Here’s an idea: for my first review for Eggplante!, why don’t I totally negate my credibility as a reviewer by saying that I don’t play a lot of fighting games. Oh, I’ve played the major ones that compare to today’s topic, like Marvel vs. Capcom or Mortal Kombat vs. DCU. Still, I’m coming at Injustice: Gods Among Us more as a fan of DC superheroes, which is probably the best way to treat the game. If the best fighting games are steak, Injustice is a cheeseburger. Fortunately, it’s a gourmet cheeseburger with peameal bacon, three kinds of cheese and curly fries. Served to you with lit sparklers sticking out of the bun.
The controls have changed a little bit since NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat, but they’re very easy to pick up, even for the uninitiated. It helps that the game has a pretty thorough tutorial, everything from basic moves to the super-moves. The Story mode adapts to the player’s ability, so button-mashers will (eventually) get through the campaign, while expert gamers can up the difficulty in the game’s other modes so that Injustice isn’t such a pushover. Or you can go online of course, where the real sharks are. The easy modes of the game are really frickin’ easy, and the tough modes are really frickin’ tough.
Injustice has a roster of 12 heroes and villains, all of whom are available at the start. It’s a pretty good sampling of DC’s major heroes and villains, with more promised through DLC. Of course most people are going to pick favourites like Batman right away, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed fighting as some of the others. Get this: it’s actually fun to play as Aquaman. Seriously, his super-move is hilarious.
Ah, the super-moves. Now we’re talkin’. In lieu of Fatalities, Injustice has crazy super-attacks that are so much fun you’re likely to try every character just to see what they do. Superman punches you through the stratosphere, while Doomsday pummels you through the Earth’s core. Equally fun and outrageous are the transitions, where you launch another character into a different stage of the fight, and usually through several buildings in the process.
The environment takes a pounding all right, thanks largely to interaction points. Each level has several hotspots that you can trigger to launch a special attack, such as picking up a motorcycle and clobbering it over someone’s head. Or, if you’re one of the stealthier characters, hopping on that bike and running over your opponent. I found myself constantly looking out for them, just to see what they would do. The Mortal Kombat games have always been good at giving a gritty, visceral feel to the attacks, so you can really feel it when Solomon Grundy slams you onto the ground.
Although the game is approachable for noobs and veterans, there are few design issues that may annoy both crowds. Certain moves require finesse that’s difficult to do on the standard Xbox gamepad. During the tutorial I must have tried a combo attack 50 times and still didn’t nail it. I can definitely see why hardcore fighting game fans invest in a good fight stick.
Injustice has lots of unlockables, including concept art, badges and backgrounds to represent your profile online, even tons of game modes. However, to get at some of the other character outfits you have to create an account with Warner Bros. I already have an account: it’s called an Xbox Live account and I don’t want to create accounts-within-accounts. Also, you have to win matches in the Injustice iPhone game to unlock some of the costumes. Hope you’ve got one if you’d like to use the New 52 version of Green Lantern.
With an expanded universe going back 80 plus years, it’s no wonder that the game premise and story are deeper than most fighting games. Each fight is sandwiched between cutscenes that explain the set-up and consequences of the battle. I won’t get into spoilers, but DC fans will recognize themes from major DC works like The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and the Justice Lords story from the Justice League animated series. There are plenty of obvious and subtle references to other DC characters, and that’s when you’re not seeing them in the background or during level transitions. Hello, Surprise Guest Villain From Batman: Arkham Asylum! Injustice goes pretty deep into DC continuity, prompting the game design class I teach got into a 10 minute discussion on the origin of Damien Wayne and why he was dressed like Nightwing.
I think Injustice is more for people who want a Mortal Kombat-style game with their favourite superheroes, rather than the ultimate fighting game. That said, it’s a solid fighter that goes over the top early and often. Also, any game that makes Mr. Golden Mullet himself fun to play deserves major credit.
Jason MacIsaac is a game and technology journalist. He was told he could join the Justice League when he lost 20 pounds. And passed the entrance exam. And when he gained an actual super-power. And when Hell froze over. You can visit him at Gamejester.ca.