As by now at least some of you might have seen, I started gaming in the 90s. One of my fondest memories as a child was playing (the original!) Mortal Kombat semi-competitively with friends on my Megadrive. A particularly massive part of my childhood was devoted to that game. It should also be evident that I am a massive superhero guy. So when I heard Ed Boon and NetherRealm would be releasing a new fighting game starring The Justice League, I got very, very excited. I found Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe rather enjoyable, I love what I’ve seen of 2011’s Mortal Kombat... could Injustice: Gods Among Us round off the trilogy of decent fighting games from Midway?
The plot, essentially an Elseworlds story, is set into motion when The Joker detonates a nuke in Metropolis, killing Lois Lane and her (and Clark’s) unborn child. Superman, consumed with rage, murders The Joker and takes over the world. A small resistance headed by Batman and Lex Luthor have plucked a group of heroes from another universe (including Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and “Shazam”) to help stop the mad Supes. I have, shall we say, "problems" with this. The storyline is justified - it's just not justified very well. The good in the story FAR outweighs the bad, particularly one moment where a character whose defining trait was an abusive relationship gets an AMAZING moment of power that made me cheer.
The game obviously loves the DC mythos, assuming things like a familiarity with both Cyborg and Killer Frost. The Injustice voice cast contains several prominent people from different versions of the DC Universe, including the “One True” Batman, Kevin Conroy. In-jokes for fans are prominent (keep an eye out for famous characters in the background), and all characters behave pretty much the way you'd expect. Worth noting that the game does worship the Dark Knight a fair bit, having two chapters devoted to him and giving the player the ability to control him in a chapter otherwise devoted to another character.
The locations are stunningly well done. Everywhere from Gotham to Themyscira to The Fortress of Solitude is available, and almost instantly recognisable to fans. All of the levels contain objects that can be interacted with, most of these are simple, like grabbing a car and smashing it over your opponent’s head. Yes, that is the simple environmental interaction. The more complicated ones involve knocking people through walls and pinballing them off of buildings and into helicopters. Because we’re dealing with superhumans here (thanks to a pill, Green Arrow can punch Black Adam) the violence can be ramped up. While there is no blood, there’s still some pretty dark stuff that happens, so this might not be one for the kiddies.
Mechanically, the game is incredibly tight. I was easily pulling off the quick-fire combos and special move commands using the D pad, which matches the left stick. Combat is fast paced and the character design is so good that even in the Mirror Matches it’s pretty easy to determine which Deathstroke you are. The game looks busy, but that doesn’t distract much, the visuals of this game are so great.
Between the fights, little mini-games pop up, designed to either give you an advantage or make sure your opponents don't get one. These are basically randomly-mapped QuickTime events to break up the story missions, but can be satisfying in their own way.
The most fun I had was with the super combos. Filling a meter and pressing a button at the right time launches a kind of cutscene finishing move. Batman, for example, hits you with two tasers and the bat mobile AND IT IS AWESOME. The overblown nature of the attacks (including Flash running around the world to punch an enemy, even when that enemy is on a space station), add to the game immensely. That said, they are unskippable FMVs (think Guardian Forces from Final Fantasy VIII) and it’s easy to see why, after repeated viewings, one would not like to see them again.
At the end of the day, Injustice is a really good fighter. It's an absolutely ridiculous fighter, but it knows exactly what it is. Like its predecessors, it's entirely dedicated to making sure you enjoy yourself. NetherRealm is just as happy for you to enjoy the comic book plot as it is making Aquaman feed you to a shark. The controls are tight, fast and very responsive. I don’t think it will necessarily sell non-believers on the merits of fighting games, but it will probably grab a lot of attention in a social situation when you whip it out, and even more when you start playing.
Once a Reality TV Somebody,
Now just a big kid who loves video games, and the telling people about them.
Jimmy the Geek