In 2008, Midway Games released Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a crossover featuring classic Mortal Kombat characters facing off against superheroes the DC Comics. The game was decently well received, but many felt that the DC license was not exploited as well as it could have been.
Enter Injustice: Gods Among Us. Created by NetherRealm Studios – the development house that rose from the ashes of Midway – Injustice drops the Mortal Kombat veneer and instead seeks to create a fighting game that pays fitting tribute to the rich stock of DC superheroes available to them. Thankfully, they succeeded in creating an experience that should not only please the hardcore fighting fans, but give plenty of approachable thrills to anyone with even a passing interest in the comic book source material.
To anyone who played NetherRealms’ 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, it will be plenty obvious from the get-go that this game was developed by the same studio, though the controls and gameplay have been tweaked somewhat to better show off each of the characters’ abilities. Fighting is done with four buttons, including light, medium, and heavy attacks, as well as a button dedicated to showing off a characters unique traits or powers and varying more widely from hero to hero in function(though the success of this dedicated “hero button” varies widely throughout the roster).
As combatants get hit or perform combos, they build up a “super meter.” At various checkpoints on this meter it can be spent to perform certain strong attacks, with a full meter resulting in an extremely satisfying and cinematic blow that shows off the pinnacle of each fighter’s abilities. Used in this manner, the super meter is a welcome addition to this flashier Mortal Kombat spinoff.
Less successful is the “Clash” system, where players blindly wager an amount of their super meter to attempt to hit their opponent with a special attack. The cinematic nature of the Clash system interrupts combos – potentially strategic for the initiating player, but frustrating to be the one interrupted – and the wagering system feels odd, as it is nearly always best to simply wager as much meter as you have available, making the winner a foregone conclusion as soon as the Clash begins.
The story mode might be the biggest draw for anyone the not already sold on a new traditional fighting game. In it, four heroes (Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow) are drawn into a parallel universe by that world’s Batman, now leading an insurgency against a tyrannical Superman. The plot is a bit tough to swallow sometimes, but overall it is a fun and satisfying experience featuring many of the superheroes and villains a DC fan would be clamoring to see fight.
Overall the game is slightly more approachable than your standard tournament-ready fighting game, especially because the story mode adjusts difficulty on the fly based on success (or lack thereof) and usually just a few of the simpler attacks are enough to see it through for those just seeking to have fun with the characters. But for anyone interested in multiplayer or otherwise bettering their own skills, Injustice still requires ample time spent in the practice room memorizing lengthy button sequences and combos.
Once your favored character is thoroughly explored, multiplayer modes are solid if not remarkable. Other than a random match against an opponent, rooms exist allowing you to cherry pick whom you wish to challenge, and a King of the Hill mode allows a group of players to spectate a few rounds while waiting for their chance to challenge the reigning champ.
Overall the game looks solid, especially during the fights themselves. Environments are crisp and attacks look pleasantly flashy without getting in the way visually, though some characters animate a bit more smoothly than others. One of the more visually impressive features is that many stages allow a player to be thrown off the side of the screen in some capacity, showing them breaking through a number of highly painful barriers and eventually leading to a change in scenery for the remainder of the battle. These transitions are fun to instigate and fun to watch, and help highlight the strength of the characters being played.
Overall, Injustice: Gods Among Us succeeds in being both a fitting tribute to the DC comic book universe and a worthy Mortal Kombat pseudo-sequel, sure to please gritty fighting game veterans, DC diehard fans, and casual consumers of both properties. The lengthy campaign is enough of a draw on its own, but there is enough depth that players can spend hours upon hours playing online or against their friends even after the rest of the content is devoured.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: April 16, 2013 for iOS, PS3, Wii U, and X360