Gavin Gronenthal ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Comic books and games have always been a tricky mix. Either they’re so horrendously bad they become the poster child for bad video games in general (Superman 64) or they are so critically acclaimed that they receive a “game of the year status” (see the Batman: Arkham series). Fighting games, however, are an altogether different story. Let’s face it, everyone likes to see their favorite superheroes beat the crap out of each other, or beat the crap of some other well-known franchise.
However, the last time we saw the DC Comics cast butt heads on the field of battle was against the characters of Mortal Kombat in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. While the game wasn’t fundamentally terrible, most of the complaints came from how dumbed down the fatalities moves (a staple of Mortal Kombat games since their creation) were and therefore it became a huge disappointment. Luckily, the creators of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe heard the complaints of fans, and after a few years came out with the excellent Injustice: Gods Among Us.
And how did they fix those complaints? They decided to make the super moves (rather that fatalities) as ridiculous as they could. They embrace the sheer power of the DC characters and run with it: for example, Superman’s super move a punches his opponent into the stratosphere and back again…and then they can still stand up afterwards. Only in the world of video games and superhero comics does this truly make sense, and the designers at Netherrealm understood this and ran with it. Sure it seems a little strange that someone like Green Arrow can survive a plummet to Earth from outer space, but give them a little leeway: it is a video game after all.
The game also has exceptional fighting gameplay to go along with its over-the-top finishers, and exceeds at making an accessible system for newcomers. At the same time, it’s still advanced enough for people who have been playing for years to stay interested. It feels remarkably reminiscent of Netherrealm’s last game, Mortal Kombat (the ninth in the overall series) but that’s hardly a bad thing, as the fighting style translates seamlessly and works tremendously well when you’re punching Bane in the face with Green Lantern.
Speaking of, the character selection is pretty excellent here, bringing twenty four of DC’s prime characters into the fray. Batman and Superman obviously make appearances, along with many other well-known heroes and villains, with more on the way (Lobo is the first DLC character, hitting Xbox Live and Playstation Network on May 7th). Although all of the characters are pretty well chosen, there is a little bit too much Batman representation, as he has five of his rogue’s gallery as playable everyone else only one or two (or mostly zero). In addition, there are a total of fifteen stages and seven of those are Batman themed areas, such as the rooftops of Gotham and Wayne Manor (day and night version). I get that Batman is DC’s biggest name to push now, but it would be nice if some of the other characters got a little more recognition (there are no Flash villains or stages in the entire game, which is a big disappointment).
What isn’t remotely a problem, however, is the extensive story mode that comes along with the game. Set apart in twelve chapters, you take control of a different hero or villain in each chapter and play through a story that feels like a brilliant episode of the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. Without spoiling anything, the basic plot follows Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Aquaman (who is actually my personal favorite to play in the game, FYI) as they are transported to an alternate world where Superman, in a fit of rage and grief, crosses the one line heroes aren’t supposed to cross. Since then this alternate Superman has set up a worldwide regime with the other superheroes of the world, and the other world’s Batman is leading the underground movement to stop his wrath. It’s a classic story of what would happen if the most powerful man in the world was pushed over the edge, and it’s executed pretty strongly in this game. It also helps that some amazing voice actors have lent their talents to the characters, such as Kevin Conroy, George Newburn, and Susie Eisenberg who reprise their Justice League Unlimited roles of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman respectively.
The presentation of the game may be the only aspect that some people find a little grating, but I personally didn’t have many problems with it. When fighting in game, the stages all look incredible and are expertly detailed, especially the interactable objects you can use to attack you opponents with. But up close, the characters faces can seem a little oddly proportioned and awkward, and sometimes the dialogue doesn’t exactly sick up with what their saying. There is also definitely a problem with some of the costumes: while some look great (Green Arrow and Deathstroke both look excellent) there are other alternate costumes that leave you scratching your head as to why they ever thought that was a good idea (Shazam’s Regime alternate is a nightmare, and Doomsday’s is a close second).
But to me, the game was never about stunning visuals: it’s a fighting game after all, not an RPG epic of some sort, and takes a much bigger focus on gameplay rather than presentation. Frankly, I’d rather play a DC fighter with fantastic gameplay and average visuals rather than one with stunning visuals and mediocre gameplay; and this gameplay is far from mediocre. If you want your fill of DC heroes fighting the hell out of each other, or just want to play a solid Mortal Kombat style fighter, then be sure to play Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Score: 9 out of 10
Also! If you want to check out more about the story of Injustice, make sure to read the prequel comic online. Check out Jordan Lurie’s spoilerish review of the series here as well! http://emertainmentmonthly.com/2013/04/20/injustice-gods-among-us-comic-series-review/
Injustice: Gods Among Us is available now for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U.
Gavin Gronenthal ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff