By Robert Workman
Video Game Reviews
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
When "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe" came out a few years ago, I actually got a kick out of it. While it didn't quite match the level of bravado that the Marvel vs. Capcom games mustered, there was still something great about it, whether it was the way Joker performed his (off-screen) fatality or the how the gameplay clicked. But many people shunned it, mainly because it took the "Mortal Kombat" franchise down to the mature level that so many people flocked to.
But now developer NetherRealm Studios has made amends, at least as far as its creatives are concerned. Two years ago, it turned heads - literally - with a heck of a "Mortal Kombat" reboot, and now it's DC Comics' turn for fighting glory with "Injustice: Gods Among Us," a game that covers every single base it possibly can in terms of enjoyment. Comic book fans will come for the story and stay for the fighting; fighting fans will dig into the action and see just how amazing the story is.
The game's tale does delve a bit into comic book lore here, and I won't spoil details, but let's just say it revolves around a catastrophe in Metropolis that splits the universe in two, making heroes and villains now longer so definable. It's this kind of story that really digs in, covering a huge array of characters and avoiding cheap pratfalls. This is the kind of story that Capcom needs to pay attention to for its future fighting efforts. It's that good.
But story is only part of the picture. The fighting itself is splendid, really feeling like its own entity -- as it borrows a few elements from the "Mortal Kombat" series. You'll utilize special moves with characters across the board, while also interacting with the environment to turn the tide in your favor. In addition, the Super Moves, a little more cinematic than they need to be, are still remarkable, especially when Batman plows into someone with a computer-operated Batmobile. POW!, indeed.
The gameplay is adaptable for players of all skill levels, and because it's backed by strong online action, you can fight with your friends with ease. But there's also a helpful and lengthy tutorial that teaches you every aspect about the fighting, and when to use it. There's also a S.T.A.R. Labs mode that adds replay value to the single player mode, with a ladder-type challenge system in which you'll have to tackle missions of all types. Some are corny, but they're all worth checking out, just to see what kind of work NetherRealm poured into them.
As for the character variety, it's spectacular. You get favorites like Batman and Superman, but it's nice to see the developers turn Aquaman from a constant joke to an all-out badass, complete with trident. It's great to see Hawk Girl and Killer Frost get some respect, as well, and, with the help of DLC, Lobo getting a turn, too.
Graphics are outstanding across the board. At times, characters can look a little muddy transitioning from cinema to in-game fighting, but animations are smooth, the way backgrounds shift over the course of each fight (with crumbling walls and ceilings) is crazy, and the ability to knock someone into another part of the stage - an element borrowed from "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe," by the way - is innovative, and keeps things fresh.
Likewise, the voice work is really something else. NetherRealm spared no expense getting great voice actors for the game, including Kevin Conroy as Batman. And sure, we would've liked to have heard Mark Hamill as Joker again, but Richard Epcar does well in the role. The music is swell, too, from a booming opening theme to background tunes that are great for beating someone to a pulp. The sound effects are especially impressive in stereo.
Some minor modifications would've been welcome with the game's balance (it's hard to believe how powerful Solomon Grundy really is), and there were a few minor drop-outs when it came to online play, especially on the Wii U. (That version also lacks the ability to connect with the mobile game to get extra suits, which is a bummer.)
But overall, "Injustice: Gods Among Us" is a heroic effort, one that vindicates the DC Comics license in terms of fighting games - though, again, I didn't think "MK vs. DC" was nearly as bad as some people let on. The fighting system is bold and entertaining; the presentation is a real knockout; and the story - something that's usually ignored for the sake of "let's fight!" in a game like this - is a huge factor in its success.
If you're a comic book fan, or you just want to get your fight on with something new, this is the fighting game you truly deserve -- even if you think you didn't need it right now. It flies high and true.
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