The lights are on
Fighting games have a bit of a stigma attached to them. Games like Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom are known for their steep learning curves and almost complete lack of compelling single player content. For competitive players a well-balanced roster of fighters is enough, but for casual fighting game fans purchasing a fighter day one can seem like a waste of cash, especially if you don't have friends to play with.
NetherRealm Studios, creators of the excellent 2013 reboot of Mortal Kombat and unlike many of their Japanese fighting game developer counterparts, is doing its fair share to kombat (I couldn't resist) the stereotype with their DC Comics 2D fighter Injustice: Gods Among Us. In the process they may have created one of the best comic book games of all time.
DC's finest heroes and most notorious villains are all here for players to take for a spin. Each of the 24 characters has a distinct personality, and their gameplay reflects that. While several characters share similar archetypes such as beefy grappler, quick and nimble skirmisher or long ranged zoner, every hero and villain have their own unique combos, special abilities, super moves and character power. It's a comic book nerds dream come true. Ever wanted to see Batman fight Doomsday? Think Joker could take on Superman? Do you feel the need to prove to the world that Aquaman is not, in fact, a wuss? Injustice gives you your chance to play out all of your super hero fantasies.
Bringing the fantasy to life are crisp visuals and some of the most impressive battle arenas in a fighting game to date. The background of each arena feels alive and is filled with enough super hero cameos and comic book Easter eggs to make even the most critical fanboy smile. Injustice also ships with an impressive number of stages. What makes this even more impressive is the fact that the vast majority of stages feature multiple areas to battle in, essentially doubling the stage count. Hitting your opponent with a heavy attack near the edge of the stage will send them flying, often through buildings, trains, and a whole host of other potentially harmful surfaces until they crash land in the next zone to continue the battle.
Also littered throughout Injustice's environments are objects that can be interacted with to gain an advantage over your opponent. A button in the Batcave fires missiles from a parked Batmobile in the background, and numerous objects can be picked up and thrown or bounced off of to distance yourself from your opponent. Finding all these interactions and discovering how to incorporate them within your fighting strategies adds a whole other layer of depth and strategy to an already complex fighter.
But just because the games systems are complex doesn't necessarily mean they aren't beginner friendly. Injustice excels at easing players into the game. A simple and straight forward tutorial helps explain the basics, but it is in the outrageous collection of missions, challenges, and mini-games known as S.T.A.R. Labs where players will find the opportunity to further train with their favorite characters but at the same time be entertained.
The over 200 S.T.A.R. Lab missions are just the beginning of what Injustice offers for players who prefer to play their fighting games solo. Injustice's biggest selling point, aside from being an incredibly solid fighter, is its story mode. After Joker blows up Superman's hometown of Metropolis and tricks the Man of Steel into killing the love of his life, Lois Lane, and her unborn child, Superman goes off the deep end. He decides he has been too soft, not using the full extent of his power and that people have died because of it. He conquers the planet and erects the One Earth government. Heroes who oppose him are captured, re-educated or killed. Only Batman and a handful of other heroes and villains are left to oppose Superman and his legions of super-powered soldiers. Told through cinematics and shifting perspectives, players fight as various heroes as they attempt to thwart Superman's increasingly paranoid and radical agenda. Comic book purists and Clark Kent fans will likely cry foul of how Superman is portrayed here, but it is all in the sake of fun and does a great job of giving a credible reason as to why all these heroes and villains are fighting and teaming up in the first place.
A traditional ladder mode with unique endings for every character rounds out the single player experience, and even this mode can be played with a variety of modifiers and special conditions to liven up the arcade experience.
Competitive fighting game players won't be disappointed either. There is more than enough depth here for hardcore fighter fans. Attacks come in a well-known variety of heavy, medium and light and concepts like super meters, block escapes and juggling will all be familiar to players of 2D fighters. These same fans can also rest easy knowing there will always be somebody to challenge online thanks to the games robust multiplayer options. It's a ton of fun to join a room of 50 other players and play a variety of King of the Hill, (winner stands) 1v1, or Survivor (winner stands but with limited health regeneration) matches. As players play both online and offline they will level up, unlocking new costumes, pictures and other ways to accessorize their online presence. Leveling up also unlocks access and armory cards which can be used to unlock costumes, music, and concept art.
Injustice: Gods Among Us and NetherRealm Studios proves that a fighting game can be much, much more than just two people beating each other up (though there is plenty of that). By delivering a compelling story in the DC comic universe and providing a huge variety of content both single player and multiplayer, Injustice is a shining example of what all developers of both fighting games and licensed properties should shrive for.
Great review! I'm really enjoying this game, it's so much fun!