Coming from the same stable as the hugely popular Mortal Kombat reboot, and one of that leading beat-‘em-up franchises’ creators, a lot is expected of Injustice: Gods Among Us. It’s the first console release to offer a dark view of the DC Universe ensemble for a long time, an adult videogame for a mature audience, but more than this it’s the chance for Netherrealm Studios to break out and show that their particular brand of beat-‘em-up gameplay can be more meaningful than a single franchise.
Injustice: Gods Among Us begins well by offering new players the opportunity to play through a tutorial, getting the fundamentals dealt with first-and-foremost. Movement, basic attacks and blocking; Injustice: Gods Among Us borrows more than just a development environment from the Mortal Kombat series. This is Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe without the Mortal Kombat bit, but a much darker affair than that may suggest. DC Universe fighters still don’t have death-dealing finishing moves, but in all else Injustice: Gods Among Us has been executed exactly as had been anticipated.
Thankfully that means Mortal Kombat’s most celebrated innovation returns in the form of Injustice: Gods Among Us’ Story Mode. Leading the player through a unique and well written story, Injustice: Gods Among Us throws a selection of different characters at the player one-by-one, either fighting as them or against. This does require that the player have at least a little knowledge of the DC Universe, rather than being an open invitation like the most recent Batman titles, but most will be able to quickly catch-up with the most modern changes in character and situation.
Bringing such a varied and able collection of characters together in a single videogame has required some liberal interpretation, as one might expect, but on the whole most characters are very well represented. The Bruce Willis lookalike Lex Luthor is perhaps one of the easiest character to get to grips with simply due to his heavy attacks and generous combo windows, while Green Lantern is arguably the Johnny Cage of the bunch. Aquaman is swift and with range while Batman, acting as both the training character and first to play in Story Mode, feels awkwardly disjointed at first.
The fighting system on the whole is based around aggressive strategies, with players attempting to build a metre that controls the most effective abilities, such as Injustice: Gods Among Us’ take on EX moves and supermoves, which are the equivalent of Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray moves. Injustice: Gods Among Us forces players to make use of this meter by other significant damage for enhances moves and supermoves and a quick three-stage fill, positively encouraging attacking gameplay.
Additional gameplay modes include the S.T.A.R. Lab, which offers a long line of unique challenges, and Battle Mode, which is the classic arcade ladder with ten increasingly difficult opponents in a structured order. The gameplay mode is given a twist however, with a variety of optional rules available – from poisoned players that automatically lose health as time continues to speed runs – to compliment the traditional template. This is further mode interesting by the fact that half-a-dozen modes are available at first but more than triple that amount appear as unknown quantities; an obvious but effective way to manage unlocks and progression that compels the player to see what will become available. Given the fact that all characters are available from the start, this is a shrewdly implemented alternative.
Multiplayer gameplay is available both locally and online, with a noteworthy amount of gameplay modes complimenting the latter. Ranked and Player matches are obviously inclusions, but the addition of competitive modes that see players fight in lobbies is most certainly welcome. The connectivity of the videogame is very reliable, with no lag-hindered matches experienced in well over two-dozen matches for Electronic Theatre’s playtest, and even then only once in a fight. Another of the advantages Injustice: Gods Among Us has inherited from Mortal Kombat, but sadly it’s demands for greater knowledge of the fighting system means the gap between novice, experienced and expert players is very wide indeed.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is well presented from a technical standpoint, with both the aural and visual quality matching the standard set by the online play; commendable, but falling shy of perfect. All of the many characters are designed to resemble some of their most modern interpretations, and they do so very well indeed. While not all of the voices chosen to represent them will be to every fan’s taste, it’s hard to deny the quality of their interpretation.
For a videogame given the hard task of pleasing fans to two very disparate franchises and proving that a design ethos is more than just a one-off success story, Injustice: Gods Among Us does perform well. On the whole it’s an enjoyable experience, but there’s no denying that it is the weaker sibling, forever destined to live in Mortal Kombat’s shadow. It doesn’t falter as Street Fighter X Tekken did for Street Fighter IV’s near-immaculate run, but nor does it set an example that others will follow.