Video Game Review: “Injustice: Gods Among Us" Is A Strong Contender
Injustice: Gods Among Us wasn’t looking too sharp for me based on the early trailers and character designs. The costumes for our favorite DC Comics characters looked overly complicated and excessive (and, to be honest, most still are) and the story seemed like an excessive, almost comically over-the-top take on the “grimdark” era of comics (which DC is still firmly trapped in for the most part). Heroes duking it out, everyone hating each other, betrayals, murder, all excessive and unnecessary … that gets tiring after awhile. I was glad that, despite my preconceived notions still somewhat hitting the mark, I actually found a lot to like in Injustice: Gods Among Us, the new fighting game from Netherrealm and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
To get it out of the way, yes – the costume designs are pretty terrible. I get what the designers were going for but, wow, the majority just don’t work. They look clunky, complicated, uncomfortable and pretty ugly. Simplified designs are given extra lines, padding, colors, and bizarre shape modifications. Just look at Flash’s suit, which looks entirely unpractical for a speedster. Or Batman’s costume, which looks like it’s actually eating him. Look at that mask – it’s enveloping his face!
To match the bad costumes, Story Mode’s tale sometimes amps up the tragedy to near comical degrees. There’s plenty of silly bits in the plot, such as those Kryptonian nanotechnology pills which amp up the powers of even the most human of heroes, as well as zingy one-liners. But somehow, for the most part it seems to work for this game. It honestly shouldn’t work, and given how stupid the story can get, I’m just shocked that it does. It is quite a ride, though, something akin to a major comic book company crossover. In fact, this story seems almost tailor made for the page with its epic battles and clunky one-liners. The story, though you likely already know it, is that a bunch of heroes go rogue so another batch attempts to take them down. Saying anything else would invite spoilers, but that’s the very basic summary. As you can expect, fisticuffs aplenty occur. There are admittedly some cool story twists here and there that should keep hardcore DC Comics fans very pleased.
But buried under the mostly ugly costumes and extremely melodramatic story is a fun as heck fighting game. And thankfully, for an admitted novice like myself, it’s pretty easy to pick up. I don’t have an extensive background in gaming. The last game I played before this was the excellent Tomb Raider, preceded by the both equally disappointing Dead Space 3 and Resident Evil 6 installments. I always found games along the lines of Uncharted or Batman: Arkham City more enjoyable, and fighting games kind of repetitive and boring after awhile. So what really shocked me about Injustice: Gods Among Us was how flat-out fun the whole thing turned out to be, and how I’m still playing it. A lot.
I’ll admit – I tried out Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe a few years back. I even beat the story mode, but it was a dull affair that was fairly unexciting. It was a tedious struggle to finish (although the last boss fight was so easy, I found). But Injustice: Gods Among Us is so far beyond that game. The fighting mechanics are easy and quick to pick up. The animation and moves all look great, and there seems to be a pretty good balance in the roster. Granted, a couple characters with a reach advantage can make your battle a living hell, but overall it’s planned out rather well. The environmental attacks add a nice twist to the proceedings, and can sometimes dramatically change the outcome of a fight. They’re quick to memorize and easy to adapt to your advantage if you’re quick enough, or they can be used against you quite extensively – sometimes to an annoying degree.
It’s worth noting the cool and overly elaborate stage transitions. Sometimes it can be tough to trigger these – your timing has to be pretty precise, but the payoff is worth it. There’s a couple where even the background characters (some of them watch, some are busy with their own tussles) get involved and inflict a little damage. And boy, you get to inflict a lot of damage. Some of these moves and battles sound absolutely painful, even gut-wrenching at times. It’s not too bad, but the game definitely earns that “T’ rating. Oddly enough, one of the moves I winced at the most was Bane’s back-breaking move, probably because of its ties to the Knightfall comic story, but still…ouch. It’s not even the deadliest one, either. It just brings me back to the landmark moment in Batman’s history.
And, for just beating the crap out of other heroes and villains, the game provides a nice array of options. There’s the standard multi-player route, be it local or online, where you’re set-up in matches and battle to the (near) death. It’s easy to lose hours in that mode. Even when fighting against players far better than myself, I still found myself wrapped up in wanting to win just one match (and did on occasion, as Batman). I highly recommend checking out the tutorial and practice options, which helped me hone some of my more elaborate tricks which, thankfully, were easy to pick out and perform after a few test runs. Battle Mode is also incredibly addictive, and the S.T.A.R. Labs mini-games can also be both pretty fun and helpful in nailing down certain combos.
The mode that many DC Comics fan will latch onto is the Story Mode, which can usually be completed in three to five hours. I’ve touched upon it lightly above, but I can foresee some folks going through it multiple times just to go through the cutscenes again and do some extra tussling.
And all that extra tussling does pay off, too. There’s a large amount of bonus content to unlock, like artwork, music, variant costumes, and so on. There are challenges players can undergo to get some bonus content, and downloading the iOS or Android Injustice: Gods Among Us app will also result in some other goodies for the main console version. It’s a good way to keep players coming back and could help keep the game fresh for some time to come. I will admit, there are a few costumes that I do want to unlock, and I will play as much as I have to to get them. Personally, some new Story Mode content down the road would be particularly interesting; maybe a epilogue or a bridge to the next inevitable installment in what sounds like a new franchise.
Just a couple small points before wrapping this up and getting back to the game. First, the video game score for Injustice: Gods Among Us is available from WaterTower Music as both a download and digital album and I highly recommend giving it a listen. It’s excellent stuff from start to finish. I also give a thumbs up for the inclusion of the Superman: Unbound trailer on this title; DC Entertainment needs to do more cross-promotional stuff like this. But: no comic book trailers? DC Comics should have tossed on the “The New 52” and “DC App” trailers.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is unquestionably the best superhero fighting game, and deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the classics. Once you get past the Story Mode, there is plenty to keep fans busy for weeks, maybe months. The different modes and challenges provided unlock lots of great prizes, and the online battles will likely keep many players itching for a rematch. If you’re a novice like myself, the game is easy to pick up and hard to put down. For grizzled fighting veterans, the controls do allow for some in-depth play, enough that anyone should be able to get their money’s worth out of this title. The game also deserves kudos for its great voice cast, which includes a ridiculous amount of DC Comics animation veterans. I won’t bother listing them, but you’ll know them when you hear them. It’s a great touch that adds an extra layer of authenticity to the game.
This is a satisfying game, and one that pays respectful homage to the DC Comics lore. Yes, the vast majority of the costumes are pretty atrocious and the story is sometimes incredibly over-the-top in a comically bad way, but it’s so hypnotically watchable and hard to put down. Be it Story Mode or a standard online battle, I got so much enjoyment out of this game. In all honesty, since I’m not a dedicated player of fighting games, I imagine there are some things I may have missed when reviewing this title. But ultimately I have enjoyed my playthroughs of the Injustice: Gods Among Us so far, and I really can’t wait to take another swing at Superman.
The Playstation 3 edition of this game was provided by the studio for reviewing purposes.