Injustice: The Single Player Game
The uneven Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios’ new DC Universe based fighting game, delivers cool but inconsistent gameplay. The things it does right, it does phenomenally; Injustice introduces a variety of innovations that could revolutionize the fighting game genre. The things it does wrong, however, it does so poorly that you can’t help but ask “why”?
The best part of the game is Injustice’s revolutionary story mode. In the “Crisis on Two Earths” inspired event, a universe hopping Joker tricks an alternate version of Superman into committing an act so vile, the Man of Steel abandons all notions of mercy and second chances. Compelled by grief, the alternate Superman goes off the rails, and turns the Justice League into a totalitarian government that rules with an iron fist. Eventually, our universe’s Justice League enters the fray. With the help of a few unconventional allies they must defeat their alternate selves in order to secure the fate of both worlds. The story feels like it should be DC canon; which impresses me for a fighting game.
The incredible story mode comes to us by way of Mortal Kombat 9. This game, like Mortal Kombat before it, features a roster hopping apocalyptic event that forces you to use a variety of characters. The engaging story familiarizes you with nearly all of the playable characters and helps you decide on which ones you want to use. The story is broken into chapters, each chapter focusing on a new character. The fights of each chapter are seamlessly integrated with fully voiced cut scenes that act out the plot in a manner fitting for a novel or comic book. In fact, the only flaw I found in the Story Mode are these random quick time events which disrupt the precarious balance struck between the flow of the story and the in-game fights.
Not everything revolves around the story mode, however. Injustice also has a challenge mode dubbed the S.T.A.R. Labs trials. The S.T.A.R Labs portion of the game places you in a variety of game modes. Not all of these modes resemble a fighting game. For one mission I was asked to punch a car into submission – an act which many Street Fighter fans will find familiar. Each character has ten trials and each trial has three objectives. Completing these objectives grants you stars; these stars unlock the next trial. The real genius in this mode isn’t the variation of gameplay or the multitude of missions, but how each character’s trial tells a story of such high quality that it would fit right at home as a DC one-shot.
Injustice’s innovations cannot be contained in just the game modes alone, but infuse the gameplay portion of the title as well. For example, it allows variation of style inputs. If inputting down-forward to perform a special move messes you up, you can change special move commands to the more traditional quarter circles. It also allows you to turn negative edging on or off. If the previous sentence didn’t make any sense to you, you’ll just have to trust me it’s a big deal for fighting game fans. The fluid control scheme allows you to preset the buttons to execute any command in the game, allowing you to personalize your gameplay experience. You can even preset multiple preferences, allowing you to switch between customized control schemes before each match.
There are a lot of small additions like the customizable, preset control scheme that make this game notable. For instance, I’ve played a lot of fighting games and this is the first I can remember that allows both players to have input when choosing a multiplayer stage. Both players choose an arena they want and the game randomly chooses between the two. This small addition adds a bit of edge before each fight, like flipping a coin before a football game to see who kicks and who receives. Also, the game lets you turn stage hazards and stage transitions on or off at the stage select menu; this is an addition Smash Brothers should take note of this addition. Lastly, the game allows you to pick characters blindly. It’s a small addition that shows the developer understands the player.
Now for the bad stuff. As much as I like the adjustable control scheme, Injustice simply has too many buttons that do too few things. There are essentially eight buttons that control the game. Six are standard: three of the buttons are variations of punching someone, one is used for a special super hero power, one is used for throwing, and one for environmental attacks. The seventh button is the “meter burn.” This button lets you activate cancels, wall bounces, ground bounces, push blocks, clash bursts, and many more. It is literally the most important button in the game; every good combo requires multiple presses of this button to be effective. The game play revolves around these seven buttons. There is an eighth, “change stance” button, but it’s useless. It does nothing but changes your stance. Seriously. That’s it. IT’S SO POINTLESS!
The minimalistic approach to button input isn’t the only thing that irks me about the controls. Injustice has a single minded devotion to mid-90’s fighting game mechanics. For instance, many of the buttons I talked about earlier are only short cuts. You can trigger a throw, for instance, by pressing the light and heavy attack buttons at the same time. These types of simultaneous button presses were essential back in the day, when there weren’t enough functions for buttons, but now that gamers are using controllers with a lot more buttons, it’s POINTLESS. They even allow you to change stance using these simultaneous commands. Allow me to repeat, they have two ways in the game that you can CHANGE YOUR STANCE. It DOES NOTHING. These button combinations are not mentioned in the game’s tutorial or manual, making me wonder if NetherRealm Studios didn’t program them in for nostalgia reasons instead of functional ones.
The game also has a couple of balance issues. For instance, some stage hazards are far too powerful. One stage has a dumpster which cannot be blocked. It can also be thrown for massive damage and is really hard to avoid. This dumpster literally prevented me from winning a tournament.
Certain character powers are also wildly imbalanced. Some of the powers are simple, like Superman’s strength buff. Some are not. Deathstroke can make his projectiles unblockable! Uneven combo damage between characters and a number of infinite combo loops also add to the game’s lack of fairness. A good zoning character on a stage with a decent hazard can win nearly any match. As fun as Injustice is, it won’t be able to be played with any kind of seriousness on a competitive level.
That being said, I still spent hours playing Injustice and I plan to spend hours more. Every time Superman knocks an enemy into orbit or Batman destroys an enemy with the Batmobile, I can hear my inner comic book geek squeal with delight. Despite the unbalanced gameplay, the cinematic, spectacle filled matches make me feel hyped every time I play. I don’t claim to understand every decision NetherRealm made with their new DC inspired fighter, but even with all its flaws, Injustice can’t help but be a crowd pleaser. Even if sometimes it’s more fun to watch than it is to play.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The game looks amazing, even though the U.I. lacks some polish. It does the DC source material justice. 2.1 Control
The controls are probably the worst part of the game. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Classic voice actors from original DC universe cartoons? Yes please! 3.3 Play Value
The game is way more fun to watch than it is to play, but it’s fun that can’t be denied. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best