DC Comics fans usually – outside of the Batman: Arkham series of games – have to sacrifice a terrific story for terrific gameplay, or vice versa. For Injustice: Gods Among Us, however, WB Games and Netherrealm Studios managed to create a fighting experience that is simple yet deep, with a story that rivals some of DC Comics‘ writers’ finest work.
In short, you’re going to want to play this game.
Let’s start with the story, since it’s the main attraction. Injustice: Gods Among Us begins moments after the unthinkable happens: Batman’s arch-nemesis, Joker, manages to not only trick Superman into killing Lois Lane, but blowing up all of Metropolis in the process. Needless to say, Supes isn’t thrilled with this development, and takes the course of action many would argue Batman should’ve taken years ago: he kills him. Then the story jumps elsewhere in a move that should not only please Superman fans worried about the whole Superman-as-Hitler scenario that we’ve seen in the trailers and tie-in comic, but should intrigue those who were concerned the story would be too simplistic. It’s got plot twists, defections and betrayals, heroic sacrifices… the same things all great superhero stories have. It’s simply one of the best, if not the very best, story in a fighting game; although I admit that genre isn’t really known for strong storytelling.
Moving onto the gameplay, Injustice: Gods Among Us features a fighting system that should feel instantly familiar to those who played the excellent 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, and it makes sense since Netherrealm developed both titles. A couple of minor changes make the game accessible to those who don’t normally enjoy fighting games, though: instead of two buttons for arm attacks, two buttons for foot attacks, and a block button, you get a button each for light, medium, and hard attacks. Plus, blocking is now handled just by moving away from your opponent, much like in the Street Fighter series. Also added is a “special” button that utilizes a specific character’s traits — for Superman or Green Lantern, you get enhanced durability, for example, while Green Arrow or Batman use more of their readily available arsenals and the Flash gets to activate the Speed Force to slow everyone else down to a crawl. Combos and super moves are easy to figure out yet offer plenty of depth and opportunity for growth and strategy.
An additional point to the gameplay is the “wager” system, where you and your opponent place a bet on a single attack using your special move bar. Its results are mixed at best; fun for strategy, but easily exploited when you don’t have anything in your bar but your opponent’s maxed out.
There are plenty of bonuses to work with: the S.T.A.R. Labs challenge mode lets you tackle multiple scenarios and feels very much like the Mortal Kombat challenge ladder: beat an opponent without jumping, fight while your health dwindles, etc. Some challenges are good, others a bit too ridiculous. There are plenty of unlockable costumes and concept art to keep you occupied as well, and the online multiplayer works fine as far as I’ve been able to discover.
My biggest gripe is console-specific: as of now, none of the DLC available for the game’s PS3 and Xbox 360 versions is available on the Wii U, nor does Nintendo‘s version synch up with the iOS app that helps you unlock content, nor is it applicable for those fans who voted in the Injustice Battle Arena (which, of course, Batman won).
That and Wonder Woman tends to suffer from looking like she got hit with an ugly stick.
All things considered, though, it’s just minor stuff. Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fine example of how to create not only a great fighting game, but one full of entertainment for longtime comic fans and newbies alike.