Before 2011’s successful reboot of the Mortal Kombat franchise, the developers at NetherRealm Studios (then called Midway Games Chicago), tried their hand at a Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe cross-over. The team with the taste for blood and gore must have developed a taste for the comic book franchise, too, as Injustice: Gods Among Us plays a lot like a Mortal Kombat game, but only features DC heroes and villains.
In many ways, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a Mortal Kombat game with a DC skin over it. Because of this, they’re bound to draw a lot of comparison. Like the 2011 reboot of MK, Injustice features a cinematic story mode, playable challenges that further the experience, and many of the same online multiplayer modes. There are only a few minor differences in what’s available—like no tag matches, which are sorely missed, and instead the challenge tower and krypt are just presented in a way that fits within the DC Universe.
Combat, however, is extremely different despite an air of familiarity surrounding it. There’s special moves which can be slightly improved with the use of the super meter, ground, air, and juggle combos, and an all-powerful super move that can quickly alter the momentum of any match if landed properly. But instead of a dedicated block button, holding back for high attacks and down for low attacks performs a block. Just this one change makes the combat in Injustice feel unique and separate from all the other similarities to MK.
But that’s not all that’s new. If two fighters attack at the same time, a clash event can occur, where players can wager their super meter to get the edge. It happens quickly, so it keeps you on your toes. Maybe the most significant addition, are the interactive and destructible environments. Each stage has various opportunities to use the stage itself as a weapon. And stages are multi-tier, with certain attacks smashing you or an opponent into a different area with more chances for attacks. Plus it looks damn cool, and is very suitable considering how powerful these super beings are supposed to be.
The combat is very straightforward and easy to learn, but difficult to master. It’s incredibly deep and satisfying, and I can see it appealing to fans of any fighting franchise, not just Mortal Kombat. If anything, the change in the way block works might leave MK fans slightly miffed. Like any good fighting game, with practice comes mastery, and I already witnessed as a spectator, players pulling off 10+ hit combos in the King of the Hill multiplayer mode online. I’m not quite there yet myself, but I’m close.
In Mortal Kombat, each fighter plays relatively the same, just with different moves. Everyone uppercuts, everyone sweeps—you get where I’m going with this. But in Injustice, the 24 heroes and villains on the roster each play so differently mastering them all individually is quite the task. For example, Bane and Lex Luthor are massive and powerful, yet extremely slow. They need to be in close range to do much damage. Staying back and choosing when to strike carefully is the best way to approach fighting them. Someone like The Flash, on the other hand, is so quick, but still is best in close range due to his lack of projectile attacks and ability to swiftly pummel an opponent. It’s the characters themselves and their playstyles that separate the game from Mortal Kombat than anything else.
Injustice’s roughly six-hour story mode is a joy. Even for someone who is genuinely uninterested or uneducated in DC lore. I know enough about the characters and stories to know that NetherRealm was lucky enough to be given free reign of the story arc in Injustice, as an alternate universe scenario makes for the perfect opportunity to play puppet master without alienating the history of each iconic character. In this other dimension, Superman and many other heroes are evil, while heroes, and even villains, from the “normal” dimension get sucked in and team up to take down the evil in this new alternate dimension, all with the hopes of preventing a nuclear explosion back in their home dimension, that eventually creates this alternate reality. It’s a lot less confusing than I just made it sound, I swear.
The story is easy to follow along, and is broken down into chapters featuring most of the characters found in the game. Each character is explored more thoroughly storywise, and the player is given the chance to get to gain some experience with each character’s playstyle in a less-intense environment than the elite players online. It’s a great way to introduce the heroes and the villains to the player, while telling a new tale based on the DC Universe.
Further adding to the single-player experience, Injustice features Battles and S.T.A.R. Labs missions. Battles, are themed-survivor type fights, fighting a team of opponents one after another—some with certain handicaps or modifiers applied. S.T.A.R. Labs is essentially the Challenge Tower in Mortal Kombat, providing 240 single-player challenges that force you to complete certain tasks with specific characters to continue and unlock them all. Each mission comes with three objectives that if completed, earn stars. Combined, these add much replay value to the game, bring some much-needed variety, and provide ways to earn Access Cards that can be used to unlock extra costumes, options for customizing your hero card, and more. This easily adds another 10 or more hours of single-player content to the game, maybe even more depending on your skill level—which, should increase as you play through all of these challenges.
Hopping online was a breeze, and the servers connected without a hiccup. Matches were incredibly smooth, just as they are if you were playing local multiplayer. Online MP offers 1-on-1 ranked or unranked matches, King of the Hill, and Survivor modes. King of the Hill puts you and up to eight players into a ladder type match, where players constantly move higher up the ladder to try and take the King’s spot, or be knocked back down to the bottom. Anyone not fighting at the moment can spectate the match. Survivor is essentially the same thing, except the King can’t change characters and regain small amounts of health to keep them surviving. Either one is a fun addition and can be used to watch more skilled players and learn from their unique combos and juggles.
In Injustice, the combat is God. It’s the sole reason to pick up and play this game. Even better if you’re a DC fan, as you’re going to enjoy the story mode and the characters that much more. Injustice is still worth buying for any fighting game fan, as the meat of the gameplay and variety in modes are more than enough to keep you playing for a long while. The main problem I see with Injustice, is that it lacks enough differences from Mortal Kombat to truly feel like a unique game, and is instead most of what made the Mortal Kombat reboot shine, packed into a DC Universe wrapper. That’s not a terrible thing to be compared to, but there is a sense of “been there, done that” while playing Injustice I just couldn’t shake.