The lights are on
I just want to say, before I dig in and tuck my heels in preparation for the fallout of my review, that I have been following the Injustice fanfare well before the game itself released. As an avid reader of the mini comics series that DC has been putting on- with, I might add, excellent writers and talented penmanship thrown into the mix, I've been counting down the days until the game's initial release. Injustice is one of the biggest games of the year for me personally, and I've been anticipating it greatly- and have been justly rewarded for my loyal following it seems. Let me spoil something for you really quick: Injustice is an excellent game, and of the same caliber as the recently released Mortal Kombat reboot/game number nine, which was by far one of my favorite action and combat (kombat?) games of this generation- certainly crushing Dead or Alive V and Tekken 6 with ease. However sacrilegious this may sound, I've actually enjoyed what little time I've had with Injustice: Gods Among Us than I have with Mortal Kombat in the year and a half since it released. Not including the mixed reception of MK vs DC Universe, Injustice marks the first time many DC characters, short of Batman's Arkham series, have been in the spotlight- and for good reasons too. (Not the laughably crappy Superman 64 or his other adventures over the years, of course!) Injustice is a game that just oozes creativity, care, and the time that NetherRealm obviously poured into every aspect and facet of its gameplay.
As you undoubtedly know from either the comics or the epic trailers and opening cinematic, the game starts after Joker detonates a nuclear bomb deep in the middle of Metropolis, effectively obliterating the city- and the majority of its civilian population. Obviously, Supes ain't happy bout dat. And to make matters even worse, as showcased in vivid detail in the comic series, he even goes so far as to trick Superman into killing his wife- the lovely Lois Lane, and their unborn son. Talk about being a bad father- Darth Vader, step aside. Despite Hamil not taking the helm on Joker's maniacal parade, his character comes across as insane as ever- if with a little more pitchy voice, I suppose. As Batman interrogates his beloved nemesis, Supes sweeps in to break up the reunion and decides to...handle matters a little bit differently than the world's greatest detective. Namely, after being egged on by the Joker, he shoves an iron fist through his chest and rips out his heart. Dayum. With this gruesomely epic opening, its already quite clear that the rest of the game is going to be pretty darn spectacular, even at its lowest points. I mean, holy sckamolee- Superman being a dictator (whoops), the Justice League swooping in to fight some Sea Gods (Yep), and epic fights between frenemies? You betcha.
Okay now, sure this opening might seem mundane for the folks capable of creating gut-wrenching fatalities for the Mortal Kombat game(s), and Superman's chaotic travel down a darker, twisted path seems closer to something out of the Scorpion/Sub-Zero book, but holy crap is this epic. I mean, the other twenty-some characters aside- have we ever seen this side of Supes before? I think not. And thanks to DC and NetherRealm, now we get to experience it firsthand. When friends fight friends, things break, but what happens when heroes fight heroes, eh? Not just worlds, but literally entire universes hang in the balance on this one. And now you see the grand scope of Injustice. Now, you'll notice that the game actually has an ESRB rating of T for Teen, instead of the ultimately expected M for Mature Audiences only. Well, this doesn't diminish from any of the fighting at all, and actually strengthens the game over time- showing that you don't have to be so over the top and gory like MK to be a great action/fighting game...and still be over the top. Throughout the game, DC fans will experience a massive wave of nostalgia as you battle in the heart of Metropolis, fight at the Wayne Manor, and globetrot and sightsee amongst many other famous and well-known locales in that universe.
Speaking of over-the-top combat and scenarios throughout the story and the entire game, whether or not there is much blood present at any given the time, Injustice is actually quite a bit more violent just through mundane combat than Mortal Kombat ever was at all- which is quite a feat, actually. And of course, they both trounce MK vs DC in nearly every aspect, unsurprisingly. Whether Superman is knocking some poor *** into space before unceremoniously blasting him with his laser-eyes, Doomsday is smashing people into Earth's core, The Flash is hitting you one million times in five seconds, or Batman drives a car into Solomon Grundy's face- there is always something extremely interesting happening throughout combat, and should keep you on your toes at all times. In fact, there isn't a single dull moment in any of the fights- mainly because you not only have environmental and enemy dangers, but you're just as likely to be attacked by random stage-standers by such as Killer Croc and Penguin for added measure at the end of an awesome combo. Think getting thrown into the sun is bad? Wait until you experience real pain after being KOed in one combo. Yeah.
With its epic intercessions into the fights that keep the intense action going and your mind racing at Flash's speed, NetherRealm adds a special kind of QTE (minus the QT button presses) by including blows of epic proportions for certain characters in specific locations. For example, as previously mentioned, Supes might launch Green Lantern into space, or perhaps some other terrible character (sorry Greenie Weenie), but nevertheless, whoever it is- they fly out of the atmosphere in an awesome cinematic event, before crashing back down to Earth, remarkably still alive thanks to their superhuman prowess. This kind of action isn't simply limited to special cinematic catastrophes though, and pans out to include the entirety of your fighting environment as well. Throughout the course of one fight, you might have smashed through seventeen walls, knocked over two entire buildings, blown up several vehicles around you, or, if you're the B-Man, used them to ram your opponents, and also have decapitated statues with your laser vision. The environmental damage sounds impressive, and with the awesome graphics, looks and feels that way as well. You can feel nearly every punch or kick landed, they're that beautifully rendered. It's amazing how this all basically goes to tie back into the whole "world ripped apart" theme of the entire narrative, even in combat, simply by showing the devastation around you as you fight to the death against your opposition.
If you've played either Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe or the newest Mortal Kombat game itself, you'll find the well-worn but still handy controls work just as well as to be expected. You'll constantly be either experiencing some vivid PTSD or nostalgic feelings depending on how you enjoyed or didn't enjoy the previous games worked on by NetherRealm. Once again, the balancing of characters, radius of powers, range and depth of blows, and environmental effects are handled excellently, and rarely to you encounter a character so over-the-top as Noob or someone in MK's most recent endeavor- well, unless you are a Doomsday spammer that is. Going back to both balancing and the environment's huge role int he majority of cases, whereas one character might be able to dodge and counter a certain environmental attack, another cannot and is either forced to take the punishment or get away with more effort than Shazam or Supes might expound to carry out the same action. Whereas some characters are virtually gods already, others feel like the men with gadgets and tights that they are- and rightly so.
Combat is best simplified into four main categories of attacks and commands: light attacks, medium, and hard attacks, as well as power attacks or power uses and buffs. These buffs and/or powerful attacks are character driven and unique to each individual in the game, meaning that however similar some may seem at times, no two super has the same ability at their disposal. Depending on your specific character, you can piece together a devastating combo with your powers or an unbreakable defensive shield. The majority of powers will regenerate over time during combat stages, meaning you can't just rely on Superman or Doomsday's powers and carnage-inflicting attacks for the entirety of the round- that would hardly be fair. Combined with juggle, aerial, and environmental bounces and attacks, there are nearly limitless combo possibilities just waiting to be tried and discovered. On the powers side of things, Superman has a deadly whammer that skyrockets your opponent through walls, "NPCs", and pretty much any obstacle, whereas Batman can summon bat-gadgets to heckle his foes and produce a thin layer of smoke or simply detonate near them as well.
Ina game focused on combat, it's only fair that nearly every element of the game and that particular facet of it be up to par and excellently worked. However, there are a few hiccups along the way to take into account. You can sacrifice your well-earned "mana"-like energy meter in return for a little sliver of health, which, against formidable foes, will simply disappear as quick as it can be gained, leaving you powerless and dead, more often than not. Not only do you have this option, but your opponents do as well, CPU or otherwise, so be prepared for some "Psyche!" moments when you think you've felled your foe, only to have them pop back up and slam you a good one. Super powerful attacks such as Superman's "laser beam" thingy and Solomon Grundy's "Smash-Grab-Smash-Grab-Repeat" a la Avengers' Hulk often will slow things down a bit, but the framerate quality is near perfection elsewhere, for the majority of the game. Combine these small issues with the plethora of content just waiting to be delved into though, and you've easily obtained way more positive ratings than negative ones in any book.
The aforementioned content included already with the game itself is comprised of the main story mode/campaign, which has its own plethora of challenges and rewards/awards, the what-if Battle mode, offering alternate outcomes to already witnessed fights, Classic Battle, and STAR Lab- essentially the Challenge mode of MK's battle tower/challenge equivalent. The story is prevalent in these other modes, as well as in the campaign of course, however, in all honestly, the majority of it is easily forgotten and best boils down to this: Superheroes and Villains will fight each other regardless of logical reasons not to do so. Battle mode has over 20 different combat ladders, an array of difficulties and challenges, and some interesting character endings for each of the twenty-four plus characters. STAR Lab is the epitome of challenge modes, with over two hundred completable challenges, intriguing versus scenarios, and ridiculous yet awesome side-splitting moments thrown in as well. Nightwing and Robin, gah. The challenges have multiple objectives, each with an obtainable star for a maximum of three, and you'll definitely need to work your butt off if you ever want to ever grace the two hundred and fifty mark... Now, the difficulty might get you first, or then again, there's always Grundy waiting to take a bite out of your Batman...
Regardless of what you generally think of fighting games or superhero games, this is the fighting version of Arkham City- pure perfection in nearly all aspects. Ranking up to unlock new icons, banners, and mottos online is worthwhile, XP collecting from every encounter is sound, and the daily multiplayer challenges put Bungie's work on Reach to shame with extreme prejudice. Minimal online issues and glitches and fantastic friend grouping only serve to aid Injustice's cause further as well. ina world where the MK formula is nearly flawless and superheroes and villains are greatly feared and respected, NetherRealm mixes the best of both worlds and brings each to brave new heights.
Concept: Create the best darn superhero/villain fighting game to date, and even manage to make it semi-family friendly despite the graphics displays of violence and over-the-top action.
Graphics: The serene beauty of the undisturbed and subsequently utterly decimated backdrops are gorgeously rendered in excellent 3D.
Sound: Mark Hamil isn't here, but hey, the new Joker ain't that bad at all.
Playability: The controls are at the top of their game, where this game should reside for a long while yet.
Entertainment: The wealth of time and knowledge poured into this game may never be fully realized, but it certainly paid off for the experience.
Replay Value: Olympian Status.
Overall Score: 9.5
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