Platform | Release Date
360, PS3, Wii U | April 16, 2013
Developed by NetherRealm Studios
Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Injustice: Gods Among Us debuts as a bold new fighting game franchise that introduces a deep, original story featuring more than 20 fan favorite, and other less well-known, DC Comics icons such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Harley Quinn, Solomon Grundy, Nightwing, Cyborg and others. Set in a world where the lines between good and evil are are blurred, players will experience heroes and villains engaging in epic battles on a massive scale.
If you title your game Injustice: Gods Among Us, it is a safe bet that you might have philosophical questions within your work. If you’re known as “the creators of Mortal Kombat“, would anyone look for the answers?
NeatherRealm Studios’ last project, Mortal Kombat, set a high bar for single player content in a fighting game. Ridiculously high, really. It was so unexpected and such an overall fun product, I declared it my GotY. Hours of cinematic campaign content nears seamlessly linked fights together with the pacing and structure of a TV show. The B grade plot was the best kind of cheesey sequel-prequel-reboot.
- Why doesn’t someone just kill the Joker?
- Why won’t Superman use his powers to prevent suffering, rather than a reactionary stance to provocation?
I won’t spoil how Injustice addresses these. At least, not directly.
Instead, the two inquiries we should be concerned with:
- Does the single player component live up to the expectations set by NetherRealm’s previous entry, Mortal Kombat?
- Is Injustice a tournament worthy fighting game?
Like all great questions, the answers are grey. A bit of yes and no.
From a technical standpoint, Injustice is better presented, better balanced, and better paced than its predecessor. Fights are completely seamless, from cinema to Kombat and back. Perfunctory mini-games are also blended into the experience, but at worst they are inoffensive. Difficulty has also been adjusted to make progression easier. I had several friends fail to finish Mortal Kombat‘s story due to difficulty spikes caused by boss fights or 2 on 1 matches. None of these are an issue in Injustice‘s Story mode.
The unfortunate, and possibly unforeseen, outcome to this is a lack of consequence. Lose a mini-game and you’ll start with a bit less health during your match. If you are defeated in a round, the match barely pauses and you stand back up with your remaining life bar. If defeated in both rounds, simply hit continue, regain full health, and stand back up. While this isn’t technically different than any most fighting games, it doesn’t feel like you lost. Without a taunt, a bloodied face, or a Continue screen, your defeat is barely a blip.
With no reason to fear defeat, there’s no tension. You’ll breeze through the story mode quickly because everything flows so smoothly. It’s an enjoyable but ultimately unfulfilling ride. You are given only a glimpse into the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ world before the credits roll.
And for anyone that cares: “Kryptonian Nanomachine Pills”. That’s how the game justifies Green Arrow punching Superman through a building, or Nightwing surviving a bullet to the head from Deathstroke.
The remaining single player content is massive, but not worth the effort. There is a Battle mode, which plays like a standard arcade ladder with various modifiers that can be applied. The meat of the content is S.T.A.R. Labs (the MK Challenge Tower reborn), containing a series of strictly scripted scenarios. Some of these are intriguing and fun, while others are designed to frustrate. There are multiple missions with one-hit KO rocket launchers being fired at you from off-screen to teach you how to dodge. What will actually happen is you’ll just get hit and have to perform the fight all over again.
If the single player content is uninteresting, should I invest my time in practicing to become competitive in the fighting game community?
Injustice is a serious fighting game. Without the Mortal Kombat name to hold it back, NetherRealm was free to experiment. You can now hold back to block. Frame data is exposed in-game in the move list. You can tag moves to leave their input instructions displayed on the screen even as you fight. There is an online mode for practicing against a human, to train against a friend with unlimited life bars and no time limit. Online hotfix patches can be instantly delivered to patch infinite combos. There are a ton of tools here to better your game, superior to almost any other fighting game on the market.
Unfortunately, this makes the weak points stand out. Despite a heavy reliance on interesting combos, Injustice offers almost no information extending these beyond a basic 3-5 hits. While most fighting games provide a challenge or expose a couple of extended combo sequences, Injustice shows you the building blocks and expects you to figure it out yourself. That, or watch YouTube tutorials. This is a significant deficit: these combos are not hard to pull off, and with even a little in-game help, the entire community would benefit greatly. If you want to see the truly impressive feats, you’ll need to eventually hit up YouTube anyway, since there is no built-in Replay interface.
I was very disappointed that the story mode did not live up to the high expectations set by Mortal Kombat. That the training tools are expanded to include frame data but still require external study in online forums to progress beyond a fundamental level is confounding. However, I can’t stop from having fun playing Injustice. The core game here is fun to goof off in, fun to train with, and fun to compete against. Is it a crime to have so much fun despite falling short of my expectations?
No, the game is still damn fun. I guess that’s the question I should have been asking all along.