Review - Injustice: Gods Among Us


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Review - Injustice: Gods Among Us
Bow down before The Regime, or smash it apart with The Insurgency!
Warner Bros. Interactive
NetherRealm Studios
Release Date:
XBox 360, PS3, WII U
Age Rating:
After a two year wait following the rebooted Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm Studios have returned with their second title, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Taking the bulk of the mechanics that made Mortal Kombat such a critical and commercial success, Injustice is far more than just MK wrapped in a DC Universe themed skin – it’s both an incredibly enjoyable fighter with a huge amount of depth and, in its own right, a glorious piece of fan service.

Whether or not you’re a comic book aficionado, Injustice: Gods Among Us’ storyline is one that’ll keep you hooked from start to finish. Taking a leaf out of Mortal Kombat’s book, it serves up an exceptionally linear, but not remotely dull, campaign that lasts around six hours and takes the player through a detailed narrative filled with twists, turns and some wholly unexpected behaviour from some of DC’s best loved characters.

Rather than allowing the player to select which character they’d like to play through the main campaign as, Injustice instead takes us on a predetermined journey from battle to battle, taking control of all the major characters for multiple fights. Not only does this lend itself perfectly to the narrative approach, but it also forces players to experience the game from a number of perspectives – meaning there’ll be no overreliance on a certain fighting style or character, rather you’ll need to become at least semi-comfortable with each of the protagonists to advance the story towards its inevitable final battle.

The run up to the launch of Injustice has been something of a master class in promotion. While not everyone will care, a series of comics explaining the events leading up to the game add a huge amount of background to the storyline. Should you choose to hunt them down, you’ll find out just why Superman has abandoned his former do-gooder approach and instead enslaved humanity alongside numerous superheroes turned dictators. They’re not essential, given that the main plot points are explained as you progress through the campaign, but they’re nevertheless a fine addition to the overall mythology of the Injustice universe.

We’ll admit that when Injustice was originally announced, we were less than hopeful for the title. For starters, the last time anything Mortal Kombat got involved with DC we were served up the incredibly poor Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a game that did little to endear either franchise to a generation of gamers without a genuinely top class fighting title to call their own. Once the first snippets of information started trickling out, however, we changed our tune, thanks to the surprisingly dark and twisted world that NetherRealm was creating for the combatants.

And speaking of combatants, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice here. In the campaign you’ll be fighting as Batman’s Insurgence, taking on the might of Superman’s seemingly unassailable Regime, with both groups comprising of some eyebrow raising characters – in this universe not everyone is quite the way you would expect.

Overall, the game features twenty four playable characters:
  • Aquaman
  • Ares
  • Bane
  • Batman
  • Black Adam
  • Catwoman
  • Cyborg
  • Deathstroke
  • Doomsday
  • The Flash
  • Green Arrow
  • Green Lantern
  • Harley Quinn
  • Hawkgirl
  • The Joker
  • Killer Frost
  • Lex Luthor
  • Nightwing
  • Raven
  • Shazam
  • Sinestro
  • Solomon Grundy
  • Superman
  • Wonderwoman

And if that’s not enough for you, there’ll be some DLC coming in the months ahead to supplement that roster, just like we saw with Mortal Kombat back in 2011. Thankfully, with so many options available, NetherRealm has done a fine job of ensuring that there’s enough of a difference between each character’s play style that there’s a huge amount of scope for experimentation.

On the one hand you’ve got the incredibly powerful behemoths like Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy and Bane who rely on brute strength to overpower their opponents, at the expense of speed and finesse. Then you’ve got the characters, like good old Bats, who rely on gadgets and gizmos to take their foes down. And then there’s a hugely varied middle ground between each extreme. For us, Aquaman has proven to be a real favourite – despite having serious reservations about his inclusion in the game, he’s actually really badass here, which is nice to see!

For all the variety on show in Injustice, the game’s control system has clearly been crafted in such a way as to make the game as accessible as possible to newcomers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Players need learn the locations of just three main attack buttons, from light through to medium and heavy – it’s all pretty straightforward stuff. Just like Mortal Kombat before it, though, there’s an underlying complexity that’ll keep even the most seasoned of fight fans happy. From counters to blocks to throws to breakers, everything we’ve come to expect from top tier brawlers is here, and while button mashing will probably get you through the campaign with some perseverance, if you’re planning on taking Injustice online, you’re going to need to make sure you have all the basics down to a tee, including a full understanding of how the game’s power moves work, and how best to use the scenery to your advantage.

While building up a power bar in order to unleash additional fury upon your opponent is nothing new in the genre, Injustice does a fine job of making the system work. Never overpowered, these attacks come in varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on how much power you’ve built up and which character you’re using at the time. The involvement of interactive scenery, on the other hand, is particularly innovative, with characters able to take advantage of numerous hot points within each setting to cause considerable damage to opponents.

Aside from the game’s comprehensive campaign, there are a number of additional play modes to get to grips with. Battles is where you’ll find your run-of-the-mill arcade mode, where you’ll take a character through a series of increasingly difficult fights right the way through to a final showdown with Superman, after which you’ll get a nice little bit of narrative to make it all seem worthwhile. It’s been the tried and tested method for fighting games for decades now, and it represents a great way for players to learn new characters or simply pick up and play for twenty minutes without getting too absorbed in a story.

Then there’s the S.T.A.R. Labs mode, something that Mortal Kombat fans will be familiar with as the Injustice version of the Challenge Tower. Here you’ll be awarded stars for completing challenges, with more difficult tasks offering more star rewards. If accessibility was riding high in the developers’ minds, then this is clearly the manifestation of that. Again, it’s ideal for picking up and playing, and it offers enough variety to keep players feeling like there’s plenty more to see and do.

So onto the online side of things; how does it fare against the likes of Mortal Kombat and the Street Fighter series? Thankfully, quite well , truth be told. It’s worth mentioning that, since the game has only been out since Tuesday, there probably aren’t as many people online as there will be in the weeks and months ahead, but things are gradually starting to pick up.

Just like Mortal Kombat, there are a range of different online modes available, each with their own twist on the genre. By hopping into a lobby, players will be able to play King of the Hill, one-one-one or Survivor with friends (and complete strangers). While the first two are fairly self-explanatory, Survivor mode is particularly interesting. Taking the same winner stays on format of King of the Hill, the key difference is that the winner doesn’t regain health between fights, ensuring that eventually someone will topple them to take the crown, and making tight battles all the more dangerous. And those of you who are into stats will delight at some of the random figures the game records for your perusal at a later date!

Visually, Injustice does a great job of tweaking the Mortal Kombat engine. Character models are detailed and weighty, while the locations have been expertly managed both from an eye-candy and interactivity standpoint. Everything hurtles along nicely at a solid frame-rate and the on-screen action is as responsive as anything around there. We would have liked to see a few more bright, vivid settings, but given the darker tone of the game we can’t complain too much.

So, when all is said and done, Injustice: Gods Among us has definitely delivered on all fronts. Mortal Kombat was always going to be the bar by which this was measured, and it has definitely surpassed that for us. NetherRealm has clearly paid attention to constructive criticism of its previous title, and implemented a control system that’s both accessible to complete newcomers and offering enough depth for the most experienced of fighting game veterans. Even if you’re not into comic books, this should definitely hit the right spot for you.

Now go forth and buy it – dictatorial Superman demands it!

10 Stars: Recommended
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