Pros: Kid-Friendly, long character list, deep combat system
Cons: Kid-Friendly, awkward animations/combat. NOT AS GOOD AS MK9 or MKvs.DCU
Rather than set the game up as a tournament-style fight, like the previous MK games, Injustice attempts to create an alternate universe plotline where Superman has murdered the Joker and taken over the world after the Joker’s shenanigans result in the death of Louis Lane and Superman’s unborn child. Batman launches an insurgency attempting to stop Superman.
Other heros must choose sides and battle it out accordingly. The character list in Injustice is long – including many characters who’ve never been in a game before: Aquaman, Ares, Bane, Batman, Black Adam, Catwoman, Cyborg, Deathstroke, Doomsday, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Harley Quinn, Hawk Girl, The Joker, Killer Frost, Lex Luthor, Nightwing, Raven, Shazam, Sinestro, Superman and Wonder Woman – with more to come as DLC becomes available.
Gameplay in Injustice is closely reminiscent of that in Mortal Kombat 9. You and an opponent fight each other and whoever wins the best of 3 rounds will be victorious. There are short breaks between rounds and unlike Mortal Kombat, there is no real punctuation between rounds or “Fatality” sequence. When you beat your opponent, he just lays there as you wait for the next match. In Mortal Kombat, it was customary to not only defeat the opponent but to execute them. As you win matches, you’ll earn experience points (XP) which may be used to unlock costumes, art, new stages, etc.
As this game comes from the same people who brought you MK9, you'll notice a lot of leftover influence. However, a large amount of MK has been left out. Injustice drops MK's trademark block button and introduces a 3-level attack (light, medium and strong) similar to Street Fighter and closer to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom. There are two practice modes available to help you learn indivdual character's combination attacks and juggling combos. There's even a "Challenege Tower" with over 240 individual missions - similar to MK9 to give you something else to do when you tire of just fighting opponents.
Regardless who you pick, the characters all have the same basic control schemes. Like MK9, there is a 4 tiered meter for both contenders which fills gradually as attacks land or are dodged. Adding in a right-trigger squeeze to an attack will use part of the energy meter to enhance the attack and make it stronger. If the meter completely fills up, you can squeeze both triggers to initiate a “super move” which befits the character you are using. Green Lantern- for example – uses his ring to crush you with conjured military vehicles.
During a combo, the defending player can activate a new “clash” wager - a hidden bet using a portion of their super meters. The highest bidder wins the clash, which will either reward health or finish the combo which will severely injure the other player. The wager immediately ends the combo and gives a short dialogue between the characters before combat begins again. Quicktime events can mean the difference between taking damage or escaping unharmed – i.e.: Batman throwing batarangs desperately as Lex Luther attemps to run him down with a truck.
As battles rage on, character models take damage. Their costumes rip and their bodies begin to look worn. Unfortunately there is no true balance between characters. Doomsday can be beaten by Catwoman just as easily as Superman can be beaten by Batman. In the MK games, characters who are obviously more powerful are either given more health points or they are absent from the roster altogether to make the battles fair.
They also have very awkward jumping and fighting animations. Jumping doesn’t feel characteristic of an MK game – more like a Street Fighter game. It’s as if gravity is lower than it should be. Characters don't "auto-rotate" quickly enough when they jump and pass the other character. This allows characters who can teleport behind you (i.e. ARES) to easily get the drop on an unsuspecting player. I believe this game was tuned to be reminiscent of the actual arcade games. If you purchase Injustice Battle Edition – you’ll get an arcade style joystick with 4 action buttons. I personally prefer the D-pad on a standard XBOX 360 controller and I’m disappointed the development team changed the physics – which were better executed on the aforementioned MK games.
VISUAL AND AUDIO
Injustice does its best to make every character look, sound and feel like they should. Batman has his grapple gun and his non-lethal Batarang gadgets; Catwoman cracks her whip across your face while scantily prancing about so you can admire her body; Green Lantern conjures up “green” objects and weapons to smash into you and Superman has his heat ray vision and larger than life attacks.
Like Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the backgrounds are highly destructible. Pressing the bumper button allows you to rip items from the scenery such as cars, statues, etc – and slam them into your enemy. Throwing enemies through walls or past stage hazards causes them to fall down stairs, off cliffs and into other situations that help deplete their life bars. When super moves are used, each character does something that reinforces their character’s traits. Thus far, the best super moves I’ve seen were Superman’s stratospheric punch where he knocks you into the upper atmosphere and Doomsday’s “core beatdown” where he literally pounds you down and through the Earth to the opposite side of the planet. Unfortunately, these moves feel and look ridiculous after you’ve seen them for the umpteenth time.
MK vs. DCU had a better super move/ stage hazard system because the game allowed both opponents to button mash in a “tug of war” style damage increase/reduction mini-game. In this game, you simply take the damage without contest. MK9 dropped the environmental hazards and left the damage strictly to the hand-to-hand combat. The throwable environment objects can be a big problem. They aren’t blockable and many of them can take off huge chunks of life bar. I’d really have preferred if Injustice cribbed the MK vs. DCU style.
Another point of contention I have is the size of the characters. The environments are 3D – allowing the camera to zoom in and out and follow the action from level to level, but the characters are roughly half the size as they were in MK9.
AUDIO, fortunately is very good. Every character has their characteristic voice – the voicework in story mode is well done and the special effects of gunshots, smashing of objects, explosions and shattering of glass sounds just the way it should.
In order to reduce the number of gamers trading in games only days after buying them, many games feature “season passes” which you must buy in order to get your game and account online. Injustice’s season pass is $14.99 and grants you instant download access to 4 downloadable-content-characters (as they become available) and alternate costumes for some of the characters included in the game. As I signed on, Warner Brothers Online offered me an alternate costume for The Flash if I’d sign up with them – entering my email and a new password.
The game cost $59.99 + $14.99 for the DLC and totaled $81.64. Pretty steep if you ask me.
IS THE GAME ACTUALLY WORTH THE COST???
When I purchased Mortal Kombat vs. DCU back in 2008, I continued playing the game, on and off between sessions of other games, right up until Mortal Kombat 9 was released in 2011. MKvDCU’s combat was fun, addictive and the online service was such a huge improvement over the laggy MK: Armageddon that I just couldn’t help myself. I played more than 7000 matches when you add up the Ranked and Unranked matches. MK9 was even better – I played at least 8000 matches to date – thoroughly enjoying its King of the Hill mode and completely embarrassing players from all over the world in Ranked and Ranked Tag Team matches.
Both of those games were so brutal and so violent that they became my anger management and stress relief programs.
Unfortunately, INJUSTICE: Gods Among Us lacks the visceral impact of both of those games. There is no gore, there is mild blood and the overall atmosphere is closer to cartoony than “dark comic”. What I appreciate most about the Mortal Kombat series over every other series (Street Fighter, Tekken, etc) is the viciousness and the deliberateness of the fighting moves. You can’t button mash your way through those games because the other guy is going to make short work of you. When the 2ndmatch comes down to its end and the “FINISH HIM” command appears, it takes your opponent but a microsecond to decide how you will be executed – usually in the most embarrassing fashion possible.
While blood and gore wasn’t necessarily a requirement, Mortal Kombat DCU and 9 made each and every fight personal. So personal in fact that most matches ended up with one party quitting, unplugging or otherwise abandoning the match. It was really that frustrating (and humiliating) to lose - partly because of all the people you could possibly play with in the entire world, you were up against just one person at a time - who may or may not be friendly, racist or profane - and forced to fight them one on one by a matchmaking system that threw you both together and threatened to penalize you with a loss if you declined.
I’d be so much happier if the game was patched so that early disconnects caused players to have to wait 10 minutes before they could log back in – thereby discouraging “rage quitting”. I’d also be happy if the development teams could integrate a personal battle list so you’d be able to see a full rundown of every match played and every character a player has lost to – so no one would be able to brag online about how good they are unless they’d actually achieved that reputation. Simplify it: a simple win/ loss/ disconnect ratio between you and whoever you are playing against.
INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US is rated T (for Teen) and despite its level of comic style cartoon violence, it’s safe for kids and no more or less visually disturbing than Super Smash Brothers or your typical mindless Dragon Ball Z game. It’s a shame MK vs. DCU didn’t have a character list this long – or that Injustice couldn’t have been modeled directly behind MKvs.DCU with this plethora of fighters and environment upgrades. I feel MK vs. DCU was definitely more of the game Injustice wants to be. There is a deep combat system to be learned here, but I don’t feel that the intensity of this game is going to hold my attention as long as the Mortal Kombat games did.