In 2009, NetherRealm Studios released “Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe” which saw the characters from the MK universe clashing with the heroes and villains of DC Comics. Then in 2011 the studio rebooted its staple franchise with the game “Mortal Kombat,” providing a take on the franchise that felt both old and new.
Now, NetherRealm turns its attention back to the DC universe with the game “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” finally providing comic and games fans alike a chance to see what would happen if Batman and Superman faced off in a fight, and much like “Mortal Kombat’s” 2011 reboot, there is plenty here that will feel new and familiar to seasoned players.
The premise of “Injustice” is explained completely in its tag line – what happens when our greatest heroes become our greatest threat? The set up of the game sees Metropolis destroyed by a nuclear weapon and the Joker tricking Superman into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. While being interrogated by Batman, Superman appears and in a fit of rage, kills the Joker and establishes the One Earth government with himself at the head while the rest of the heroes and villains either join him or Batman’s insurgency. It then cuts to a parallel earth where the Joker’s plan fails and several heroes, along with the Joker, get transported to the alternate earth to help the alternate Batman’s insurgency against the alternate Superman’s regime. While this could have easily been overlooked or just rushed through, the story mode turns out to be an entertaining comic book romp through the DC universe, taking inspiration from storylines like “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” where alternate versions of DC’s heroes and villains battled for survival.
The story in “Injustice” plays out across 12 chapters, with players taking control of heroes, like The Flash or Aquaman, along with villains, including Deathstroke and Lex Luthor. This variety provides different perspectives on the crisis, along with the chance to experiment and see what character works best to one’s play-style. The story also provides for some cool moments, such as when Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern, meets his alternate version that is a member of the Sinestro Corps, called Yellow Lantern. Also, with this being a DC game, NetherRealm Studios was given access to several DC-known voice actors who are famous for playing certain characters, such as Kevin Conroy, who has voiced several iterations of Batman going back to the classics ‘90s animated series. The rest of the voice cast does a good job with the slate of characters provided, however, it is a little disappointing to not have Mark Hamill voice the Joker as he has in the past, not to knock his replacement, Richard Epcar, who does do a good job in the role.
All this means nothing, however, if the game is not a competent fighter with a strong and varied system, which it is. With the game being developed by NetherRealm, there are clear similarities to the most recent “Mortal Kombat” game, with “Injustice” sticking to a 2D backdrop and control scheme, along with characters that are provided with power bars similar to the bars in the 2011 “Mortal Kombat.” That being said, there have been some small, but notable changes to the control scheme this time around, mainly the change from a four to a three-button system. This makes for easier attacks and combos to execute for more novice players, but with a combo and ability tree that is deep enough for the most dedicated players. The fourth button has been changed to an ability button that is unique to each character, such as Wonder Woman changing weapons from her lasso to a sword and shield, or Doomsday covering himself in a rock armor that makes him nearly invincible.
This variety also shines through in the super moves that each character can perform with a full power meter, filling the role of the x-ray attacks and fatalities from “Mortal Kombat.” These super moves end up being devastating when hit and visually amazing, whether it’s watching Cyborg fire a massive energy cannon or Aquaman summon the power of the seven seas. The game’s lifespan is also lengthened from a variety of modes, such as standard versus modes and the S.T.A.R. Labs missions that replaces “Mortal Kombat’s” challenge tower. The online also seems to be running without problem, though this remains to be seen as more players start jumping online. Players going through all these modes will net experience points that provide new costumes and rewards.
Without a doubt, “Injustice: Gods Among Us” proves to be one of the best fighting games of this year, and another great game bearing the DC license, along with the recent “Batman: Arkham” games. A well-crafted comic book story is balanced with a system that is both accessible and deep for players of all levels. Whether you choose Shazam, Killer Frost or Nightwing, there is plenty to choose from with modes and characters that all feel unique. Whether you are a fighting game addict or a lover of DC lore, this is a game worth adding to your library.