Most games based on comic book worlds greet us with shining shields, primary colours and self-sacrificing heroism – especially where characters like Superman and Wonder Woman are concerned. But NetherRealm have been given the power for Injustice, and with them a torrent of violence and unimaginably over the top combat is never far behind.
CHARACTERS & STORY
Right from the start there is a sinister and dark tone to Injustice that you can’t help but notice. The music isn’t a fanfare celebrating our favourite heroes and the costumes are generally more functional looking and modern than their comic book counterparts.
It really is a good idea to start with the single player story, after completing the short tutorial which briefly introduces the basics of combat and the unique features that Injustice has to offer. After that you can get stuck in.
You will start as Batman and work your way through the different characters Injustice has to offer while the story unfolds in cut scenes between the action. The pacing of the cut scenes in between the fights is perfect. They really break up the fighting but without creating frustrating moments where you just need to hit something.
Roughly every 3 or 4 fights the focus of the story switches to a different character and reveals the star of your next few fights. This pattern repeats until the end of the story and is a simple but clever way of getting the player to try the different characters on offer whilst keeping both the fighting and the story fresh.
It’s a decent plot too. It’s nice to see a fighting game that can tell a great story without becoming dull and cumbersome. Even more impressive is NetherRealm’s use of the DC multiverse, although I assume having Warner Bros (the parent company of DC comics) as a publisher doesn’t hurt. Interactions between certain characters bring up past grievances or relevant events and a good handful of the fights that take place are based on old rivalries, alongside the new rivalries the game introduces.
One of the unique features of Injustice is that not everyone is fighting on the side you would imagine. The characters personalities, personal events and the events of the DC multiverse itself are all used cleverly in an original story. The explanations for heroes becoming villains and villains becoming heroes are well integrated with DC lore and create some interesting allegiances.
Outside of the single player story the character selection screen has 12 heroes and 12 villains for you to choose from which is more than enough given how unique they all are. Not a single one feels like a last minute decision and most have unique abilities that reflect the characters well.
They are all well rendered and look great whilst never loosing their DC identities. NetherRealm’s unique touch and experience in design and character abilities is clearly present but doesn’t go against DC’s already more than well established characters. Nor does it feel like DC restrained NetherRealm from their creativity.
Fans of Mortal Kombat will be glad to hear that NetherRealm have definitely brought their unique style with them in full force (is there any other amount of force?). Those proficient at Mortal Kombat will be rewarded with a decent advantage but there should be enough new material to hold interest.
Pressing R1 at certain places in an arena will result in an environmental attack using objects like chandeliers, cars or statues to name just a few. The environments get totally destroyed as the battle proceeds lending a real feeling of weight and power to the combat.
The super-moves are completely over-the-top, unique to each character and very cool. But probably more exciting still is when you slam your opponent through the wall of the arena doing massive damage and revealing a different area on the same level.
When Superman punches you out of the atmosphere and then slams you back to the ground and you respond by putting him through the wall of his very own fortress of solitude it really seems like two superhumans having a brawl.
On top of the more than ample story mode Injustice offers the usual training mode, plain old fights and battles. The training mode allows you to change a huge amount of options so you can practice exactly what you need to. You can also mark up to 6 moves that are displayed during the fight. You can even mark moves and have them displayed duringstandard fights which can really help those seeking to improve, believe me I know.
Battles are preselected rosters of opponents you must defeat under certain conditions like classic, which is essentially arcade mode and unlocks characters’ endings, survival mode or having constantly draining health. And there are tons to unlock.
UNLOCKS & LONGEVITY
Hero Cards have added loads to unlock in a very similar way that player cards work in Call Of Duty. You can customize the background, icon and portrait which is then displayed alongside your current XP and level for all to see.
The XP you earn isn’t necessarily online either so after completing the story you will have a decent amount to get started. The individual customize items are unlocked by achieving various feats such as defeating a number of opponents with a certain character or performing an amount of super-moves.
Heading over to the S.T.A.R. labs section reveals a truly massive list of challenges, 240 to be precise. There are 3 conditions for each challenge with each condition fulfilled awarding a star. Once you have reached enough stars more challenges are unlocked and when you have enough, and you’re going to need a lot, you win a prize!
Seems simple but they very quickly get quite tough. Some are fights but most are one-offs that only appear in the labs so they’re definitely worth a go but the main draw to them is bragging rights. And well deserved bragging it is.
The Archives allow you to unlock new battles modes, concept art, music and costumes as well as letting you view character endings and destroy environments just for fun.
You’ve probably noticed by now that there’s quite a lot to do on Injustice. What’s even better is that all of the features available in Injustice feel well designed and integrated. They all have a purpose and belong in the game. More importantly they’ll keep you coming back to Injustice for quite a while.
The story mode is quite easy for the most part which helps with the pacing although there are a few tricky fights, especially near the end. The only downside to this is that when you get to play as the more powerful characters you will probably find yourself actually getting beaten up more. This is an inevitability of video game design I suppose but it did make fighting with some of the characters a little disappointing.
Outside of story mode you will have 5 difficulties to choose from ranging from very easy to very hard. Easy doesn’t really put up much of a fight and can even be seen just standing still at times but jumping up to medium soon creates a challenge. I genuinely can’t see who would need to use the very easy setting but I think there’s some space for a difficulty between easy and medium, given that easy is so placated.
The difficulties could have been stepped better but there should be a difficulty to suit most and there’s the potential for punishing difficulties enough to satisfy almost all players. There’s always the added challenge of online multi player if the AI isn’t enough for you.
The initial loading screen for the multi player takes quite a while to load and I really thought I was in for a nightmare experience. After the initial load the waits are brief and my challenger was soon chosen and we were taken to the character selection screen. After another brief wait the action started and I preceded to get completely bashed around, perhaps a little more practice first then.
Other than the phenomenal beating I took it was a joy to play. No lag or frame drop as far as I could tell and after the first loading screen very reasonable waiting times. The option to rematch with the same player after the round is a nice touch and makes it easy to play again, or leave and find a different opponent. If you manage to complete all the single player elements or just want a change or a new challenge the online multi player will not let you down.
The soundtrack is a dark twist on the usual superhero affair and accompanies the visuals very well indeed. Great sound effects throughout fights sell the mood and give even more weight to the action.
Voice acting is nothing special, but is definitely adequate to carry the story, other than that the game sounds fantastic start to finish. Injustice is absolutely worth turning the volume up for, I know I did.
The menus are slick and easy to use and the battles look brilliant with over-the-top exciting effects. The costumes are well textured and outside of story mode the damage taken during a battle adds a small sense of realism to Injustice.
Another nugget of realism comes from the destructible environments which alter as your fight progresses and make the characters feel engaged in their environment, rather than just two lifeless figures and a background.
The only slight disappointment are the visuals in the cut scenes which are good, but not anywhere near as good as the fights. It’s an odd experience to watch the end of a cut scene and see the graphics improve noticeably.
Having said that the movements of the characters are very realistic, especially in the cut scenes and clearly a lot of work has been put into character movement. Injustice does a great job of making the characters feel like more than just avatars from a beat-em-up.
Justice: Gods Among Us is a stunning game. It’s got style, it looks good, it sounds good, there’s loads of content and challenges that are actually challenging. Good use of the DC universe with alternate costumes from the New 52 and references to classic plot arcs from the comics. The amount of unlockables and unique tasks to accomplish is simply more than I can mention here and will be enough to keep you coming back for more, even if you don’t go on the great multi player.
The only thing that really lets Injustice down are mediocre cut-scenes. Ironically NetherRealm did such a good job with the story that mediocre cut scenes simply aren’t good enough. A huge part of the experience of Injustice is in the story, especially for DC fans, and the cut scenes just aren’t good enough to deliver it properly. But it is refreshing to see a plot of this caliber integrated well in a beat-em-up despite their lackluster appearance.
Comic book, beat-em-up and Mortal Kombat fans alike won’t be disappointed. The only way to truly do Injustice justice is to play it for yourself.
Reviewed on PS3. Available now on PlayStation 3, Wii U & Xbox 360.