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Injustice: Gods Among Us

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

With 2011's Mortal Kombat reboot under the belt, I suppose it was only a matter of time before developer NetherRealm Studios returned to the other property they could freely develop with: DC Comics. Sure, the two have history in the form of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but I think that most people agree that Mortal Kombat is best in two dimensions. So we can essentially look at Injustice: Gods Among Us as a DC fighter built with the Mortal Kombat template. It's not as good as that game, but it's a riot all the same.

Injustice: Gods Among Us has the same look about it as Mortal Kombat does. Each DC character carries him or herself appropriately; you won't see any of them executing the same animations unless you're in combat with your duplicate -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Predictably, the violence has been toned down quite a bit to ensure a T rating, but the special abilities and superpowers look nice and painful for those on the receiving end. All of these well-known superheroes and villains are recognizable, and if you prefer a different look, there are several skins to unlock. Fighting environments are wonderfully destructive and interactive. As you'd probably expect, you have the opportunity to duke it out in the Fortress of Solitude, the Batcave, Atlantis, Themyscira, and more. These arenas are multilayered, well-themed, and rife with the potential to get creative. More on that later.

Injustice: Gods Among Us features an all-star cast of video game veterans (Troy Baker, Nolan North, Jennifer Hale, and Fred Tatasciore), plus a bit of star power. Batman: Arkham City's voice cast (minus Mark Hamill) returns to reprise their roles as they appear, but there are some surprises outside of that. Firefly's Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk voice Green Lantern and Green Arrow, respectively. George Newbern and Mark Rolston (Aliens, The Shawshank Redemption) reprise their roles as Superman and Lex Luthor. Legendary voice actor Phil LaMarr voices Aquaman, and Neal McDonough takes a turn as The Flash, as well as Nightwing II. All of the actors are working with some outrageously hammy stuff, and they all perfectly capture the spirit of it.


Gameplay:

Campaigns in fighting games just haven't been the same since Mortal Kombat came along and proved once and for all that a fighter could have an engaging Story Mode. So Injustice: Gods Among Us has the daunting task of coming up with a plausible reason for all of the DC superheroes to fight each other. Well, they've got one, and boy, is it ridiculous. It opens in an alternate reality where the Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane (and their unborn child). Unbeknownst to Supes, a nuclear bomb was set to detonate as soon as Lois flatlined. So not only did Superman murder his family, he destroyed Metropolis as well. Superman then does what any of us would do in his shoes: he murders the Joker in cold blood and establishes a new world order. Wait, what? But wait, it gets weirder: Batman starts an insurgency, discovers the universe in which none of this happened, and pulls a grab bag of popular DC heroes into his dimension to help overthrow Superman. Wait, what? Exactly. Oh, and there are pills that make people more or less able to go toe to toe with Superman. Glad they thought of that -- I mean, wait, what?

Don't spend your time and energy trying to dissect Injustice's certifiably insane storyline. Just enjoy the action, which is accessible, stylish, and deceptively deep. Like Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a two-dimensional fighter that focuses on special moves and combination attacks. Each character moves his/her own way and has his/her own command list. Learning how to effectively play each of the two dozen characters is, as it is in other fighters, the greatest joy in playing the game, and once you do, you'll be ready to take on anyone.

Outside of the Story Mode, you've got your standard spread of fighting modes. Battle Mode gives you the opportunity to progress up the ladder, MK style. Versus Mode gives you pretty much what you'd expect, as does Training Mode.

S.T.A.R. Labs is a quasi-training mode (like the Challenge Tower in Mortal Kombat) that tests your skills with each character by giving you a series of personalized challenges, then rewarding you in stars for the ancillary goals in addition to the core challenges. It's fun at first, but it gets very difficult later on, especially if you're not used to these kinds of fighting game challenges.

Injustice: Gods Among Us has great online play, and offers a healthy selection of variables to change things up even after you think you're growing tired of the game. You can duke it out with regular settings or you can join a spectator lobby while waiting to fight the latest victor. King of the Hill is perhaps the most fair and skill-based lobby game, but Survivor (which prevents the winner's health bar from filling up between matches) keeps things moving.


Difficulty:

If we're talking about the Story Mode, Injustice: Gods Among Us is much easier than Mortal Kombat. Of course, Injustice doesn't pit you up against the infuriatingly cheap Shao Kahn at the end of the game. Sure, it makes you switch characters after each four matches or so, but it's reassuring to know that your opponent will always play by the rules. Something that most fighting games don't ensure.

If you're one of those fighting fans who likes to get technical, Injustice: Gods Among Us might be the game for you. It goes into the minutiae of each attack; how many frames of animation each move contains, how long each attack lasts before recovery, etc. That kind of stuff isn't really for me, but I suspect hardcore fans will eat it up.


Game Mechanics:

Playing Injustice: Gods Among Us is much like playing Mortal Kombat. Both games make use of simple commands and combos that can be used in tandem with each other. There's also a special meter which can be used to power up regular attacks, break combos, and unleash devastating special moves. But there are other factors to take into account. Firstly, there are only three proper attack buttons, the fourth face button reserved for a special character trait ability. Each environment is cluttered with things that can be weaponized for a quick attack with the press of a specially designated button. For example, you might jump up and grab hold of a steam pipe to aim it down at your opponent for some serious damage. Or you might simply pick up something on the ground and hurl it at him/her. Different heroes use these tools in different ways -- some offer mobility options while others exist simply to be smashed.

One of the strangest new mechanics is the Clash system. If you or your opponent are on the second health bar, a clash can be triggered. Both combatants are given a few seconds to wager a certain amount of meter, and then they rush towards each other ready to unleash a powerful attack. The stakes can be high during clashes; if the combatant who triggers the clash wagers more than the other, that fighter will earn some health (how much is dependent on the difference between the amount of meter wagered). If the initiator loses the wager, the difference between the amounts wagered will be lopped off the health bar. It's an interesting (if not exactly fair) mechanic that makes fights interesting towards the end.

Mini-games pop up from time to time in Injustice's Story Mode. They often don't amount to anything more than a disposable series of quick-time events, but I suppose they lend a bit of variety to the proceedings. And at least they fit the situation and have an actual impact on the fight that follows. For example, many of these have you inputting specific button sequences in order to avoid a series of incoming attacks. Failing to get them all might result in less health at the beginning of the fight.

I have a weakness for 2D fighters, and this game capitalizes on that weakness. Its treatment of the DC Universe might polarize, but the mechanics are solid and the production values are fantastic. All told, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a great fighting game that is worth a look by anyone who enjoys fighters or DC comics.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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