Though we’d hate to admit it, we lead fairly unremarkable lives. We wake up, head to work, or in the case of some of this site’s younger members, go to school and do what we need to do to get through the day.
Sure we’ll have that odd day of excitement, you know the one where the girl (or guy) of your dreams finally walks into your life or when you manage an atomic wedgie on the biggest bully around. But those moments are few and far between. However they’re the times you’ll end up remembering more than let’s say the daily train ride to work or limp canteen food you ingest daily out of sheer necessity.
No, you haven’t sauntered onto Thought Catalog, and neither have I been committed to an asylum. Just yet. The mundane routine vis-a-vis those spectacular flashes of brilliance hold true to Injustice: Gods Among Us as well. Yes, inspite of being touted as a superhero packed extravaganza that would satiate every comic book geek’s carnal desire (who would win in a catfight that pits Wonder Woman versus Cat Woman for example) it has you working or at the very least, waiting for those blinding situations of glory.
That’s not to say Injustice is a bad game. In fact, it’s far from it. Stringing together combos takes a bit of work if you’ve been weaned on a steady diet of Marvel Vs. Capcom. It’s got a deliberate feel to the proceedings. Each punch carries weight and the combat gives you a sense of harshness that’s almost visceral. Don’t fret though; a superlative and exhaustive tutorial will set things right in a jiffy. However, if you’ve experienced 2011’s Mortal Kombat, you’ll be at home. No surprise since it’s been made by the same studio.
And while it does feel like Mortal Kombat, the key differences are in how it delivers those rare moments of genius I exemplified as an excuse to start this review. As you proceed to beat your opponent to a pulp or vice-versa, you have a meter consisting of four bars that fills up. When one or more is filled you can click the triggers during an attack to amplify the damage dealt. But the true spectacle occurs when you’re dealing with a full meter. It’s at this point you can unleash a rather over the top special move that obliterates your opponent. It differs as per superhero. Superman flies with the unsuspecting victim into space only to pummel him down back to earth and Batman’s features the Batmobile to run his foe down. The best of the bunch is Aquaman being able to conjure a shark (and a sea of water no less) for maximum damage.
While special attacks aren’t exactly new, they’re beautifully done and never feel old. For one because they’re unique to each character and the other being that by the time the match ends (no rounds here like other fighting games, instead a single bout that features two health bars per character) you’ll probably see one, maybe two at best with most of the match just inching to that moment when you can unleash hell.
Another reason for the lack of specials per round has to do with wagers. These are high intensity clashes between combatants that resemble slowed down action pieces from movies with a twist. When a player activates a clash, he and his adversary have to bet an amount of their specials bar. Betting correctly yields him an attack bonus, while losing the bet lets the opposition gain health. You can only have two wagers per battle with one per player and it can only be accessed when you have one health bar left. It’s a fun addition that adds a layer of strategy to the proceedings.
Then you have traits. A tap of a button allows you flight, a health boost or better attack options depending on your superhero. This means Wonder Woman can use a sword and shield instead of her trademark lasso and Superman can dish out more damage. Did we mention different characters can use the environment in different ways? Playing as Superman or Green Lantern lets you throw objects in the level such as tomb stones or missiles. Acrobat savvy characters such as Catwoman and Night Wing use the same items to evade an attack by bouncing off them. Also most environments have multiple tiers that when triggered, deal extra damage similar to the Dead of Alive series where a battle can take place across different areas in the same level.
All of these additions culminate in a fairly decent attempt to keep things from going stale. The way they’re executed though results in combat that’s slower, grittier and less exuberant than its Japanese counter-parts. Makes sense given how the art direction and graphics have a more Nolan-esque (Christoper Nolan, not Nolan North) vibe to it. It’s just that you’d expect a little more pomp and flair due to the roster of heroes and villains playable.
In spite of this, Injustice manages to be fun to play. The single-player mode has you taking on the role of different characters during the duration of the campaign similar to Mortal Kombat. What was pleasantly surprising was how well the story was told and how events leading up to its fitting conclusion make sense. Without spoiling much, it involves nukes, parallel universes and the Joker being an absolute troll. You can’t find fault with the variety in the roster you control. From lesser known stalwarts like the Green Arrow and Cyborg to household names like Batman and Superman you’re given ample opportunity to get a fair idea of the game’s different characters and how they handle.
Prior to a brawl, more often than not you’ll indulge in mini-games that are glorified quick time events. They’re a tad boring and in some cases, seem force fit. How you well you tackle these changes the amount of health you or your nemesis starts of with. Nitpickers may take offence with the amount of playtime Batman ends up with compared to others. More of the Dark Knight is never a bad thing though. Well at least in my opinion.
Aside from a solid campaign, you have a slew of other single-player distractions such as STAR Labs that has you performing a boatload of character specific missions complete with mini-games and battles. A nice touch if the production values weren’t a step down from the story mode what with oodles of text and cookie cutter presentation. If you can handle those two issues you’re in for a treat. There are the usual versus and arcade modes as well.
On the multiplayer side of things you have your standard offerings such as versus, King of the Hill, shamelessly inspired by the last Mortal Kombat and Survivor mode (similar to King of the Hill but players don’t get their lives back). Nothing too new here but fun all the same. Playing online wasn’t as bad as it was with Mortal Kombat where you had to wait for ages to get into a game but it would be interesting to see how it would pan out down the line. Adding an online practice mode is a nice touch allowing you to share new moves with friends ditto with the game showing off frame data on pausing giving you an idea of how many frames it would take you to perform specific moves.
What isn’t nice are the aesthetics. Running a modified version of the Unreal Engine 3, the character models don’t look that good, nor do they animate that well in cut-scenes. Furthermore, the cut-scenes themselves had skipping issues even with a complete install on the Xbox 360 hard drive. I guess they had to cut corners somewhere to allow for denser, busier environments that have minor characters up to no good in the background, destructible objects, multiple tiers per level and meet a deadline.
Conclusion: As it stands, Injustice is a game that makes you work hard for those moments of sheer entertainment. Not a bad thing. But it ensures that this game about crazy flying men wearing underwear over their pants is a lot more real to life than it should be.