Injustice: Gods Among Us
3 1/2 stars = Very good
"Injustice: Gods Among Us" (Xbox 360 (version reviewed), PS3, Wii U; T for Teen.) is NetherRealm Studios' follow-up to the wildly popular "Mortal Kombat" reboot in 2011. This time, the team brings its taste for the theatrical to the DC Comics universe. "Injustice" is still a fighting game, but one that breaks conventions often seen in the genre.
The game features an impressive roster of 24 characters, all taken from the pages of DC lore. Favorites such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are included as well as some lesser known heroes and villains such as Shazam and Ares.
The cast is included in an original comic-style story created just for the game. The narrative deals with an alternate dimension that contains the same superheroes but different alliances. Stories that tread down the road of alternate dimensions usually end up being a confusing mess, but the writers nailed an intriguing tale that puts DC characters into unconventional roles. The game's single-player story mode will appeal to serious comic enthusiasts as well as casual fans.
As interesting as the story is, it's the gameplay that gives "Injustice" its character. This is a one-on-one fighter that puts style over all else. Heroes and villains go head-to-head in DC locales such as Gotham, Metropolis, Atlantis, Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor, just to name a few.
Nearly every stage is actually two or three stages thanks to slick transitions, which occur when a character is knocked into the left or right border of the stage. A highly entertaining cut scene shows the character flying through walls, objects and even other DC characters that deal damage and take fighters to a new section of the stage. A fight may begin on the front lawn of Wayne Manor but end up in the dining room.
"Injustice" isn't just a shiny fighting game that's missing an emphasis on competition. The stages have as much cosmetic detail as they do function. "Injustice" is one of the rare fighting games with interactive objects scattered throughout a stage. These objects can be used by either player to deal massive amounts of damage to the opponent. However, as polished as the characters and stages are, the controls sometimes suffer. They occasionally feel imprecise, especially when trying to execute a tricky special move.
Controls aside, it's the transitions and objects that give "Injustice" its flair. It's appealing at first glance when someone sees Solomon Grundy launching Deathstroke through the walls of the Fortress of Solitude. This is an intentional device from NetherRealm, a video game company that's broadening the fighting genre audience.
NetherRealm continues its habit of putting a ton of content into its games. In "Injustice," there's the three- to five- hour story, classic ladder-style battles that unlock character-specific endings, online play, unlockables such as costumes and soundtracks, and the S.T.A.R. Labs trials, which are character-specific mini-games that offer a serious challenge. There are more than 100 trials in this mode.
"Injustice: Gods Among Us" is an important release for fighting and comic fans alike with a little something for the competitor and the newcomer to the fight-game genre. Its excellent comic book story and heavy layer of polish make it a must-try game for fans of the DC Universe. For gamers who've been looking forward to it, the game delivers a top-notch experience that is bound to take up many hours to come.
Max Parker writes The Game Guy blog at communityvoices.post-gazette.com. On Twitter: @GameGuyPGH.