As a long time comic book fan, I had been tracking Injustice: Gods Among us with a huge amount of anticipation. Developed by NetherRealm Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive, I was keen to see what NetheRealms could do with the IP of the DC universe as their follow up to their Mortal Kombat reboot.
The great news is that NetherRealms have released a stylish and fun fighting game that will disperse any memories of the very average Mortal Kombat vs DC universe game from 2008 that was developed by Midway (before they went bankrupt and the MK franchise went to NetherRealm).
I had already played the demo of Injustice a week before the full game’s release and was really impressed with it as a starting block for what the full game could potentially offer. However, with only three playable characters in the demo, what I really wanted to see was how the twenty-four character roster would impact and change the gameplay I experienced in the demo, as well as what the Story mode and Star lab missions would offer in addition to the standard Classic battle that I had already experienced.
The great news is that nearly every character feels different and unique. There are always going to be characters you have an affinity for, for me this was Green Lantern and Flash. These two were characters I had read in comics for the last 10 years and wanted to take the mantle of straight away. However, even as a comic book fan I had little exposure or knowledge of some of the characters, such as villains Killer Frost and Ares, but the mix in characters as well as power types is something I am confident will keep players interested. There are slow powerful characters such as Superman villain Doomsday (responsible for actually killing Superman back in the late 90s with real life worldwide news coverage about a comic book death), ranged attackers who are quick but do less damage such as Green Arrow, or all round easy to use characters such as Batman or Green Lantern villain Sinestro.
The best thing about each character is watching them do their unique throws and power attacks. Playing as Green Lantern, the left bumper on my Xbox controller saw me constructing a wall to then pick up and throw my opponent into it. Whilst playing as Batman you will see your opponent flipped around and stick a Batarang bomb to their back. As you continue to pull off a fast array of special moves (each character has roughly 6 - 8 special moves) you can fill your meter bar. Once this bar is full you can pull both triggers to initiate a Meter Burn Attack. This is a combo attack similar to Mortal Kombat's X-Ray attacks and really demonstrates these characters as being super-powered. The Flash will initiate his attack and then a cutscene will see him run around the world a couple of times to land an almighty blow to your opponent, while the Joker will see him chuck laughing gas and bullets into your opponents face before pulling out a grenade launcher and shooting it at point blank range. There is some dark humour in these attacks that I am confident any fan will get behind. I know for me, it was great to be playing as Green Lantern and transport my opponent to OA to finish off my meter burn attack.
Alongside the Meter Burn Attacks are the intractable levels and level transitions. Each stage has things you can interact with, such as robots, missiles or even Batman’s bat signal on the rooftop of Gotham Central. What is even more effective though are the level transitions. Pressing Back and executing a strong attack will blast your opponent through the level and send them into an 8 -15 hit combo that changes the environment of the stage. My favourite of these level transitions is on the Halls of Justice stage, which sees Darkside, the Atom and Giganta all being involved in helping you destroy your opponent as you bounce them back and forth throughout the map.
As I mentioned, the game is not just about the classic battle mode, as Injustice offers us a story mode as well. One of the reasons I was excited about the game was because of the digital comic of the same name. When I read the comic I didn't know what to expect, but on the page I soon saw Clark Kent discover Lois Lane was pregnant. The good news didn't last long as Superman ended up killing Lois Lane and their unborn child and destroying all of Metropolis. Heroes then started to disagree with the big blues new regime of stopping evil and taking control of world peace and the story of the game continues this theme. In the game, heroes from the traditional DC universe are taken to this parallel dimension where Superman is working with heroes and villains alike to control the world's government and you need to stop him.
The story mode in the game is broken into twelve chapters, each one focusing on a different hero or villain who is working as part of the insurgency movement to bring down the evil Superman's regime. Obviously with only twelve chapters you do not get to play as each of the playable characters the game has to offer, but the story is enough to give you a taste of some of the more popular characters you can play as. The story is really fun to play through and although I was sceptical at first about the voice acting and costumes (provided through numerous trailers before the games release), everything worked well to keep the story alive and the player engrossed. My only complaint with the story is that you could not set the difficulty (I found it to be no more struggling than on Easy mode) and also that it was over within a few hours. I may go back through and play it again, although there is no incentive apart from my enjoyment. Perhaps that can be some feedback for a sequel (that I would be happy to see in the next couple of years).
The other part of the game I was eager to experience was the Star Lab missions. Each character has ten missions, each of which contains three stars to achieve by completing various tasks. These will range from taking down an opponent, to dodging falling debris or pulling off a certain move list. Some of these are very easy to achieve, however as you continue to progress through these missions the difficulty greatly increases and it will take even the most seasoned fighting game player a long time to master.
Finally we should mention the multiplayer aspect of the game. There is the standard player match with local play as well as online play. In addition there are the options of Ranked match, Survivor matches (where you carry your health bar from one fight to another) or King of the Hill matches. These all have the same mechanic of destroying your opponent, but it is great to have the extra challenge that a Survivor has to offer or vie within a team by playing King of the Hill.
In closing, it is worth picking up and mastering this game. There is a level system and unlock system that will reward players as they progress with multiple costumes, multiplayer badges and icons for your character. For any fan of the DC universe there is a huge array of characters with a great story mode and each has their own little story in the battle mode. There are a wide variety of different battle modes, as well as the Star Lab missions, which give the game hours of play time before even hitting the multiplayer online mode. There is a lot of fan service in this game and I would definitely be on board for a sequel. Let's keep those fingers crossed.