Developer NetherRealm is best known for their long running fighting game series Mortal Kombat. The last iteration of the series appeared in 2011, and was well received by both fans and critics, as it boasted one of the best stories in a single player campaign for a fighting game. Add to that a Challenge Tower mode with around 300 different challenges, plus the arcade battles, and for a solo player like myself you had one meaty game. Now, building on that success, Ed Boon and company set their sights on a different universe, and apply the same strengths in the Story mode as well as plenty of challenges. This time around, the familiar cast of Mortal Kombat characters are replaced with the heroes and villains of the DC universe, and the results make for a terrific fighter that’s well worth your time.
NetherRealm has visited this territory before, in 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, but this game is no sequel. Rather, Injustice: Gods Among Us tells an original story featuring only DC characters, and what a story it tells. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say Joker sets events in motion that provoke Superman, and the Man of Steel acts in a way that we’ve not seen before. The story unfolds over twelve chapters, and features a great voice cast, including Kevin Conroy as Batman and George Newbern as Superman. It has a few twists and turns, and is one of the best comic book stories featured in videogames. Comic fans can get more of the story in the Injustice prequel series by Tom Taylor and illustrated by Jheremy Raapack. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, two veteran writers for DC, acted as consultants to the game’s story writers to ensure the characters remained true to their comic book roots.
So, the story is a good one, but how does the game play? The answer is quite well, and even those like myself that are not super proficient at fighting games (time has slowed some of my fingers’ dexterity down a bit) can pull off some nifty moves and feel like a superhero in combat. The fighting is on a 2D plane, with the backgrounds rendered in 3D. Unlike past Mortal Kombat games, battles consist of only one round, with each character having two lifebars. This does keep things moving along, especially in the arcade mode (now renamed Battles), where you can take each of the game’s 24 characters through a progression of ten fights and then be rewarded with an ending cut scene specific to each character. This gives the game some legs beyond the five hour story mode, and, with more characters coming via DLC, prolongs the life of the game.
Also adding to the fun for solo players are the S.T.A.R.S. Labs missions which offer 240 specific challenges for players to tackle. Meeting all the requirements of each challenge gives you up to three stars, and you’ll need to amass those stars to unlock more and more challenges. They range from fairly simple, straightforward missions of defeating an enemy to protecting civilians from hazards to finishing off a foe with a specific move. They can be quite challenging for those of us not as good at fighting games, but none of the challenges are insurmountable, and they’re varied enough to give you a nice range to choose from, as you always have multiple challenges unlocked at any given time. There is multiplayer for the game, featuring modes like King of the Hill and Survivor, for those who enjoy playing against others. As I rarely play online I can’t really say how well they play, though reviews by others are encouraging in this respect. I may try it at some point, though I know I’ll have my head handed to me. You can also do single battles locally, as well as prepare yourself in a robust training mode.
The cast of characters is impressive, and all are well voiced and rendered. They range from favorites like Batman, Superman, Joker, and Lex Luthor, and also feature some not seen often in games like Aquaman, Cyborg, Green Arrow, and Killer Frost. More are reported to be on the way in the form of DLC, such as Lobo. Each one is varied in fighting style, meaning you don’t have a bunch of characters that more or less operate the same. Some are more fun than others- Nightwing and Green Arrow are very nimble, while Lex Luthor and Solomon Grundy are a bit more lumbering, though they pack a heftier punch. The environments are also nicely varied, and each set has objects that can be used to bash enemies with or bounce foes off of. Most moves are smooth and responsive to the controls, but some of the more intricate combos can be difficult to pull off. Characters that float above the ground, like Wonder Woman and Sinestro, can be a bit stiff at times, but it’s a minor quibble and not a deal breaker.
All in all, NetherRealm has once again provided us with a meaty single player experience for a fighting game, and with five difficulty levels, plenty of nifty finishing moves to learn, and lots of unlockables like concept art and music to get, there is plenty of game here to warrant a purchase for not only comic book fans but for fans of the fighting genre as well. The great story is well worth the time alone, with the other modes just providing the icing on the cake. It’s a very fun time, where anyone can feel like a superhero.
The game is now available for the PS3, Xbox 360, and the Wii U.
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