Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition
With the Mortal Kombat reboot getting rave reviews a few 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 set out to craft a make-good on MK vs. DC Universe, and they succeeded marvelously with Injustice: Gods Among Us. Now, they’re back with an ultimate edition that brings together all of the original release’s DLC on both the PS3 and PS4. If you’ve already got the PS3’s ultimate edition, then you can upgrade to the PS4 version for a mere $10.
If you didn’t play Injustice before now, 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 ranger 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 QTEs have been changed up a bit on the PS4 thanks to the touchpad. While you can choose traditional button presses, you can also opt to do touchpad swipes instead. Given the directional nature of the attacks, this is a perfectly logical use of the functionality and since it’s optional, it doesn’t feel like it’s forced upon players who prefer more traditional methods.
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.
Since the Ultimate Edition is just on PlayStation systems right now, the controls are outstanding and don’t suffer from the issues caused by iffy d-pad presses in the 360 version of the original release. Like MK, you just press directions and don’t use transitions – something that in theory should make the game easier to control. Before, it was far too easy to have back and forward motions end up with a jump in there for some reason. Things are far better now overall, but given how exact the directional presses have to be, using the left stick isn’t ideal either. The PS4 pad is a dream to use for this with the smooth d-pad controls. Sadly, the on-pad speaker isn’t used for much, but I guess beyond the in-fight announcer and pre- and post-fight quips, it wouldn’t really be of much use anyway.
Outside of story mode, you’ve got basic single fights and the oddly-named Battles mode, that like the far more logically-named Classic Battles mode elsewhere, and 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.
The original Injustice was an impressive game visually in many ways. Like MK, the character models featured a ton of detail and are fairly impressive…as long as you didn’t see too much skin. The plasticy look to it was 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.
The cinematic visuals pop even more on the PS4, but flesh still looks really fake and stretchy during pre-fight banter. Beards no longer look plastered on, but still have that artificial PS2 hair look to them, while textures on outfits are amazing and environments are now given a lot more deep detail work. Scorpion sending you to Hell as a special attack is absolutely dazzling, as are the flashier attacks that benefit a lot from the visual upgrades. Still, it is stuck looking like a game stuck between two generations – so if you’re expecting a true PS4-level upgrade, you’re not going to get it. It’s definitely the best-looking version of the game we’ll likely get though.
Injustice’s audio is still 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”. There are a lot of really good licensed tracks included in the soundtrack as well, including a fantastic Depeche Mode song that really makes the game seem top-notch. 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 aided by the gameplay being a slightly more evolved version of the MK reboot. That was outstanding and so is this, so if you loved that, you’ll like this. The plot is reasonably 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 slightly hard to recommend spending $60 on it for the PS4 unless you’re a huge fan of MK’s engine given that the base PS3 game can be had in the sub-$20 range now. Buying the ultimate edition does net you the kick-ass soundtrack in downloadable form as well as all six DLC characters and a ton of STAR lab missions if those float your boat. If you adored the game before, then you’ll easily get your money’s worth out of this re-release – especially if you’re using the PS3-to-PS4 upgrade program. Anyone just looking to check out the differences after beating the original PS3 game is better off just renting this incarnation.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a retail copy of Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition for the PlayStation 4 purchased by the reviewer.