst the vastly improved is NetherRealm Studios' ability to flesh out an experience that tells a story while streamlining combat segments naturally over random just-because encounters between characters. Also added in are odd simon-says mini games that while they do provide some variety their of-little-consequence presence could've been done without. The plot in itself is definitely sure to keep casual fans and even non-comic book readers spellbound, but for hardcore DC fans the borrowing of elements from Kingdom Come and JLA: Earth 2 makes for a predictable story. Additionally, not everyone from the roster is provided for play. Even still, Story Mode is a venture that a number of fans may find themselves revisiting as the presentation is still top notch.
But a story in a fighting game is never a deal breaker. Getting to the nitty gritty, Injustice incorporates some MK elements such as the dial-a-combo system, projectiles passing through one another, and double trigger button command supers but it is ultimately not an MK clone. The button scheme is very similar to that of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 where you have general light, medium, and heavy buttons at your command. The Special button in this case calls upon character-exclusive Traits, such as a temporary power boost for Superman, summoning floating bat bombs for Batman, or modifying the properties of Green Arrow's projectiles just to name a few.
There is also no block button. Instead, Injustice adopts the traditional use of holding back to block which brings onboard the presence of cross-ups, unblockable setups and fuzzy guard. Injustice continues the utilization of EX moves, however this time around it's in the form of Meter Burning. Tapping the right shoulder button during certain special moves triggers the EX version of the attack.
In an effort to help players of all levels understand the game's base juggling system, Injustice throws in the universal feature of ground bouncing overheads and forced wall bounce attacks for extending juggles; the latter of which opens up another layer to damage dealing: Stage Transitions. A successful wall bounce strike towards a certain side of specific multi-tiered levels will send the opponent hurling through cement, metal, or any number of ungodly things in epic fashion into the next part of the stage as they take damage along the ride.
Where many fighting games dare not to tread for fear of technical abnormalities, Injustice allows the use of your environment to assist you in battle. Depending on your character, certain objects can be picked up and thrown, structures can be used as a means to boost yourself out of the corner, or you can smack your opponent against the background for combo opportunities. Thankfully, environmental interactions are either limited or serve as a one-time deal and being able to interrupt opponents during these sequences eliminates unbalanced scenarios.
Meter definitely dictates offense but it has a place in defense as well. Hitting the right trigger button during a block performs a push block at the cost of one bar. Just like spending meter for EX attacks, an exercise in sound judgment is still advised for meter management. Although Combo Breakers are not present, there's The Clash - a cinematic sequence where any player with red health can tap forward and R2 while comboed (except during Supers or when struck by a universal overhead or wall bounce attack). This will invoke a once per fight closed door betting off meter. Whoever bets more than the other will win out the sequence with the reward of dealing damage and recuperating an amount of health proportionate to the measure of meter wagered.
Aside from its solid gameplay mechanics, Injustice delivers in a satisfying payload of unlockable content: from concept art, to old comic book covers and various Single Player modes. The content can be accessed in the Archives section with the expenditure of Access Cards and Armory Cards (for unlocking alternate costumes). Accruing the necessary cards involves either completing certain actions in Arcade or Story Mode, or building up XP and leveling up your profile. This can also be done through online play or via STAR Labs, the game's mission mode that features more cameos from other DC characters. STAR Labs however was given the same slapstick silly treatment that was applied in MK9's Challenge Tower, such as having Superman protecting a frightened civilian from oncoming slow moving barrels and flying droids. It may have worked to some degree with Mortal Kombat but Injustice deserves far better.
The same can be said of the online play. There's a bit of lag in motion, but not as heavy as during input. Dial-a-combos that incorporate special moves rarely come out properly and most damning is the great delay in using meter burn, which can only be minimized by feverishly mashing the right trigger button. These hiccups had me unwittingly resorting to victories won through projectile spamming which is far from my preferred style of play. Needless to say, after a few matches the decision to avoid going online was easily made.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a grand package that will please the fanbase of both communities. DC fans will delight in the fantastic stages, cameos, comic book references and the awesomely designed characters voiced by the familiar vocals of Kevin Conroy and George Newburn. Fighting game fans will definitely approve of the solid gameplay mechanics and greatly appreciate the inclusion of character specific frame data found in Training Mode. Although there's much to be desired in its online play (and its developing roster), Injustice is a must have no matter which walk of life you hail from.Editor's Choice
Injustice: Gods Among Us was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.