Nether Realm, WB Games, DC Comics
Available now on Xbox 360 (reviewed version), PS3, Wii U, PC, PS Vita, Xbox One & PS4
Games featuring super heroes tend to be a real mixed bag. For every Batman: Arkham City, there’s usually about 10 Superman 64’s. Some are playable, but for the most part, filler at best. Add that to a genre that feels several years past its sell by date, and you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. Injustice certainly appeals to me, being a DC Comics aficionado, but given it’s a 2.5D beat-em up, will it wear out it’s welcome, or add to DC’s recent videogame outings?
The set up is great, with the intro showing that The Joker has detonated a nuclear device in Metropolis, reducing it to nothing, and driving a certain Man Of Steel, to despair. As a result, Superman, being pretty much indestructible, takes over the world and has totalitarian rule, with the other heroes given the choice of being with him, or against him. There is a twist in the tale however, it’s an alternate universe (those unfamiliar with the ‘Two Earth’s’ stories in DC’s back catalogue may want to look it up). Always fearing this day would come, Batman has a back up plan. He has created an inter-dimensional transporter that will allow him to find the Justice League Heroes, from our Earth and take them to his. You certainly need to pay attention to the story, as there’s a lot of inter-dimensional discussion.
The main story mode, for a beat-em up, is nothing short of brilliance. Where most games of this genre will have you choose your character, then plough through several battles until you’ve defeated the final boss, this is one long story, involving all the characters, and the ones you control are pre-determined. Starting off as The Dark Knight, you are watching a cut scene one moment, then throwing down against an adversary the next. The engaging story and character rotation have injected some much needed life into a genre, that in my opinion, was as stale as a quid shop sandwich. It’s fantastic facing off against the Joker, as Batman, or beating the lights out of Sinestro, as Green Lantern, and each of the character has their own unique set of moves, that are easy to learn and difficult to master. Add to that, a unique super move, that when pulled off, see’s the likes of Aquaman’s opponent being lunch for a Great White, or whoever is on the wrong side of Superman, being punched into the Earth’s atmosphere, and back down again. There are also neat moves that allow you to knock the other player from the stage you are on, to halfway across the city.
As it’s basically a Justice League story, this is a title that will also appeal to those that are green around the gills when it comes to beat-em ups. Luckily, there’s comprehensive tutorials which will assist the gamer in the basic moves and then you can choose to take more in depth training, or crack on. The learning curve is great, and while it doesn’t hold your hand, it pulls no punches either, and as far as the story goes, once you’re just getting used to one character, you’ll be switched to another to start all over again. As it’s a beat-em up, don’t expect the story to be of RPG proportions, it’s more like an interactive epic super hero movie, with the odd QTE thrown in here and there. Don’t groan mind, it’s not that frequent and when you do get in that position, it’s an opportunity to reduce your opponents health bar. Speaking of which, rather than the fights having the usual rounds, each fighter just has two health meters and fights are virtually continuous. So technically there are rounds, it’s just a little more subtle.
As always, there’s 2 player mode, where you can play against someone on line who is probably 20 times better than you in ranked and unranked matches, or play locally with someone sat next to you (the latter is always more fun). Other single player modes include STAR Labs, which sets you a series of challenges as certain characters, for example, last 20 seconds without being hit, or defeat someone using specific moves. These challenges are some what short but very addictive, with one more go turning into 2 hours later. There are also Battle challenges, which sets up fights using a pre determined handicap, such as defeat as many foe’s as possible in x time or before your health bar gradually reaches zero.
All of these features combine to make what is probably the single best beat-em up to have graced consoles in the last 15 years. Add to that the superb visuals, great voice acting (for a game), and some DLC of other much loved DC characters like Lobo and General Zod, and you’ve an amazing gaming experience for fans of the genre and for those who love super heroes. If you’ve gone off beat-em ups over the years, much like myself, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a breath of fresh air in a genre that was virtually on a production line.