Injustice: Gods Among Us Review
With the Mortal Kombat reboot getting rave reviews a couple of years ago, the team at NetherRealm Studios had quite a challenge on their hands to follow up on it properly. Instead of going with a pure MK game, they seemed to set out to craft a make-good on MK vs. DC Universe, and have succeeded marvelously with Injustice: Gods Among Us.
It plays a lot like the MK reboot – complete with the story mode feeling very similar to it by switching back and forth from character to character. That isn’t a bad thing though, as this approach makes you play as a broad range of characters, the story structure works, and the voice acting is far better here than it was there. The storyline is also far more compelling, and revolves around an alternate universe Superman going nuts due to him being tricked by the Joker into killing Lois Lane and their unborn son – and taking Metropolis along with it. It’s fairly dark stuff for a Superman-centric tale, and the use of an alternate dimension allows for some strange alliances that seem odd on the surface, but then make sense as things unravel and you understand where each character is coming from.
The basic framework of story>fight>story>QTE>fight>story and so on works really well and the blend of storyline progression with action in the QTEs is fun and probably the best use of QTEs in a long time. I also love the little touches like the icons surrounding the button presses usually fitting the character – so Joker gets a set of playing cards that fit him perfectly, and add to the entertainment of the overall package.
The story is pretty compelling, but wouldn’t be worth much if the game itself wasn’t much fun to play. Luckily, since this is super-duper similar to the MK reboot, it is. The same kind of fast action fans grew used to there is here, and being able to interact with the environment in ways beyond just SMASH SOMEONE THROUGH A BILLION LAYERS OF THINGS helps make each match seem different. Each stage has some environmental interactivity, and which character type you are changes how it’s used. Lighter characters are more likely to spring off of something, while bigger characters will just rip something out of its foundation and throw it – or just swing it. A surprisingly high amount of characters have zero trouble just swinging a car around like it’s a baseball bat.
Characters tend to either be small and fast, giant and slow-ish, or in-between, with some variants mixed in when it comes to alternate stances changing their moveset a bit or weapon changes basically giving you two totally different types of play styles with just one character. Wonder Woman can either be a bit more of a brawler with a sword, or can go for a more finessed approach using a the lasso of truth. Similarly, Nightwing’s staff slows him down, but it does more damage per shot than his nunchuk-esque weapons, which land more shots, but do less damage unless you master chaining combos together.
Unfortunately, the controls do suffer a bit with directions being a tad tough to input on the 360 pad. I never had issues playing MK on the PS3, but never played the 360 version, and it would appear that issues are more due to the default d-pad on the system being rather poor. Like MK, you just hit directions and don’t use transitions – something that in theory should make the game easier to control. However, it’s far too easy to have back and forward motions end up with a jump in there for some reason. Given how exact the directional presses have to be, using the left stick isn’t ideal either. Luckily, playing it on the Saturn-esque SF IV pad made for a far more pleasurable experience, even if it takes some getting used to the button arrangement since this isn’t designed for six-button pads.
Outside of story mode, you’ve got basic single fights and the oddly-named Battles mode, that is christened to the far more sensical Classic Battles mode elsewhere, lets you take part in a more arcade-esque ladder with themed opponents or handicaps placed on the player to make things more interesting. This mode is ideal for earning a lot of XP quickly, which lets you earn a bunch of XP to unlock goodies like in MK, and like there, you’re given a super-vague description of what you’re getting before spending it. Luckily, it’s really easy to earn XP by just using environmental stuff a lot and throwing supers out there, so it’s not too much of an issue. Online play is included, and thankfully lacks an online pass, but is fairly bare-bones. Playing with folks is fairly smooth, but isn’t quite perfect, and folks leaving mid-match is still a problem that isn’t curtailed much even with leaving counting as a loss. XP bonus challenges help give you a sense of accomplishment beyond leaderboards, and like the story mode, encourage you to play as different characters.
Injustice is an impressive game visually in many ways. Like MK, the character models feature a ton of detail and are fairly impressive…as long as you don’t see too much skin. The plasticy look to it is a bit distracting, and anyone with a beard tends to look bizarre as they don’t appear to be even attached to the bodies, and their textures seem like they’re out of the PS2 generation. Fortunately, the ouftits look outstanding, with changes being made to them and the characters as fights wear on and more damage is incurred. There’s a cinematic feel to everything in the game, with impressive views for crazy super moves and even better ones in the story mode – where the scope of massive battles really come alive.
Injustice’s audio is a home run. The music isn’t entirely new, so you won’t hear classics like the Superman movie series or animated series themes or Batman: The Animated Series theme, but there are plenty of songs that fit the bill just fine for “really epic-sounding stuff for superheroes”. The voice work is excellent and everyone in the cast took their roles seriously and made the drama work – an even more impressive feat since nearly everyone outside of Solomon Grundy has major character changes between dimensions, requiring a completely different approach for each version of the character.
Overall, Injustice is a very good game with some problems caused by the default 360 d-pad, that shouldn’t be an issue with the PS3 version. The gameplay is a slightly more evolved version of the MK reboot, so if you loved that, you’ll like this and the plot is compelling and pushes the T rating pretty far, so folks turned off by MK vs. DC U’s toned-down violence have nothing to fear here. While it’s quite good and there’s technically a lot to do, it’s hard to recommend spending $60 on it unless you’re a huge fan of MK’s engine and/or the DC Universe – but if it’s on sale in a few weeks for $40 or so, then definitely pick it up. At a bare minimum, give it a rental, or check out the demo to see if you like it.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a copy of Injustice: Gods Among Us for the Xbox 360 provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.