In just two days, Injustice: Gods Among Us will be released to the general public, offering gamers a chance to duke it out with their favourite DC characters in an ultimate geek-war that will undoubtedly add subjective credence to whether Batman could beat Superman, whether Wonder Woman could best Green Lantern, or whether… well, you get the point. The trick is that Injustice: Gods Among Us is a risky title: not in terms of what’s gone into the game—that’s impressive and well worth the attention of fans of DC and fighting games alike—but in terms of the actual, literal title.
The biggest problem with Injustice is that the title doesn’t really give a strong suggestion as to what the game is all about. It doesn’t suggest genre, nor does it highlight its biggest selling point: an impressive roster of DC badasses who are all too ready to punch, kick and super-power their way to victory. But if that’s the only negative that can be levelled against this surprisingly layered title, that’s hardly a bad thing.
We recently had the pleasure of being shown close-to-final versions of Injustice: both the console versions on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and the iOS app, which has since been released. Given the pedigree of NetherRealm Studios—the same team behind the 2011 rebirth of Mortal Kombat that has yet to be released in Australia thanks to our old classification system—it’s no wonder that it has taken the best of what worked about the Mortal Kombat reboot and poured it into a fighting game that includes some of the most renowned comic-book characters of all time.
The foundation of any fighting game is the balance between various fighters, and we can only imagine how much of a pain this would have been to do with fighters whose abilities include varying degrees of superhuman speed, strength and inhuman powers such as frost breath and flight. Obviously, the key was to not treat this as a literal translation of each character’s renowned powers. Instead, the NetherReal team assured us that it was more about translating the feel of taking control of particular DC superheroes more so than dealing with the logic that Superman could most probably beat, well, everyone.
That being said, Injustice is still a fighting game that follows the tropes of the genre, which generally means that fans of the genre will play it, while everyone else will feel the pressure of horrible inadequacy jumping into a game that rewards fast reflexes, the ability to read one’s sparring partner (computer-controlled or otherwise) and that beautiful balance between offence and defence. This is why fighting games tend to appeal to a certain type of gamer—one who is, at least in terms of the fighting genre, more towards the hardcore side of things.
But NetherReal understands this and is adamant that Injustice: Gods Among Us can cater to everyone from hardcore fans to casual gamers. Part of the formula for solving this riddle is in the way it approaches training. Sure, there’s a training mode on offer, but there are also different challenges for fights that force you to broaden your combo horizon outside of a few limited options that seem to work for you. On top of this, the campaign mode uses a strong narrative to connect players to the storyline, as well as forcing them to use a variety of fighters. If that’s not enough for newcomers, you can also set specific combo prompts you want to use to appear onscreen via a quick-reference chart, regardless of the type of fight you’re involved in.
The levels we saw were all fantastically diverse, with plenty of geek references for those well versed in all things DC. As combatants bash their way through the other’s health bar, the character models actually take damage, as does the world around them, which is taken to whole new levels when you consider that parts of the environment can be used to attack opponents. All of this is beautifully rendered in Unreal Engine 3 and makes for pleasant eye candy whether watching or getting amongst it.
Naturally, there are a variety of campaign, offline and online multiplayer options to allow players to cut their teeth against AI opponents or seek world domination in online showdowns. But the unexpected surprise was the inclusion of S.T.A.R. Labs missions that put a spin on the standard fighting affair with a range of mini-games that educate as much as they entertain. The one that stuck out as the coolest of the dozens on offer was the Red Son-themed mission where the player controls Superman’s childhood escape pod by performing timely combos to avoid incoming asteroids; the whole time the Russian national anthem (which the devs proudly boasted was licenced for that particular mission and Red Son DLC) is playing in the background.
It’s little unnecessary but ultimately cool inclusions like this that force fighting fans and non-fans alike to take notice of a title whose bragging rights extend far beyond an impressively rendered roster of DC superheroes. With a wealth of content that promises hours of gameplay, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game that is set to impress.
UPDATE: We’re receiving reports that Injustice: Gods Among Us has actually broken street date and is currently available.