Review: Injustice: Gods Among Us (Wii U)

Immortal kombat

We’ve all had this same discussion. Who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman? NetherRealm Studios — the development team behind the successful 2011 reboot of the Mortal Kombat franchise — was kind enough to create Injustice: Gods Among Us, a fighting game almost specifically designed to answer that one burning question. Drawing much influence from Ed Boon's most famous video game creation, all of the fights here are one-on-one two-dimensional battles between you and your opponent. Featuring 24 classic DC comic heroes and villains, Injustice is a fast-paced hard-hitting spectacle that doesn’t disappoint.

Much like Mortal Kombat, Injustice features a single player story mode that has you fighting through 12 chapters as a number of different characters. While not all of the fighters are playable during story mode, it's a great way to get a feel for many of the different playing styles. As you work your way through, you will also gain experience points and level up. While levelling does not enhance your characters in any way, it does earn you access cards that can then be used to unlock additional play modes, accessories to customize your hero card — which is visible to online opponents — and character skins.

The story starts out in an alternate dimension where the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. Unable to control his rage, Superman kills the Joker and eventually creates a new world order in which he rules with an iron fist. Other members of the Justice League have either joined the tyrannical Superman or have gone into hiding until they find a way to bridge the inter-dimensional gap and bring alternate versions of themselves over to help in the fight against the Kryptonian tyrant. Truthfully, it’s all very confusing, and having multiple versions of the same characters on-screen during cinematic sequences doesn’t help clarify anything, but that doesn’t really diminish the excitement of the plot. It may be convoluted, but the story is also full of the action, betrayals, secret alliances and genuinely funny one-liners that fans of comic heroes will find familiar. The campaign is relatively short, and can be completed in under three hours, but its just long enough to remain interesting without having the plot feel as though it is dragging itself out for the sake of squeezing in every character.

During battles and the movie sequences that string the campaign together, Injustice looks and sounds great. The characters and environments are detailed and — even during some of the more action-heavy portions — there is little change in the frame rate. The soundtrack does well to reflect the intensity of the battles and plays to the emotions being conveyed. There's also an absolutely fantastic cast behind the characters’ voices, including Kevin Conroy, Adam Baldwin, Phil LaMarr and Tara Strong. It’s obvious that as much care was put into crafting this game as a cinematic experience as was put into the gameplay mechanics themselves.

Injustice is controlled similarly to many basic fighting games, with the left stick or D-Pad controlling movement and light, medium, and heavy attacks attributed to different face buttons. There is also a fourth attack linked to the A button that can result in strength boosts or weapon enhancements, depending on your character. Performing character-specific special moves requires a combination of directional and attack inputs, but none are particularly difficult to pull off. Players have the option of using the GamePad’s smaller screen to display a list of their character’s combos, or it can be used for off-screen play instead. Different attacks can be strung together to create longer combos, but this fighter is mostly concerned with huge attacks and figuring out the right time to unleash them. Because of this, Injustice tends to be more accessible for players who may be unfamiliar with the genre. The downside is that serious fans of fighting games might miss the necessity of timing their attacks against their opponents, but that’s not to say that players of all skill levels won’t enjoy the over-the-top gameplay.

Despite the similarities to Mortal Kombat and other major fighting franchises, Injustice does have some elements that make it stand out in the genre. You and your opponent each have two health bars, and a third bar on the bottom of the screen called a Super Meter. Your Super Meter will gradually fill up when you take damage or execute combo attacks. Portions of this energy can be used in bursts by pressing the ZR button after performing special moves, or you can wait for your Meter to fully charge and press ZL and ZR together to execute a super move. Each character has a super move specific to them that shows off their superpowers — or lack thereof — and causes a huge amount of damage. Players can also use their super meters to initiate a clash with their opponent. During a clash, both players wager a portion of their super meter, with the player who wagers the most winning the clash and gaining a slight health bonus. From shocking your opponent with a lightning bolt as Black Adam to launching them into the stratosphere with a mighty uppercut from Superman, the super moves and clashes are easily the coolest and most flashy elements of this game.

Also adding to the grandiose sense of battles is that the stages are both interactive and contain multiple battlefields. How your character interacts with certain elements of the battlefield depends on what type of fighter he or she may be. For example, while Catwoman may nimbly propel herself off of a car parked in the background to dodge her opponent, a stronger fighter such as Bane would instead pick the car up and use it as a projectile weapon. There are many different interactive sections in each stage, and finding these and using them effectively in battle adds both challenge and variety to the gameplay. In the environments that contain multiple arenas, connecting your opponent with a strong blow near the edge of the stage will sometimes send them crashing through the wall Dead or Alive-style, delivering damage and eventually leading them to a separate area to battle. Much like the interactive elements, finding and utilizing these stage transitions can put you at a distinct advantage over your opponent.

Though the campaign may be short, there are plenty of other single player elements to explore. The area where the majority of players will spend most of their time is working on the Battles and S.T.A.R. Labs. Battles reflect the classic arcade style gameplay in which you fight a series of enemies without cinematic plot points breaking up the action. There are 20 different types of battles that can be unlocked by using access cards, all of which have different rules to challenge players and test their skills. For instance, Poisoned battles have you taking on your enemies as your health gradually diminishes, and Countdown challenges you to defeat each of your opponents in under 30 seconds. Among the Battles is Classic mode that is a simple series of fights without extra rules or restrictions, but completing Classic mode with any character will unlock their individual secret ending to the Injustice saga.

Unlike the Battles, S.T.A.R. Labs are mission-based activities that have you performing a series of very specific actions as each different character — almost like an extended training mode — but with difficulty levels that can be somewhat unforgiving. Some missions have you executing a series of combos, while others restrict you to only use certain attacks to defeat an enemy or defend a civilian. Upon completing a mission, you will be rewarded between one and three S.T.A.R.s, depending on your performance, which are then used to unlock further missions. There are 240 missions in total, so those players with the urge to complete every task at hand will definitely have their work cut out for them.

As is par for the course with modern fighting games, another major element is the online multiplayer. There are a few different multiplayer modes available, such as ranked one-on-one matches with leaderboards and King of the Hill and Survivor games that add certain twists to the classic formula. Online matches load quickly and play smoothly, making it easy to jump from battle to battle without feeling like you’re wasting too much time waiting to find a match. Just like the campaign and other single player modes, you will gain experience from playing online matches, ultimately unlocking more goodies.

Injustice also supports local multiplayer, with one player using the GamePad and the other playing with the Wii U Pro Controller. The Wii Classic Controller is also supported, so anyone wanting to engage in some local multiplayer action won’t have to shell out for the Pro Controller. Support for the Classic Controller via a Wii Remote also means that FightSticks made for the Wii work with this as well, making a great combination for those players looking for a truer arcade experience.

Though this may be a well-crafted fighter with a lot to offer, that doesn’t mean that it is without its fallacies. The two major issues plaguing Injustice are imbalanced characters and wavering difficulty spikes. Both of these are issues that could easily be overcome with a future patch of the game, but until that happens, the fact remains that certain characters and battles are simply unfair. Beyond that, however, Injustice provides a mostly seamless experience.

Conclusion

Though it may share many similarities with 2011’s Mortal Kombat reboot, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fun and fresh fighting game that stands well on its own merits. The distinctive and fun gameplay comprising of huge attacks coupled with flashy power moves makes this an accessible fighter for genre veterans as well as newcomers who might simply enjoy the idea of pitting their favorite DC heroes and villains against one another. Between the single and multiplayer modes, Injustice offers a robust experience with much variety and a whole lot to keep you busy. Whether you’re pummelling your opponent through the core of the Earth as Doomsday or smashing a car over Aquaman’s head, it is very satisfying having so much power in your hands.

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