Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us

I’m a pretty big DC Comics fan. I like Marvel too so don’t be hatin’. I just seem to find the characters in the DC Universe to be more entertaining and likable. Green Lantern is probably my fave, but I also like Batman and The Flash. Teen Titans is cool too and you can’t go wrong with the Justice League. I’m also a HUGE Mortal Kombat fan. I own all the games and still play them to this day. In 2008 NetherRealm Studios (at the time part of Midway) combined the two properties in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. You can imagine how excited I was at the prospect of pitting Superman against Raiden. It was a fun game that fell short in many areas, mostly due to the compromises the game makers had to adhere to in order to use the DC license.

Here we are five years later and NetherRealm has just released their eagerly awaited newest entry in the fighting game genre – Injustice: Gods Among Us. Based solely on DC Universe characters and using a fighting system very similar to 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot, Injustice takes everything that worked in that game (which was pretty amazing) and improves upon it in many ways.
There is a Story Mode which is pretty well written and involving. Basically The Joker tricks Superman into nuking Metropolis, and in return he kills The Clown Prince of Crime. This begins a chain reaction in which Superman goes a little mad and begins locking down the population of the Earth under the guise of safety, recruits hero and villain alike to help him achieve his goals and inspires a few rebellious ones to form an insurrection. Mind you, this is taking place in a parallel universe. When the Joker of our universe decides to blow up Metropolis in a similar fashion, the alternate Batman kidnaps all those involved and brings them to his world in order to avert the same fate from befalling another dimension. They combine forces to stop the mad Superman from completely taking over his Earth… and possibly ours.

The Story Mode took me about 6 hour to beat, and while it’s pretty short (Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe had two Story Modes which took about 6 hours to beat each and Mortal Kombat’s took about 10), and even though it’s really short I enjoyed the hell out of it. The story is dark and violent and features a plot device I have always found intriguing - coming face to face with a mirror image of yourself that has gone down a different path. I ate this stuff up and found it entertaining as well as interesting. Sure there are some hokey bits just to get certain characters to fight each other, and there’s a particularly annoying focus on Batman for some reason, but outside of that it’s a well thought out story (which is even more fleshed out in the prequel comic book series) that made me want to keep playing to see what would happen next. It doesn’t disappoint.
The controls are easy to pick up and play, but will definitely take some time to master. The fighting system is deep and complex, but for those not experienced in the genre it won’t be that hard to learn the basics and whoop some ass. By cycling through the in-game move list you’ll see that the game makers have gone so far as to include how many frames it takes to initiate an attack and the amount it takes to recover from performing it. This might be too much info for a layman, but to someone who spends hours battling online this is extremely helpful.

There’s a wide array of characters to choose from, each have their own style and special abilities. The in-game roster is: Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam!, Nightwing, Cyborg, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, Solomon Grundy, The Joker, Bane, Deathstroke, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Raven, Lex Luthor, Ares, Sinestro, Doomsday and Black Adam. There will be more available for download at a later date, Lobo being confirmed as the first of four (I WANT BLUE BEETLE!) So far my faves are The Flash, The Joker, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. They are fast and their moves are easy to pull off. Batman, Green Lantern, Lex Luthor, Bane and Doomsday are too slow. The others are just mediocre or have a number of moves that seem underwhelming. I’m not saying they’re bad. None of them I would say are bad. But I like the quick attack types and have found my selections the most balanced thus far. The voice actors chosen for each is perfect as well. Most reprise their roles from the animated versions of their characters (Kevin Conroy s Batman rulz), and some are newcomers. Adam Baldwin as Green Lantern,  J.G Hertzler as Deathstroke and Stephen Amell as Green Arrow (Amell plays the character on the WB series Arrow) are kinda awesome.
There are unique super moves for each character that are a blast to watch play out. So far watching Superman uppercut someone so hard they enter orbit and The Flash racing around the world to build momentum for a right hook are the winners. I gotta give a shout out to Aquaman’s as well. I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s pretty awesome.

Another awesome addition was the ultra interactive backgrounds. Each level you fight in has a number of items you can either pick up and throw, launch off of, trigger some sort of booby trap, hit a character into the background itself for extra damage and even knock your opponent into another area of the level. It gives the game a new strategic element that changes the way a typical fighting game is played. Some of the backgrounds are more fun than others, but for the most part each is just as good as another. One more neat fact is that certain characters interact with the backgrounds differently than others.  Where one character might use an overhead monitor to jump off of for more distance, another might rip it off the wall and hurl it as a weapon. It’s a clever and unpredictable mechanic.
There are plenty of modes to choose from, from simple one-on-one battles to missions that give you credits to spend on unlockables and XP to level up your characters. Online fighting is a staple now and is as lag-free as it comes. There’s a training mode to get you up to speed on moves and more. You definitely get a lot of bang for your buck. And depending on where you reserved your copy from you would get specific add-on content. Since I reserved mine through Gamestop I received a few extra costumes and 20 additional missions that revolve around the Superman story arc “Red Son”. Going through Best Buy got you a Zombie Mode and costumes from the “Blackest Night” series. Walmart gave you a download of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and Batman: Arkham City costumes.

When a new fighting game comes out I always choose the PS3 version over the Xbox 360 due to the better D-pad and controller layout. It’s always been a safe bet for me, but with Injustice I found the controls to be a little unresponsive. Pulling off some moves in the Training Mode is nearly impossible and in a couple of the “Red Son” missions there is no way to get a perfect score due to this. Out of all the amazing things the programmers did right it’s a shame that this one basic necessity is faulty.
The graphics, as good as they are sometimes, already look dated. NetherRealm Studios has always made their characters, especially the ones in their cut scenes, look blocky and awkward. When I see what can be done in a game like Halo 4, where characters look almost photorealistic, seeing these plain and gawky models looks like lazy programming to me. Wonder Woman looks like a dude, and that’s a cardinal sin in my book. Sure the animations are great, but everything else is a tad disappointing. Although I will say the still shots used during the title screen look fantastic. Why couldn’t the in-game graphics be that awesome?!

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fun game that will keep me occupied for at least a month or two while I try to unlock all its secrets. The forthcoming bonus characters will no doubt bring me back to it repeatedly as well. There are some technical gaffs that keep this from being as orgasmic as the Mortal Kombat reboot, but as a starting off point for what I hope is a long franchise of DC games, Injustice is quite solid in its own right. Highly recommended.

4 out of 5

Injustice: Gods Among Us is available for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, WiiU and iOS.

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