Developer: NetherRealm Studios / Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / Played on: Xbox 360 (also on PlayStation 3, Wii U) / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen [Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence]
NetherRealm Studios brings us another great fighter with Injustice: Gods Among Us, making important improvements to—but maintaining the core of—its last successful outing, Mortal Kombat. It feels good to play a great fighting game with some of the most iconic DC comic book super heroes and villains. This is definitely not another Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, nor is it Mortal Kombat‘s 9.5. Injustice: Gods Among Us feels like a completely new fighting game with an awesome storyline and a ton of content for DC Comics fans to salivate over. But given the abundance of fighting games released last year—and the recent announcements of balance changes coming to Super Street Fighter IV AE—does it offer enough to attract core fighting game players to yet another game, alongside DC fans no doubt clamoring for the opportunity to wade in with their favorites?
It’s a fair question to ask whether the NetherRealm connection will make the gameplay similar, maybe too similar, to Mortal Kombat. Well, it is and it isn’t. If you played the most recent Mortal Kombat you’ll find that some of the fighting game mechanics are similar in IGAU, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, simple button combinations are used to string attacks together into combos. The button layout consists of Light, Medium, and Heavy attacks. So a ground combo can be performed by pressing Light, Light, and Medium, followed by a special move in most cases. These combos don’t feel like you have to be too strict with frame timing as you would in Street Fighter, making executing those special moves more accessible to a slightly more casual audience. IGAU also offers a super meter that can be used to extend your combos, add extra damage to your special moves, and unleash Super Moves. These Super Moves are your most damaging attack. You execute this by pressing the Meter Burn button and Stance button together once you have a full super meter. Yes, the Stance button, also from Mortal Kombat, is back. This button is used to show off both sides of your character. There could be a hidden reason to use this button but so far I’ve only used it to make my character dance.
Now you can’t be a superhero without super-human abilities, and those are executed using the Power button. This is indicated by a small icon or meter located right next to the super meter. This ability recharges over time for some characters and can be used multiple times in a match. The Power ability of course differs for each character. Superman is granted extra strength, Batman deploys Batarangs, and Wonder Woman switches from her lasso stance to her shield and sword stance. This opens up more in-depth gameplay when it comes to dishing out damaging combos.
How else can you show that you’re stronger than the average human being? How about having the ability to smash someone over the head with a car? Well in IGAU you use your surroundings to your advantage with interactive objects. You can set opponents on fire by activating jet engines. You can also get yourself out of tough spots by interacting with objects located conveniently in the corners of the stage. If timed correctly with other attacks, you can even work the interactive objects into combos as well. This makes each battle consistently exciting and supplies that feeling of controlling a character with truly extraordinary strength. There’s simply something satisfying about blowing up your opponent with a self-propelled missile.
Supporting the interactive objects are stage transitions. If you hit with a stage transition attack you send your opponent crashing through buildings, trains and other hazards, ending in a totally different location within the stage. All these added aspects of environmental change haven’t worked too effectively in other fighting games, but IGAU makes the transitions dramatic and character appropriate without interfering with the flow of the match.
The story mode is set up almost exactly the same as Mortal Kombat. Each chapter covers a particular character for that point in the story. So yes, you are forced to play with characters you may not want to play with, but it’s still a great way to experience the well-crafted story.
I don’t what to say too much to spoil the storyline, but Superman is extremely pissed, and for good reasons. NetherRealm and DC Comics evidently worked closely together to ensure that the DC universe held up to the lore of characters—as you know fans would be livid if canon was ignored. While more casual DC fans may not be familiar with characters such as Shazam and Hawk Girl, compared to Superman and Batman, but the story mode is strong enough to spark interest to find out more about them and the Justice League. And true DC Comics aficionados will not be disappointed by all the fan service.
Time and again I’ve said that a functional online experience is vital to a fighting game, and IGAU has delivered just that. While playing online (even before official release day) I was able to find a match without much effort. The gameplay was smooth with very little to no lag. Load times while searching for an online match may be an issue, but that’s pure speculation at this point.
Single-player game modes include S.T.A.R. Lab Missions, which gives you tons of challenges to complete. These tasks involve saving people from villains by blasting projectiles with Superman’s eye lasers, or dodging cream pies and chattering teeth bombs thrown by Joker and Harley. The challenges really don’t focus on head-to-head combat but are more like mini-games that add a great amount of replay value to the overall experience. This game mode should remind you of the Challenge Tower in Mortal Kombat.
IGAU also offers a simple and very comprehensive Tutorial mode that takes you through basic movement all the way to advanced techniques, so everything you need to know about the games is covered. Also packaged with this tutorial mode is a robust Training mode that supplies all the options you need to be the best super hero you can. While in Training mode you can examine details like your character’s frame data if you want to get down to the nuts and bolts. Understanding what attacks are safe, when, and which aren’t, and when, is vital information in the competitive scene, so shows the potential for IGAU to be figured in that arena.
In conclusion, IGAU is a very solid fighting game. The character animations feel a little stiff and their movement sluggish at first, but after a couple of hours the timing and speed of the gameplay becomes more apparent. The visuals are universally great with detailed character models featuring natty costumes and appropriate attention to detail. The storyline really should appeal to DC Comics experts and novices alike for its tale of superhero battles. IGAU shows promise that it has what it takes to be deemed as a true competitive fighter no matter how many fighting games were released last year.