Injustice: Gods Among Us Review
Smashing heads, walls and expectations
Street fighter IV has held all the glory this generation thanks to a lack of creativity in the fighting genre. Developers NetherRealm hadn’t really managed to reignite brawler fans’ enthusiasm for the Mortal Kombat series either. So, upon learning they were working on a fighting game with the DC character roster it perhaps wasn’t unfair to assume something of a DC cosplay version of Mortal Kombat.
Except this isn’t a reskinned Mortal Kombat. This is a great game. While some of the control inputs bear a strong resemblance to Mortal Kombat, this feels much more responsive and fluid when layering combos and juggling opponents. These may sound like basic things to get right in a fighting game, but they form an essential foundation and grab your attention early on.
Special moves only require the simplest of d-pad inputs. Backwards, forwards, punch. Away, towards, kick. Down, towards, punch and so on. In-depth combos allow you to use a few of these together, maybe with an extra punch or kick somewhere in the middle, but the majority of special moves are accessible to even the most meat-handed of players, which is great for newbies. Compared to Street Fighter and its quarter-circle-centric controls, Injustice is much more approachable, with anyone able to pull off killer moves early on. Combos require swift button-inputs, rather than pacing them until each animation finishes. All the moves are readily available in the pause menu and seriously dedicated fighter fans can see all the geeky timing and animation frame information that means nothing to most of us, but is the sort of thing tournament fighters will love. Injustice wants to be taken seriously.
Each character’s skills and personality are faithfully represented by the special moves. Batman uses grappling guns and batarangs to pull-in and annoy opponents before unleashing some crunching melee moves, including an awesome defensive parry that ends in an ankle snap. On the other end of the scale, Superman has heat vision, wind breath (probably not the official name there) and floats above the ground constantly because he’s better than everyone else. Apparently.
Super moves are available when the metre is filled during the fight by kicking ass or having your own ass handed to you. Hold down L2 and R2 to unleash it, usually when you’re close to your opponent. There’s no Mortal Kombat-style secret to seeing these ace moves. They’re not finishers, but will generally take 30-40% of an opponent’s health. Wonder Woman ties an opponent with her lasso while her Amazonian allies smash them up, Batman has the Batmobile run them over, Flash will run around the globe to build up momentum for a bitch-slap while Superman smashes you into orbit only to meet you up there and hammer you back down to earth.
In the build-up to the game’s release, the environments were hyped by NetherRealm as being fully interactive and it’s fantastic to be able to say they’ve delivered on that promise. The R1 button is your friend for these moves and it’ll flash up in the corner when you’re near something interactive. Many background objects can be picked up and flung at your opponent. Statues, cars, boulders, monitors and so on. Overhead pipes can be broken to send a gust of nitrogen into surprised faces. In the bat cave you can punch a button and have the Batmobile fire rockets, there’s just so much to discover in every stage.
Each stage features a transition too. Usually activated by pressing away and X to perform a powerful knockback and send the DC legends smashing through walls, buildings, solid ground, anything, taking the battle to new environments. It was always fun knocking people through walls or up/down a level in Dead or Alive or Mortal Kombat, but this has taken it to a whole new level. And you’re going to love it.
Some fighters feel noticeably weaker than others, although I only really started to notice this when playing online. Batman is a lot of fun, but putting him up against projectile-heavy fighters like Superman or Deathstroke can be irritating, as it can be tough to get near them. So far, online players seem much keener to use the super-power enabled characters rather than the likes of Batman or Joker.
Balancing aside, the only other issue I had with the combat is the wager system where in the middle of a fight the action halts and you bet an amount of your Super metre with the winner getting a health boost and the looser getting nothing. The highest bidder supposedly wins, but I found the house to be cheating on this little gambit 95% of the time.