Injustice: Gods Among Us held such great potential. It teased that the richness of the DC universe would be intertwined with amazingly brutal combat and a story laced with the philosophical musing that has been part of the human psyche since we stopped eating dirt – what would happen if there were actual gods among us? Injustice is a game of one great accomplishment that is threatened by the many and varied mistakes it makes, some of which are easy to ignore, plain silly, or just failed to meet those expectations it all but promised.
I think the most disappointing disconnect between what I had expected from the game, and what was actually delivered, lay in the strengths of what had come before; namely the comic and the rebooted Mortal Kombat. I’ve haven’t really gotten into comics until recently, and I have to say that reading the Injustice series has been nothing short of eye-opening. Between the levels of characterisation, the nuance of human expression translated by ink, and the logical progression between each action and reaction, led me to believe that the base story of the game was so solid that the structure that was built upon would be inevitably as strong. Looking at MK9, and its achievements in narrative and progression, it seems inconceivable that Injustice would tell anything other than an action-packed, character-driven story.
Conceive it, bitches.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering how good the premise was. Superman, after being deceived by the Joker into killing his wife and unborn child, along with the destruction of an entire city (no spoilers from me, kids), Superman begins his descent into grief and madness. Having decided that humans were completely unfit to govern themselves, Superman calls a ceasefire between all nations, single-handedly bringing the world to peace under his rule. Heroes are divided, with those opposed to Superman’s rule killed, with only Batman still holding out against the son of Krypton.
And that’s where comic gets dropped off and NetherRealm Studios gets behind the wheel, shouting one last ‘OORAH’ before driving themselves into a ditch. If Injustice was supposed to be a really cheezy kung-fu movie (like Mortal Kombat ), then the game’s narrative would have been perfect. Having expected something to be built off an amazing premise, it falls so far short of any goal of quality it seems ridiculous. Between finding terrible reasons for the characters to fight each other, awful dialogue and Superman basically being reduced to a mustache twirling villain from the 60’s, there’s no love to find in playing through the story mode.
Don’t even get me started on the inclusion of half-arsed QTE’s sprinkled in-between fights. They were just embarrassing to play.
It would have been a relief to skip past these parts, but doing so would have only simply rewarded me with face-bendingly long loading times. Granted, I haven’t been gaming much on consoles recently, but surely the load times I was facing on the PS3 are bad? This would have been a small niggle, had it not been compounded by other issues that should be nothing short dead by now, not only in fighters, but games in general. For starters, you can’t access any options while in a fight – you literally have to go to the main menu to then go into the settings to tweak your options. The UI seems substandard, especially when comparing it to the likes of SSFIV, BlazBlue or really any of its contemporaries. It’s just cumbersome to navigate. Pausing to check moves is also a painful exercise – granted, there is the option to save moves for quick viewing, but I feel as though it would have been just as nice as returning to the screen you left off when re-pausing.
These issues are mostly trumped by just how good the combat is. Attacks are divided between light, medium, heavy and ‘Character Traits’. Character Traits are special attacks or moves specific to each fighter, and really help differentiate and flesh out characters. Flash will slow down time (because he’s moving so fast), Batman will call upon mini-homing explosives, Nightwing will change his weapon from a batons to a bo staff, and so on. This small touch contributes so much to what is one of Injustice’s greatest successes – characters fight as you imagine they would fight. Even the Joker, traditionally a non-combatant, has a physically intimidating wackiness to his brawling that seems completely reasonable.
More than that, Injustice makes combat feel new. When fighting, you may spy a shoulder button prompt appearing, and you may think to yourself, ‘nary have I seen such a command appear in a fighting game, what should happen when I press it?’ Well, the first time I did it, I smashed my opponent into the sky where they were caught and beaten the shit out of by two quarreling super-sized fighters. The amount of damage it did was pretty significant as well, so it serves a tactical function as well as ‘oh my god that just happened’ entertainment. It was good to see that all characters didn’t perform the same actions; for instance, Superman has the strength to pick up a car and beat you with it, whereas Batman has the know-how to blow it up in your face.
Each character also has access to super moves, which inflict huge damage as well as takes you a long cut-scene of epic fighting. Seeing it for the first time is awesome, seeing for the third is tiresome, and anything after that feels like the game is simply disrespecting your time.
Between all of this stupid amount of fun lies a very important facet of Injustice’s combat – it’s easy to pick up. Not in a button-mashing kind of way, or a ‘man I just strung together that 17 hit combo with ease’, but it communicates really, really well what it takes to be a guy that can actually pull off a huge combo. Starting from simple three hit moves (which, like in MK9 before it, will change the animation of the attacks), longer chained combos can be learnt from simply watching them online. Timing is less of a factor than it is in other fighters, and despite the longer combos not necessarily having the same animation changes as the shorter ones, they fit together so perfectly that it looks like one long, fluid sequence.
- Reviewed On