“Is it a bird? Is it a plane” No! It’s a homicidal, fashion impaired Superman – run!” This is basically the plot of NetherRealm’s latest DC brawler, Injustice: Gods Among Us… But not entirely.
The game’s story is hard to describe without spoiling it, but when the Joker tricks Superman into committing an unspeakable act, the Man of Steel become unhinged and retaliates in a fatalistic manner and sets out to end the violence and troubles of the world by any means necessary. Some heroes join in his quest, but things quickly get out of hand and Batman seeks to stop him with his own group of heroes and villains. But when facing the threat of a grief stricken and hate fueled Superman, one might have to call in some extra help. In this case: some extra-dimensional help.
The plot sounds odd, sure, but it works well. Surprisingly so. When it comes to brawlers, these types of games tend to suffer from a weak or nonsensical plot, but Injustice sets itself apart in this category. With a coherent story told from multiple characters’ perspective, you’re left with an end product that is quite pleasing and actually interesting. It gets a little silly near the end, but it manages to keep itself together. Injustice gives us a story that fans want to see and even those who don’t dabble in comics will want to see unfold.
But if you’re the type who sits there going “I just want to kick some ass” then you’ll be able to do so with much ease. The game’s control scheme is much more forgiving than most brawlers and anybody from skilled brawling aficionados to cautious first time optimists can jump right in. Simple combos, one button grabs and directional based blocking can be pulled off with relative ease while the more seasoned veterans will find more frenzied and complex moves that include juggle combos and cross-ups to sate their bloodlust. There are many new features either will be able to get into like epic over the top stage transitions, interactable environmental dangers and the new wager system – where each player bets a chunk of their power meter and engage in a very cinematic clash with the victor either gaining some health or causing extra damage – that can quickly change the tide of a fight. If you think that you can memorize a specific combo and spam it with every character though, you’re in for a bittersweet surprise.
There are 24 characters on the Injustice and each have a vastly distinct move-set and character-specific power which gives them a slight edge in battle. With a simple press of a button, Green Lantern will gain an extra boost from his power lantern or Bane will give himself a shot of the super drug Venom. NetherRealm really put a lot of attention to detail in each character and no fight will ever feel the same.
This translates to the multiplayer which sees the stereotypical inclusion of modes such as 1v1, King of the Hill and Survivor among others. The multiplayer is surprisingly smooth with minimal lag. Matches are easy enough to get into and fun if you play against someone who doesn’t only know one attack (I’m looking at you Superman heat vision spammers out there). If you don’t really feel like duking it out, you can instead watch matches and even place bets in the form of the XP you’ll gain while playing on who you think will be the victors or losers.
And if you’re somehow bored with beating up Aquaman (or in this case, getting beaten up by him) you can embark on a quest to conquer the 240 mini-missions found in S.T.A.R Labs. Each character has 10 missions tailored to their specific skills and each has a mini-story to accompany them. It’s not anything revolutionary, but it’s a fun distraction in between fights. But how does it all look, Robin?
During fights, the graphic quality of Injustice shines. Character models (minus some bizarre costume choices) are beautifully rendered and stages feel distinct and unique with all having reference to the wider DC universe in the backgrounds. As fights progress, you’ll notice the damage to both the characters and the stages themselves intensify with every punch and every batarang thrown. For instance, nearing the last moments of the fight, you’ll see the ears of Batman’s cowl bent or Shazam’s cloak will be torn along with other viscous gaping wounds. The only issues you’ll find here are during the cutscenes. In fights, the game looks great, but in the cutscenes, you’ll find bland, recycled character models and very dull looking set pieces. The heroes and villains look fine, but everyone else is a victim of the dreaded “Copy/Paste” formula. But outside of the battles, the game holds up far better. Background images in the menus are feats of CGI wonders and the little things, like each character having a personalized screen in the character select menus, will leave you feeling quite impressed.
All this is wrapped up in a beautiful, sweeping soundtrack that swells during fights and adds the right amount of drama to the game. But the shining moment of the audio quality is again, in the fights themselves. Every punch, kick and slam has an impactful force behind it thanks to the excellent SFX. When you land a punch with Superman, you’ll feel like Superman just punched someone. When you send your opponent halfway through Metropolis via several skyscrapers, you’ll grimace with every wall broken and iron beam hit. The voice acting is the only pitfall because although many voice artists from the Justice League cartoons and films return, some characters are underwhelming and don’t really sound as you’d expect them to. But still, the little things like character specific dialog lines and banter between opponents when they clash (i.e Joker asks Bane “Is it pronounced ‘Bane’ or ‘Ban-ay?’”) is impressive and the voicing becomes just a nitpick.
Overall, Injustice: Gods among Us is an impressive game. It uses the DC universe in a way that has been done before, but never this well. It’s not the greatest brawler on the market, but it’s still one very impressive game and one that you’ll most likely be playing for a very long time. NetherRealm has done an excellent job with this title and Injustice is a near perfectly crafted love letter to fans of both DC Comics and brawlers in general.