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Injustice: does it succeed as a superhero game?

Thursday, 18th April 2013 08:17 GMT By Dave Cook

Injustice: Gods Among Us is out Friday across Europe. VG247′s Dave Cook asks if it’s just another fighting game, or if it really does make for a great superhero experience.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Developed by Mortal Kombat team NetherRealm Studios, Injustice is out this week on PS3 and Xbox 360. It will drop next week on Wii U.

You can see a list of all the current Injustice review scores here. It’s a mixed bag but the game has generally been received well.

If this piece of supposedly leaked artwork is to be believed, the game’s first DLC character will be Lobo.

We’ve got the Injustice launch trailer here. It’s full of fighting, story and DC Comics love.

We all have different tastes, but in the grand scheme of things many of us play games to escape the humdrum mediocrity of real life.

They can give us an immense power-trip, whisk us away to wonderful new worlds, and enable us to emulate feats we could only dream of. Empowerment is a vital part of the experience because when we’re gaming, we can be anyone.

Superhero fiction is perhaps the zenith of such escapism, where everyday people suddenly find themselves imbued with immeasurable power, sometimes with the ability to transcend time, space and existence itself. The rules of reality no longer apply.

Injustice: Gods Among Us features a large cast of these extraordinary individuals, so you’d like to think that the end result is top-heavy with insane stunts, devastating abilities and a sense of unmatched power.

After all, when a superhero license comes out and doesn’t make you feel powerful, then it’s probably fair to say that it’s has failed as an adaptation. An example of how to avoid this trap is 2008′s Sega-published Incredible Hulk movie tie-in.

While it looked ropey as all hell and wasn’t exactly innovative, you could still leap up skyscrapers and destroy whole city blocks with ease. It was an absolute riot if you gave it the chance, further underlining the case for solid gameplay over shiny visuals.

So I decided to take this approach with Injustice as a way of assessing its value as a superhero experience. Will it make you feel powerful? Does it portray its cast well? Ultimately, is it a game worth getting?

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The story mode opens with Metropolis in ruins and millions of citizens dead at the hands of the Joker. Batman and Superman have one of their usual lover’s squabbles, and then the action sees the rest of the cast battering ten shades of shite out of one another above the city. So far, so superhero.

Your first battle sees Batman facing off against Deathstroke inside Arkham Asylum, and from the word go it’s pretty insane stuff. The tiled walls shatter and burst with each heavy hit, the room collapses mid-bout, and in the end you really do feel like you’ve just destroyed half a building. Every stage is like this.

There’s even a range of cinematic abilities that ramp up the sense of power at hand. Wager moves see both fighters charging at each other head-on in a mini cut-scene, during which you must gamble a percentage of your superb meter. Whoever bets the most wins as both heroes collide with violent force as the backdrop convulses and shatters.

You can even interact with the scenery by tapping RB or L2, and at one point I was fighting Bane and he suddenly plucked a giant marble globe out of the background and hurled it at me like a baseball. Another fight saw Cyborg doing the same to my Green Lantern, except this time with a live missile. It hurt, but I laughed.

There’s also scope to knock people through to other parts of the arena. If you get to the side of a stage you can hold back and A – or X if you’re playing on PS3 – to pull off a power move. I used this as Batman and spin kicked Lex Luthor clean through a wall like it was made of paper.

He burst out the other side in a shower of concrete and tumbled down several storeys of a military hanger, only to land on the metallic floor below. The fall dislodged a parked aircraft that then fell down on top of him, blowing up the place and sending him exploding back into the fight for the punishment to resume.

All of this may sound really stupid, but its grin-inducing stuff. Best of all it’s relatively easy to pull off. You needn’t be a master of combos, timing and frames to get thrills out of Injustice. I should know, I’m really crap at the game yet I’m having fun with regardless.

On a technical level the core move list resembles Mortal Kombat in a few ways, but it’s not a carbon-copy by any means, even if there is still an emphasis on stringing together air juggles, wall bounce moves and single-hit attacks into mind-bending combos.

However, each character’s over-the-top special moves add enough madness and flair to help you win battles, even if you’re a butterfingers like me. Making Green Lantern magic up a mini-gun or having Cyborg evaporate the whole room with his cannon is as simple as entering a few commands. It might not be as technically impressive as a 20 hit combo, but it still feels awesome.

Then you have each character’s ultimate attacks, which require a full meter to activate. I’m tempted to say that Aquaman’s is my favourite move so far. First he creates a tidal wave to flood the arena and then skewers his opponent with his trident, holding them up defenceless while a shark eats them. Overkill is too soft a word. ‘Omnikill’ might be better.

It’s already clear that the community is going to have a ball uploading videos of their finest attack strings to YouTube, and I think the videos I’ve seen already are testament to the game’s scope for incredible feats. That’s one factor that will really help give Injustice staying power.

If I can make my bumbling attempts at combos look badass without even trying, I’m sure whatever the pros can do must look phenomenal. This is the power trip I was talking about – that feeling of being able to pull off the impossible no matter who you are or whatever your skill as a gamer.

So with that in mind does Injustice succeed as a superhero game? Absolutely. Whether or not it succeeds as a solid fighting game alongside the likes of Street Fighter, BlazBlue and Skullgirls remains to be seen, but I’m certainly having a blast so far.

Thankfully NetherRealm Studio’s treatment of DC’s characters is bang-on, with a typically bossy and righteous Superman, Nightwing and Green Arrow being cocky show-offs and the Joker cackling and prancing around each scene like he’s having the time of his life.

If you’re a fan of the comics then you’ll likely get a real kick out of the game’s core plot and its nods to other strains of the DC canon. I can’t claim to be a comic expert but I was confused enough at points to know there is a lot of fan service in there. Yet I still managed to follow the plot well enough to feel gratified.

Big, mad and full of death-defying stunts, Injustice really is a riotous superhero game, and one that should emerge to be a darling of the fighting game circuit. Although ultimately, that’s for the community and pro circuit to decide.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a universe to save.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this article, Warner Bros. sent Dave an Xbox 360 copy of Injustice: Gods Among Us. No additional merchandise or advertising were offered or accepted.

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18 Comments

  1. The_Red

    Great read. Glad to see you liked the crazy superhero aspects because as much as Boon and co are trying to present the game as a EVO level fighter, all I want from this is to be respectful to DC characters and show their true potential in a video game.

    With this and Batman Arkham games, DC is really starting to shine in the world of video games. Wish Disney would take a hint and do the same for Marvel heroes (Outside the upcoming LEGO Marvel which looks uber sweet). Sadly, as long as Activision has the license to most Marvel heroes, there will be no room for hope.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 Thanks :)

    I don’t know if it’s EVO worthy as I’m honestly not that good, but once you jack up the AI difficulty it does hit you with some pretty insane combo strings. There’s potential I think, but like I say I’m no expert.

    I just like being able to do mad shit without having super-human reaction speed.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. melonbuster1

    This game has so much value for your hard earned dollars! !! Best story mode in fighting game history! . So much reply value .. buy it

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @3 The story mode is incredible yeah, actually well written and fun. I like the third-person mini-game bits too, as simple as they are. The scene with Joker hurling explosive cards at Nightwing was fun. Green Arrow’s also quite funny.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. The_Red

    @1
    I’m not a pro fighter either. This is why I prefer watching fighting matches rather than playing them because then I’d get my ass handed to me in SF4, VF5 or BB.

    I think Netherrealm fighters are really more about what you said: Feeling like a extraordinary human being without too much effort. Maybe that’s lame for some super pro fighting fans but please, ESCAPISM is not about split-second super parry cancel transitions!

    Still a bit worried about area transitions / ultimate super movies getting stale and boring after a while, even if they are as awesome as the shark “Omnikill” :)

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @5 I know what you mean yeah, although I think like any repeated action in a game they will naturally lose their impact over time. The first time I saw Aquaman’s I was just like ‘whaaaaa?’

    Good fun :D

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Alex Donaldson

    @1, @2 – As the closest thing VG247 has to a resident pro fighting games nut — It’s about as EVO worthy as MK9 was. It’ll never be a ‘top’ game, but solid support from Warner Bros. in terms of pot bonuses and things like that will keep the game alive. Warner were really good about putting up big Pot bonuses (like $10k, 15k+) for MK9, and that really helped keep it alive.

    It’s a really combo-heavy, juggle-encouraging game, like MK9, and some people absolutely love that. It’s getting a lot of play right now around the Fighting Game Community – just go to Twitch and have a glance around and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s not clear yet if it’s that ‘new game smell’ though and if it’ll remain once the shiny appeal has worn off.

    The thing about the game is some parts of it – like the awesome environment things you can trigger – bring up interesting questions for any competitive scene. The stages can’t be ‘mirrored’, right? There will be different hazards and weapons on each side of the stage.

    That means Player One side may have an inherent advantage over Player Two side out of the gate on certain levels. This was a problem MK9 had too, for different reasons (P1 had less input lag, weirdly) and it did effect its tournament worthiness a bit. You can turn that stuff off – they clearly knew it might prove a problem in competition with cash on the line – but the moment you have to flick a switch to turn a core feature off, it starts to edge into ‘less tournament friendly’ territory.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this game. Since MK is at EVO this year, you can expect the pro MK players to focus on that and not this until at least July. Will the game still have a competitive pulse after July? Time’ll tell, I guess.

    There’s some pros playing for the next hour or so on Level Up Live’s Wednesday Night Fights: http://www.twitch.tv/leveluplive

    This interesting debate aside, the game itself is great and is I think the greatest game Netherrealm has ever made.

    PS: Dave, we should play online!

    #7 2 years ago
  8. SplatteredHouse

    This game looks superb. NRS and Warner have done such a good job with this game. I’m confident if you see it in action, you’ll find it a tough point to argue against. Outstanding effort, imho.

    “to be respectful to DC characters and show their true potential in a video game.”
    Your wish is granted. The heroes and villains look so good, and the stage backdrops that I saw, all the interaction and “life” to them. I found it (not intending to tumble into hyperbole, but) jaw-dropping to witness how well they brought it all together. I’m neither the biggest DC (or Marvel) follower, nor am I a FG specialist, but I saw quality, so that’s what I CAN tell you about, here.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. The_Red

    @7
    Thanks for the info and analysis. I loved MK9 for its breath of content (Specially story mode) and its fun, noob-friendly gameplay. I mean, I love games like VF or BB but have never been really good at them. MK9 was the closest to a good fighter I’ve ever gotten and I think it’s partly thanks to the more simplified mechanics and easier timing. Plus, I just love the characters, lore and stories.

    As a DC fan, can’t wait to fully dive into Injustice.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. junguler

    having loved mk 9 and being a long time fan of the developer i’ll be having a blast with their latest creation

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Clupula

    Lobo isn’t rumored anymore. Ed Boon confirmed him yesterday, during the Injustice finale.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Dave Cook

    @11 Thanks man I wrote this yesterday afternoon before then, so thanks for the heads up :)

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Clupula

    @7 – Environmental hazards and stage transitions can be turned off. I assume, in a fighting tournament, that would be a rule.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Dave Cook

    @13 I did wonder this yeah, they mess up balancing.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Clupula

    I have to say as someone who is more into Marvel (and more adult stuff like The Boys, Preacher, etc…), this game did give me lot of respect for some the DC characters. I knew very little about Black Adam, previously, for example, but his playstyle, his posture, the way he moves, all of it are intimidating, like you’re fighting a god. Then the characters I do know, like Joker, Harley, and Batman, they got down perfect. Batman, you have to play smart against stronger characters, because otherwise, they’ll destroy you, while with Joker, it’s about keeping the field chaotic.

    The only character who feels too stiff is Wonder Woman. And the only character who, I’m sorry, no matter what they do, is still lame to me, is Green Lantern. I don’t understand how he’s making complex machinery and I don’t think there’s any way you can make someone who catches people with a giant green hand cool.

    But the community aspect of it has been awesome. Comparing DLC costumes with other people online is part of the fun. And the King of the Hill rooms seem to be pretty full. I saw a guy kicking ass with Solomon Grundy the other day. I also wonder how much of the full poem can Grundy do in the game. I have heard him get up to Wednesday.

    But yeah, awesome game. Should probably note, though, the deficiencies of the Wii U version, though. Not only does it not have any of the pre-order DLC, the season pass, or the ability to connect to the iOS version, it also, from what I’ve read on gamefaqs, does NOT allow you to invite friends to a game, which in a fighting game in 2013, is absolutely fucking unacceptable.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Clupula

    I got this at the midnight launch and then played it for about 8 hours straight. I even put Bioshock Infinite on hold while I learn to master this.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. The_Red

    @15
    Preacher is the best :)
    I think Wonder Woman is a really hard character to do but if you ever get the chance, try her Gail Simone run. She does a great job during her run with WW.
    As for Green Lantern, I don’t know what to say. The dude thinks of something and it becomes real. Not that familiar with his books but the Justice League: New Frontier story / cartoon does feature a very nice GL arc.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. chaoszage

    I have not play this game yet but I prefer action-adventure instead of fighting for DC superhero series.

    #18 2 years ago

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