Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us Review

Released April 16th, 2013
Developed by NetherRealm Studios
Published byWarner Bros. Interactive 

Platforms: PS3, 360, Wii U
      I do not have a future playing Injustice: Gods Among Us professionally.  Thankfully, the story is entertaining enough and the fighting accessible enough to keep it interesting for comic fans like me with less than decent fighting game skills.

      The story starts right after Metropolis has been leveled, killing millions.  Superman flips out and conquers the world, instating himself as man’s king, protector, and God.   Man’s only hope is to warp in heroes from a dimension where Metropolis wasn't leveled to help with the rebellion against Superman.  The story is rather anticlimactic, but I thoroughly enjoyed the entire 4 and a half hour campaign. 
      The story is told through cutscenes in between fights, and there are a few minigames mixed in that has players mash prompted buttons.  One minigame has Joker flinging cards at Nightwing; another has Superman heat visioning cars that Black Adam chucks at him.  The minigames are a nice change of pace from the fighting, and they are scarce enough to remain enjoyable throughout.  The character models of some of the npc's in cutscenes appeared muddled and dated, which slightly distracted me from the awesome story.
      The actual fighting is thrilling.  There are 24 fighters to choose from, including the well-known Joker, Batman, and Superman, as well as some obscure characters, like Killer Frost and Ares. The character choices weren't what I would have gone with, but each character NetherRealm did choose handles well.  One problem I had with the combat was that a few times while fighting in single player matches the game stuttered or slowed down, which was incredibly annoying.  Each fighter has a unique character ability based around their super powers.  For example, Superman can buff his damage, and Green Arrow can add some electricity or fire to his arrows  These abilities have a cooldown, so they can't be spammed.  Characters special moves are simple, and easy to learn and pull off.  Most special moves require only 3 button inputs.  To aid noobs, combos and specials can be displayed on-screen below the characters health bar, making combat less about remembering specials and more about actually executing them.   Special moves fill up a super meter, which can be used to add an extra hit to increase damage done by special moves.
      Each character also has a super move that can easily be activated once the meter is full.  These supers do a good amount of damage at the cost of the entire super meter.  For the hardcore fighting fans out there, Injustice includes a block cancel move which interrupts a combo with an enemy launching attack at the expense of two sections of super meter.  There is also a block escape move, which pushes back the opponent after the player blocks an attack at the cost of one section of meter.   
The clash system in action
      Injustice features a clash system the likes of which I have not seen before.  The system, which can only be used once per game, allows players to wager a section of their super meter against their opponent.  Whoever wagers the most meter wins the clash and regenerates some health, while the loser takes some damage.  The clash system adds a little bit of strategy regarding when to use the super meter, and winning a clash can turn a fight around quickly.

      There are 15 stages to fight on, and each stage features scenery that can be used to damage an opponent.  Larger heroes will chuck TV’s, cars, aquarium, and more; while smaller heroes will set explosives to blow up the interactable objects and shower enemies in shards of scenery.  Characters can also be knocked through walls in levels, doing a ton of damage and changing the scenery.   These features can be turned off, but Injustice is not as much fun without them.
      Aside from the story mode Injustice features 20 different battle modes, similar to the arcade modes of other fighting games, which offer the chance to fight through a set of characters with various challenges imposed on the fight.  One mode has the character poisoned and taking damage over time, and another has the character taking on the entire roster with only one health bar.  These challenges do not unlock anything fancy, but they are a nice change of pace if the regular single player fights are proving to be too easy.

      In addition to the story and battle modes, Injustice has a S.T.A.R Lab mode which includes ten missions for each character, 240 in total, designed to help players get more comfortable with the fighters.  Some missions help more than others, and some don’t help at all. Navigating a laser field as Catwoman’s pet cat is not fun or instructive.   There are a few missions which try to turn Injustice into a platformer, asking the player to clumsily jump and dodge security systems or lasers as they move across the stages.  Fighting games are a different breed than platformers, and it shows in these missions. Some missions also involve chunks of ice or lasers raining down randomly from the sky, which can cause infuriating mission failures prompted by chance.  A lot of missions are repeated, but there is enough variety to justify going through each mission for the characters players want to improve with.

      Online multiplayer modes include basic 1v1, 8-player king of the hill, and 8-player survivor.  Survivor is the same as king of the hill, with the exception that the winner's health doesn't regenerate in between matches.  

      Injustice: Gods Among Us is not the next Streetfighter, but it does provide its own unique entertainment.  The story is worthwhile for even the smallest fan of super heroes, and the combat is inviting enough not to infuriate, while still offering depth for the more skilled player.  I wasn't a fan of all of the character choices, but each character handles uniquely.  Overall, Injustice is a solid fighter worth any comic or fighting game fan’s time. 

Scoring Guide
Note: I played the PS3 version of Injustice

There are 24 fighters to choose from

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