Injustice: does it succeed as a superhero game?

Thursday, 18 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.