Injustice: Gods Among Us review

Superman is right pissed.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Got Right

+ Awesome story

+ Brutal combat

+ DC fan service

+ Superman v Batman

Injustice: Gods Among Us Got Wrong

– Wagers suck

– Minor control issues

– Heavy characters are rubbish

Superman’s lost his mind. Two Batmans are having a casual chat. And Wonder Woman’s finally defeated by … umm … Wonder Woman. What the hell are you guys smoking and can I have some?

If you’ve not read the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in comics, you should probably do that. Go on, we’ll wait. They’re fairly short and actually highly entertaining  —  and I’m not a comic book guy  —  but more importantly, they explain the whole ruddy backstory. You won’t enjoy Injustice without the assumed knowledge, at least not entirely, and I’ve since gone back and (virtually) flicked through all of them to get a grasp on a highly convoluted narrative.

If you’re in the know and follow the story  —  as was the case with two of my Friendly Fire Cast colleagues as we blasted through the story in one sitting  —  prepare to nerdgasim all over your nice clean carpets. It’s one big fanservice romp from beginning to end and full of what are, evidentially, massive surprises. Warner Bros has slaved away to keep the story under wraps, so I won’t spoil it for you now.

But I will let you know the most important aspect: Injustice: Gods Among Us follows and intersects two alternate universes. It’s how Batman can give himself a briefing and Superman can be both good and evil while beating himself into a bloody pulp  —  but you’ll need the comics to elaborate on that further, as the game throws you in assuming you’ve been a good gamer and done the required reading. Without the comics, it’s like sitting in a university tutorial without having done your homework, nodding along and secretly hoping nobody asks you a question.

It’s an intriguing DC story first where heroes become villains and twists are staggering, and a decent fighting game second.

If you don’t dig comics and the whole DC universe but appreciate a good Joker v Batman tussle, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with Injustice, but the whole parallel universe shemozzle won’t have the profound effect that makes the experience so compelling for the intended fanbase. It’s an intriguing DC story first where heroes become villains and twists are staggering, and a decent fighting game second. If you love the game and are at a loss as to some of the negativity surrounding it, that’s why. Conversely, if you don’t understand the love, that’s why.

Between witty humor and an evolving narrative, there’s a fighting game, and a fairly accessible one, at that. Each character has set of combos you’ll need to learn  —  you can “tag” a few to be always on-screen if that helps  —  but as in most fighting games, the basic foundations are simple across the board, no matter who’s doing the pulverizing. There’s a deeper layer beneath, but lesser skilled players can happily ignore it and still find success.

The face buttons are used to command light, medium and heavy attacks. The fourth button swaps between minor power or weapon, adding another important, yet easily forgettable, dimension to a basic plan of attack. Superman’s just makes him stronger, while Wonder Woman switches between a sword and lasso which can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Interactive environments set Injustice apart from NetherRealm’s other work by making various set dressings key components to the fight. Best of all, how characters interact with foreground items will play to their strengths. Bane might pick up a parked car and grind you into the ground, while Bats will take a considerably more crafty approach. If you strike at the opportune moment, you’ll clobber your opponent into another part of the stage, potentially changing the balance, depending on who ends up by which interactive object.

In terms of raw fighting prowess, none of the characters seem obviously overpowered, but there’s a clear advantage to being light. The heavy gang including Bane and Lex Luther don’t dish out much extra damage, if any, but are far too slow to stand a chance against The Flash or Nightwing. Given the choice, I always sprang for the speedy character.

As you fight, each character builds their super power meter. This is the extraordinary move you’ve seen in all the promotional videos, like The Flash running around the entire world to deliver a banishing right hook or Batman calling in the Batmobile to deliver a decisive blow. They aren’t too overpowered, but pack a serious punch and look awesome.

However, I’m in two minds as to the longevity of these extravagant animations, as I am with the changing environments. They look amazing the first time, but then that’s it. They’re a bit of a one trick pony, and I can’t see any of it being entertaining for weeks on end.

On the other hand, they’re amazing for the entirety of the campaign. Throw in a couple of rounds of multiplayer and you’ve got around 12 hours of the daddy of all fan service. We’d be pretty happy with that in most other genres, so why not a fighting game that’s more about story and spectacle than anything else?

As a story-based fighter, once the seven hour narrative blows your mind, there’s really no reason to go back to it, and the multiplayer will grow tired far sooner than in its nearest competitor. There’s an expansive objective-based side mode called STARS that offers 240 missions that award up to three stars for completing each battle in a specific manor. It makes you think differently and will force you to retry over and over again to unlock whatever special goodie lies at the end of a perfect score, but that’s a goal reserved for only the most dedicated of fans.

The multiplayer experience sticks with the arcade 1 v 1 approach and is best played when you can gloat in your opponent’s disgruntled face. Its simplistic nature risks turning off more intense fighting fanatics but as I’ve maintained, Injustice is a DC story first and a fighting game second. It’s possible to have a whale of a good time just button-mashing and I suspect that will be the crux of most multiplayer outings.

The controls are now-and-again a touch finicky, but some of the blame can be passed to the Xbox 360’s disastrous D-Pad, and using the analogue stick confuses the combos system. Hitting the RB button, in this case, was the biggest miscommunication between game and controller to interact with the environment. The alert pops up next to your health bar, where you’re never looking, and flashes for a split-second until you move again. It’s impossible to roll with interactivity in the heat of the moment; it always has to be premeditated so you have plenty of time to setup and hit the button perfectly.

There’s also a terrible “wager” mechanic that has you bet part of your super meter to either regain health or dish-out damage. I never once wanted to use it, but the AI insisted on pulling it and its sloppy animation out as soon as I’d used my super power and had absolutely no chance of winning. Lame. Take that out, and Injustice is a safe, but entertaining fighting game.

Playing on the normal difficulty, the story mode gave me a solid run for my money; however, on several occasions, the challenge really ramped up, only to then back off. Controversially, the occasional enemy went absolutely nuts from the opening minute pulling out every trick in the book and wiping the floor with my out-muscled corpse  —  only to then revert to basic moves and easily let me win the rematch. That’s great to bash through the story, but terrible as a challenging game.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a game for comic fans. It tells an intriguing DC story first, across alternate universes where roles are reversed, and is a fighting game second  —  whereas most games in the genre take the opposite approach. It’s a short term fighting game, but one hell of a ride while it lasts. The equation to determine if you should play Injustice is simple: do you want to see Superman fight Batman and try to take over the world?

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