As a comic fan I’ve seen this before. Superman tilts over the edge and the Justice League has to stop him. It may not always go down the same way but this is a story that has been explored before. However, it’s never quite been this intense or dark.
It’s impossible to have an Injustice review without first delving into why it’s such a big deal. In the comic world, Superman is the be-all, end-all. Not many are happy about it and a ton of writers abuse it but the point stands. There is literally nothing Superman hasn’t been able to overcome. For this reason, there is a large part of the fandom that can’t stand Superman. It’s not the character or his powers so much as how he’s written. He’s a god amongst men who learned humility.
As I’ve said already, we’ve seen what happens when Superman loses sight of that humility but not to this extent. Never before has Superman lost everything and not been an infant too young to remember it as a first hand account. That’s the premise of Injustice. Thanks to the Joker he lost his wife, his unborn son, and the city of Metropolis. Stripping Superman of all that kept him grounded and humble, what was left? The sad and violent truth of the world.
So there we have it: Superman truly unbound. The thought of Earth completely at the mercy of Supermen and his regime is what makes Injustice so damn exciting. When you have the one hero that is constantly abused as the be-all, end-all and you take him out of the equation and make him the villain then you expect good things.
For the most part, we got good things. We got some great things. Injustice’s story is excellent and whether you’re a comic fan or just looking for a good fighting game you’ll appreciate the pacing and twists that the campaign will string you through. Each chapter tells the story of a hero and their part in the madness and until it ends you’ll be hooked and drugged in until you’re hanging at the edge of your set.
Injustice does a damn good job of getting you interested in the plot and the roster. The split between who’s on what side and why everyone is on their side is the very heart of the story even if the regime of Superman is the main attraction. Every aspect of this story works and works well. Until you hit the ending.
For all intents and purposes, this is a great Superman story. You know, the stories that show us that while Superman may be the strongest, he’s not invincible. This is a story that lets us peer into Superman and see his raw feelings and see him in his full glory — albeit a dark glory. The issue, and honestly, the only issue I have with Injustice’s story is that the ending descending into classic Superman abuse. I won’t spoil anything for you but just beware that if you’re a comic book fan who has been reading DC and their event arcs for a while now, you may wind up disappointed in the ending. If you’re not that type of dedicated reader then you shouldn’t have an issue with it and you’ll find the entire story enjoyable.
It really comes down to how big of a fan you are of the comics whether of not the ending will bother you. Hell, you may even like the ending. For me, I felt disappointed that it swung in a familiar direction that, to me, has plagued DC events for years. Everything up to that point, however, was brilliant and I ate up every second of it. This is the best story in fighting game history, bar none. It made me forget about Versus mode, online matches, and all of the features that you would normally jump into with a brand new fighting game. Injustice made me focus on the story and for once I forgot about the genre and just had a good time and experience.
Gameplay & Controls
Now that we’re done with the story, let’s talk about a fighting game. As we all know, Injustice is the brain child between DC Comics and NetherRealm, the masterminds behind Mortal Kombat. This isn’t the first DC game that the MK guys have done but do your best to not let Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe cloud your judgment concerning Injustice. This is a much better game with a ton more detail and effort put into it. NetherRealm did an amazing job crafting this game and you can feel the love they poured in. Ed Boon must be a helluva comic fan.
To get the jist of Injustice, think of the latest Mortal Kombat combined with all the knowledge and experience the studio amassed from that game and then throw out Fatalities in favor of putting more focus on the X-Rays.
While you won’t be dismembering or tearing hearts out of your opponents, you will pummel them into the ground, throw them into space, smash them with tombstones, run them over with the Batmobile, electrocute them, and, well, the list goes on. The point is that Injustice does not run away from being violent. The story alone proves that but the combat is just as savory. You’ll feel every punch and every bash on the head from Grundy’s massive fists. You’ll get the sense of how much it hurts to go toe-to-toe with Doomsday.
The little details in the combat is what brings this gameplay to life. It also helps that every battle translates well if you were to record it on the pages of a comic. You can see these battles and abilities drawn out and shoved onto paper. You really feel like you’re playing out a DC Comics event and that’s truly why Injustice just gets it right.
The controls and one mechanic, however, left me wanting. Most of them do their job and do it fine but I found a couple things either out of place or just poorly implemented.
For one, why did NetherRealm change the blocking mechanics? In Moral Kombat you held down R2/RT to block and it felt natural. Although I did catch myself often swinging the block button around like it was nothing and using a Breaker when I was trying to save up my X-Ray bar, I liked having a dedicated button to block. Instead, they changed it to an old school function of just holding the D-Pad away from your opponent.
As someone who played a ton of Mortal Kombat, my instincts go straight for the block button and when I try my best to remember to use the new method, I find myself vulnerable by not issuing the correct block. For mid and high attacks you need to be standing and holding the D-Pad/Analog Stick away from the opponent. For low attacks you need to be crouched. Mid and low attacks won’t break your low block but overhead attacks will and leave you vulnerable to combos. In Mortal Kombat all you had to do was hold down the block button and either push down on your D-Pad/Stick or not. It left you more time to worry about how to counter or what combos to set-up on your opponent.
Aside from that, the special character power that is assigned to the O/B button is a half-assed mechanic. Some heroes get some good things like Green Arrow and others get stupid stuff that does nothing to help you in battle. These abilities are meant to be iconic and either attack your opponent or buff you in some way. Most of the times you’ll find that your special ability isn’t even worth worrying about deploying. Why couldn’t this be some sort of quick, emergency use attack like Batman’s batarangs or Green Lantern’s larger constructs?
This mechanic could have been implemented a lot better. Instead of some useless and limited buff or some sort of very low damage attack, why not have something limited and more iconic? I’d have liked to see Batman have access to 3 or 5 Batarangs that can be used to cancel an opponents attack giving him a quick window to counter. How about Superman have 3 or 5 bursts of speed that quicken his movement and regular attacks? Honestly, Green Arrow has the best use of this ability. He has 5 arrows that can be changed out for elemental ones. He can freeze you with an ice arrow or set you on fire. This is what every character should have.
While most of the game looks gorgeous, there are some rough edges here. First off, the stage design and backdrops are very well done. Each stage pops out at you and there is so much going on with character cameos in the background, things blowing up, and even destruction that changes the backdrops and stage itself. Then we move onto the character models and this is where things get a bit dicey.
I have a suspicion that the team over at NetherRealm really focused on the Regime and Insurgency characters while leaving normal characters to bite the dust. When you look at the two Wonder Woman models (normal and Regime) you can see a lot more detail and effort put into animating and ensuring everything looks amazing on the Regime model. This really rings true when looking at Superman (Regime). Up close, Superman has some issues with his eyes which when he tries to put on emotion it just looks weird.
Thankfully, this doesn’t apply to every character in the game but some facial expressions and textures just look off. Aside from that Injustice looks beautiful and the stage design and effects should be applauded.
When you’re done with the story, Injustice still has a huge library of things to offer you. Whether you want to focus on single player things or multiplayer, Injustice has tons to keep you interested and coming back.
For the single player side, you have individual stories you can play with each character that consist of 10 battles and an ending. Just like in Mortal Kombat, however, the endings seem to set up so much but we’ll likely never see what happens next. After that you can challenge yourself at S.T.A.R. Labs which will pit you against insurmountable odds. There is an option for single battle which will let you play a round if you only have a short amount of time to play and of course Training.
One of the coolest single player features in Injustice has to be the challenging Classic modes. Instead of just doing the 10 battles and seeing an ending, you can pit yourself up against extra rules like Poison, handicap, heroes only, and much more.
On the multiplayer side, whether offline or on you’ll find several modes to play non-AI opponents in. Online looks well, although it took me awhile to find opponents in the PS3 version. There are daily challenges for online play that will reward you nicely if you complete them. This makes every day unique when it comes to playing Injustice online.
Aside from the combat, you have a heap of unlockables ranging from art, music, costumes, and more. Unlocking everything will take a lot of time, especially since you’ll have to conquer S.T.A.R. Labs.
The Classic mode extra rules and online daily challenges really help make Injustice a daily played game. You will turn on the game and expect something different from it which is a rare thing to see in this genre.
Aside from my personal complaint about the ending, this is without a doubt the best story in a fighting game. Watching how events unfold and the masterful pacing of the story go a long way. Couple that with an amazing set of unlockables and daily events and you can easily forgive the muddy textures on the character models and negative change to the blocking mechanics. This is a very good fighting with a superb story that only has some rough edges. If there’s going to be an Injustice 2, it’s going to be hard to top this in terms of an exciting experience.