Grizzly Gaming

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review - Casual and hardcore fans will find something to love about "Injustice: Gods Among Us"
Though superhero movies have been enjoying an increase in popularity in recent years, superhero video games haven’t had as much luck. Generally, video games based off superheroes have been cheap movie tie-ins that do little but try to cash in on the popularity of whatever recent movie it’s based on. There have been a few notable exceptions (such as “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City), but not until the recent release of “Injustice: Gods Among Us” has an original property based on comic characters presented such a unique, complete package.

A fighting game based on characters from the DC Comics universe, “Injustice” poses a simple question – what if our mightiest heroes suddenly became our biggest threat? The plot of “Injustice” draws many heroes and villains together for an interesting premise – the Joker has detonated a nuclear bomb in Metropolis, killing millions including Lois Lane. In the wake of the devastation, Superman decides that humanity is no longer fit to rule itself and institutes a world government, run by the native Kryptonian. While some side with Superman, many others oppose him and side with the dark knight, Batman. Superman begins mercilessly hunting down anyone who aligned with him while a handful of heroes and villains work to stop his reign.

The story is special in that it doesn’t just tell a black-and-white story of good guys and bad guys. Members of each faction in “Injustice” feel they are justified in their actions. The story deals with mature themes of loss, regret and revenge, using the super-powered heroes and villains to enhance these underlying ideas. It’s rare that superheroes are treated in such an adult manner and the story shines because of it.

But the strength of the story wouldn’t mean much if the mechanics underneath weren’t just as strong. Luckily for gamers, “Injustice” was developed by NetherRealm Studios, a company with a long history of creating fighting games. Responsible for the recent “Mortal Kombat” reboot, the company is led by Ed Boon who co-created the original “Mortal Kombat” series with John Tobias in the 90s. Thanks to these impressive credentials, “Injustice” is a very competent fighting game that hardcore fighting fans and casual gamers will be able to enjoy.

Fighting games in general seem to be on the decline these days, mainly because the genre as a whole started to become too difficult and complex for casual gamers to enjoy. NetherRealm realized this and made a concentrated effort to simplify the fighting mechanics for this title and it really shows. 

Batman and Superman lead opposing forces in "Injustice" (
 On the surface, the fighting system of “Injustice” seems overly simple. There are three attack buttons (low, mid, high), a character specific action button, a throw button, and a environmental interaction button. Blocking is handled by holding back and special attacks are accomplished by pulling both triggers. You won’t find any parry, guard advancing or other advanced fighting game techniques because “Injustice” focuses on grand battles more than the intricacies of each fighting style.

One of my favorite aspects of the fighting system is the character action button. Each fighter has a specific action that can be called upon by hitting the B button and its affects differ from person to person. Batman can call three floating Bat-arangs to his side and launch them with another button press on the fly or to extend combos. Wonder Woman’s action switches her fighting style between her iconic lasso and a sword and shield combination. Lex Luthor can engage an energy field that shields him from damage. These unique actions add extra depth to each character and set them apart from one another.

Hardened fighting game fans may yet still find some things to enjoy. Each fighter gets a four-bar super meter that fills up that by successfully attacking, blocking or taking damage. This bar isn’t just used to trigger special attacks but governs other aspects of the fighting system as well, most notably the Clash system. At a point in each fight, each fighter can bet their super meter against their opponent with the winner dealing damage to the loser. Granted I’m not sure exactly what triggers a Clash, it’s a neat innovation that adds extra layers of strategy and energy management to any standard fight. 

If you preordered at GameStop, you get access to special "Red Son" missions and costumes (
 The super meter even has other abilities and actions that I’m just becoming aware of, like the meter burn. Some attacks can be extended or amplified with the pull of a trigger after landing successfully. Whether to use the meter burn is up to you – do you want to do more damage now at the cost of losing a Clash later or not being able to earn your special? Adding extra depth and uses to the special meter is only one way that “Injustice” attempts to appeal to the hardcore fighting fan.

Another surprising inclusion to the fighting system is adding specific data for each attack (from punches to special attacks) such as power, range and how many frames of time said attack takes to perform. While casual fans will not understand the importance of this information, hardcore fighting fans will no doubt spend massive amounts of time poring over the data – not just so they can discern the statistically “best” fighter but so they can argue on message boards about which characters are “ridiculously OP (over-powered).”

If the idea of comparing the number of frames per attack sounds dull to you, perhaps gigantic explosions are more your speed. And in that category, “Injustice” delivers as well. Each stage in this title is absolutely littered with possible environmental attacks and hazards. These hazards can be one time attacks, used multiple times or even change the landscape of the level entirely. With the click of a button, any character can interact with these objects in the environment to gain an edge in battle.

An interesting aspect of these attacks is that not all characters interact with them in the same way. Take a fight between Batman and Lex Luthor, for example. Batman, being a normal human, will be able to vault himself off a tactical missile hanging over their heads while Lex Luthor, in his super-powered attack suit, will be able to rip said missile off the ceiling and throw it at Batman. This interesting dynamic now means that the selected level of a fight is more significant than just a colorful backdrop. If you’re a character with normal attributes, say Harley Quinn, against someone with massive physical strength, Doomsday for instance, picking a stage with large environmental hazards may not be a smart idea.

"Injustice" even explains how Deathstroke can go toe-to-toe with Superman (
Though picking your preferred stage in a versus battle isn’t as simple as that. Before a versus battle, both players will be able to pick a stage with the game randomly choosing one of the choices. Also, each fight has two rounds, though not as in most fighting games. To start, each character has two full life bars. When one is drained completely, the fight is paused briefly as the characters reset a short distance away from each other to ensure at least a brief pause in a heated battle. It should also be noted that damage from the first bar doesn’t translate to the second. So if you trigger your character’s special attack when your foe only has a sliver left of his first bar, the excess damage dealt is basically wasted.

“Injustice” even adds a few modes beyond the story to keep players engaged. There is a single fight menu as well as the standard practice mode, which even lets you queue up a handful of moves on-screen to eliminate the need to constantly access the move list. The Battles menu lets you take part in a series of increasingly difficult fights if you’ve already conquered the story. But the most interesting additional mode is S.T.A.R. Labs.

S.T.A.R. Labs features a plethora of side missions, many of which aren’t just standard fights but feature special conditions which, when met, earn you one, two or three stars for said mission. Earning more stars will earn you more special unlocks, such as extra costumes and stages. There are literally hundreds of these missions which should be more than enough to keep you occupied after beating the story.

After playing “Injustice,” I have to say that I’m very impressed with what NetherRealm has accomplished. Creating a deep yet approachable fighting game is commendable enough but being able to do so with a roster of well-established, well-liked DC characters is incredible. The art style of characters and backgrounds is highly detailed and colorful, giving each fight the feeling that the action has sprung right off comic pages. DLC characters (and a season pass) have also been announced. Only one is known so far but honestly, he was the only other character I really wanted to see included in the already stacked roster. The intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo is the first piece of downloadable content announced for “Injustice” and I can’t wait to play as the main man. I’m just hoping he isn’t sporting those awful 90s dreadlocks.


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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