Injustice: Gods Among Us will help you settle your superhero-related arguments
“Who would win in a fight: Superman or Batman?” How many times did that simple question form the basis for the world's silliest, most pointless, arguments? Of course, it's not entirely embarrassing if you only just had that argument, recently, as an adult. Okay, it is. Because the answer is simple — well, according to Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios' latest superhero brawler, anyway. The fight would be won by whoever pulled off a multiple-hit metre-burn combo at the most opportune moment (and not Superman, as logic would dictate). Injustice answers all your superhero-related questions with answers only a videogame could provide — the process mostly involves putting two ridiculously powerful characters from your favourite DC comic book series in an arena and giving them some toys to play with.
Assembled for your pounding pleasure are a massive bunch of good and bad guys from the DC universe. The usual suspects are present (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Joker), while some not-so-ubiquitous characters (Hawkgirl, Raven, Killer Frost) make an appearance for some beatings as well. It's a wonderfully assembled cast which are voice-acted to perfection — something which is apparent during in-game battles as well as in the (proud, yet laughably horrible) single player story.
Just as with Mortal Kombat (9), a game also developed by NetherRealm, the solo player has not been ignored. Injustice comes packed with single player content that goes beyond a basic story mode. Yes, there's one which bears some striking resemblances to MK9's (parallel universes, multiple dimensions, and the like). It's the sort of comic book story that you share the deepest love/hate relationship with — full of cliché, yet the ensemble cast keeps you interested and the enormous scale of conflict gets you hooked. Besides, there's an ulterior motive here — the developers want you to play the entire roster at least once, in the hope that you'll be motivated enough to pick a favourite and memorise the bazillion combos of that character. In addition to the story mode, you will be able to pick odd fights with an AI opponent of your choice across difficulty levels — pick a “Very Hard” opponent, and there's a pummelling in store if you're not fairly proficient in the art of defence and/or mad combo-ing. Additionally, there's the interesting S.T.A.R. Labs challenge mode which gives you objectives or sets victory conditions for each bout — each character has a separate challenge mode increasing in difficulty with each level.
You know you've got your hands full when every character comes with a massive move-set. The characters are broadly divided into two categories: power and gadget. Power characters such as Superman or Bane are heavy-hitters, causing massive damage with big attacks while also being able to grab-and-throw things from the environment at their opponents. Gadget characters like Batman rely on speed and cunning, while being able to trigger environmental traps as well as use certain arena objects to their advantage. Beneath what serious players would consider fluff is a deep and complex fighting system which is sure to get better with age, with the developers making balancing modifications throughout the game's life cycle. The combat feels very tactile — landing multiple blows and achieving a combo string is really satisfying, while the special moves for each character are apt. The super moves (which can be performed by holding down both triggers with a filled metre) are outrageous — often comically so, but again, they “feel” perfect. As it stands now, the fighting system can only be described as “robust”, but only time and professional fighting game players will be able to expose its deficiencies.
It's not much of an improvement over Mortal Kombat from a visual standpoint. Sure, some of the multi-level arenas look a tad better, but the character models and the animation leave a lot to be desired. The story mode's pre-rendered cutscenes look particularly shabby. On the flipside, the game runs quite well on both the PS3 and Xbox 360 — the developers possibly traded in visual fidelity for performance.
In the end, I think it's fair to say that Injustice: Gods Among Us has put the DC license to good use, and is very easy to recommend to both fans of fighting games and comics. The game is available for PS3 and Xbox 360.