Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360) Review/Comparison
Posted by Marc Morrison on 04.29.2013
411mania’s Marc Morison reviews NetherRealm Studios latest fighter inside. See what he thinks and how it compares to their last DC fighting game they made.
Game: Injustice: Gods Among Us
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Format: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Wii U
This review will be a bit different from most. While I think Injustice is a fine enough game, I’m more interested in comparing it to Midway’s (NetherRealm now) previous game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Both games were largely made by the same people, and it’s an interesting exercise to see where the new game is better than the old, but also worse in a few ways. I’ll offer some commentary for my choices, which will hopefully be illuminating to some.
If you do want the traditional reviews, I'd suggest either this review here by Jeremy Thomas who looks at the 360 version or this review here by Jeffrey Harris who looks at the PS3 version.
Let's begin with my analysis:
The Fighting System
On the basic fighting systems level, I think I prefer Injustice over MKvDC, but it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Injustice uses a 3 button layout (X, Y, and A) along with the B button as a character-specific buff (usually), and the RT button used as a modified for some special attacks, making them EX attacks. MKvDC used the face buttons for various attacks, and the RT button as the block button. In Injustice, you block by holding away from the opponent (like in a Street Fighter game).
The fighting game-specific things you can do in Injustice include systems like the “Clash”, environmental attacks, EX attacks and super moves. The biggest thing here are actually the environmental attacks in the game, where you can use parts of the scenery to attack your enemy, by throwing something at them, jumping off objects or using some environmental trigger to cause something to occur. Characters either fit into two undefined classes, either strength characters (who can throw objects at the enemy) or acrobatic characters (who leap off the same objects). Most of the environmental stuff is a lot of fun, with the objects respawning in the world after a short time they are used.
The “Clash” move is kind of one-off gambit move you can do, only while your character is on their second life bar. It interrupts an enemy attack, and you are thrown into a betting game with them. You bet on different levels of your super meter vs. him/her, and whoever wins the bet, wins the Clash. If you win it (and you started it), you get some health regen, with the amount based on how much you bet. If your opponent won it (but you started it) he/she gets a damage boost based on how much super meter they used. And vice versa for if they started the Clash and what they might gain/what you might gain, whether you win or lose. It’s an interesting mechanic, which looks great, but is a bit finicky to pull off. You activate it by press towards the enemy and RT but only when they attack.
The super moves/EX moves are functionally the same as the X-ray/EX moves from Mortal Kombat (2011), with ether using a bit of your super meter to power up a special move at the cost of a little, or else unleashing a cinematic, super attack on your enemy for a chunk of damage. You can also do combo breakers as well, which also eat a portion of your super meter.
MK vs. DC
MKvDC is a slightly more simplistic affair than Injustice but more conventional in its approach. It doesn’t have the character-specific power move, super moves, or environmental attacks. It does have the combo breakers and EX moves though, but EX moves are all about timing button combinations down.
Aside from being a 3D game (Injustice is 2D only), the two big systems this game has, it shares with Injustice, actually, namely: environmental transitions and mini-games.
The transitions in MKvDC are about trying to maneuver your enemy to one of the trigger areas and then knocking them off of it to the next level. This starts “Free fall” combat where you press a random attack button to deal damage and the enemy tries to mitigate it. If they press the same button as you, the positions are reversed, and the game continues. The more times you try and attack, the more damage you can do, but there is the risk of them countering it and the damage being done to you. This idea of “guess the buttons” also falls into “Klose Kombat” where you do a special throw, the camera zooms in on you and the other fighter and you try and do a few damaging moves without them countering.
There is also the horizontal transition which is activated in the same manner, just knocking the enemy hard into a special surface. This starts a button-mashing mini-game where you and the enemy pound on the buttons for you to deal more damage, as they try to reverse it, in a tug-of-war fashion.
The transitions in Injustice are a little easier to pull off, especially once you memorize the level layouts. It just requires you to hold away and press the A button when you’re near the trigger. This throws the enemy into level transition animation where they take damage from various objects/people. These transitions in Injustice are more visually exciting, but non-interactive.
The mini-games are already mentioned for MKvDC, which really only tie into the level transitions, but the ones in Injustice are….weird. They occur during the story and usually involve some QTE’s, pressing buttons that pop up on the screen, or else just mashing all the buttons at once to build up a meter.
The Verdict: Injustice – While on occasion it feels awkward, the interplay with environmental moves, supers/ex moves, the Clash, and level transitions make it a more enjoyable, action-packed fighting system. It’s not perfect, notably the buff moves, some of which I never figured out how to use, but it is enjoyable, and feels less cheap than previous games that NetherRealm has made.
Injustice boasts a roster of 24 characters (with more added as DLC soon), with big names like Superman, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, The Joker, etc. It also includes some lesser known (comparatively speaking) characters like Black Adam, Area, Raven and a few others. They aren’t necessarily the most obscure characters ever, but they aren’t in the popular lexicon.
MKvDC has 24 characters, but 12 of them are the MK guys, so I won’t talk about them. The 12 DC guys are the ones you would expect (and all but 1 are in this game), puling from the most well-known characters.
That said, even though Injustice has double the characters, MKvDC has a better roster. Characters in MKvDC are pretty standard in what they can do, Flash attacks with his speed, Superman uses all of his powers, Joker has more comedic-themed weaponry, it is about their iconic roles in how they fight. Injustice has some….quirky behavior from some fighters. Wonder Woman can do a stance change between using a lasso, or with a sword/shield combo, but neither feel effective. Captain Marvel was over-powered in the first game, and they redesigned his move-set to be completely ineffectual in this one. And The Flash barely uses his speed at all in this game, aside from a stance he can get into, and slowing down time occasionally. He has two moves that feel incredibly awkward to use, a flying uppercut, and a “Sonic Pound” (ground pound) which looks odd with him doing it.
The other Injustice characters have their good and bad sides, Raven, Deathstroke, and Black Adam can be fun but the story (which I’ll talk about a bit later) doesn’t give you a lot of good uses. Most Injustice characters can be mapped back fairly well to MK characters also, Killer Frost = Sub Zero, Raven = Kenshi, Batman = Scorpion, which makes it awkward when you see Batman doing a spear-type move.
One last thing: Too many Batman-related characters are in Injustice. There are 6 so far, not including any DLC plans: Batman, Bane, Cat Woman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, Nightwing, and Solomon Grundy (somewhat, 7 if you include him). Batman’s world has become the “Ryu” of this game.
The Verdict: MKvDC -- The 12 DC characters in MKvDC play like how they should, and what they are known for. Flash runs quickly, Wonder Woman wrestles, Green Lantern has useful constructs to employ against the enemy. While Injustice has a larger roster, most characters don’t have the moves they should in order to make them actually effective. It’s impressive the characters they do include, but if they’re not going to play correctly, it seems a bit pointless.
For all intents and purposes, the storyline in Injustice is garbage, but well-told garbage. The basic story is that in an alternate world, the Joker caused Superman to kill Lois Lane and his unborn son, as well as blowing up Metropolis with a bomb. This caused Superman to lose it, install himself as dictator of Earth and having most of the other heroes joining up with him, aside from Batman who tries to stop him. Batman’s plan is to bring heroes from “our” universe over to unlock some kryptonite gun, things go wrong, everyone fights, etc. The two problems I have with this:
1. It is almost entirely based on other DC stories were Superman goes mad. Notably the Justice League cartoon episode “A Better World”, wherein an alternate reality Flash was killed by Lex Luthor, Superman kills Lex, and takes over the world. It’s also occurred in the DC animated movie “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” as well as most of the plot from the “Earth-3” universe, where the Justice League are the “Crime Syndicate of America”, and where the bad guys are the good guys.
2. There is a massive plot hole introduced early on that when you think about it, makes absolute zero sense. SPOILER WARNING: Evil Superman invents a “Kryptonian Nano-tech” drug that is the plot basis for having a character like the Joker to be effective at all against Superman. The purported nature of this drug is that it “gives humans thousands of times their normal durability”. So, Superman creates a magic drug that makes every day normal people functionally indestructible? IS SUPERMAN STUPID, OR WHAT? He is basically ruling the world through intimidation/fear that he is so much more vastly powerful than everyone else. And what does he do? Invents something that makes them on-par with his power level, at least in a physical confrontation. Not only that, Batman gets ahold of it (which you could buy) to give to the good-universe heroes, but also, the Joker/Harley Quinn get ahold of it, so they are nano-powered super-villains that can’t be harmed by 99.9% of anything. Not only that, when it’s all said and done, Wonder Woman, GL, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Batman and Joker return to their home reality with the nano-drug still in their systems. Unless I missed it, and I did try to pay attention to the ending, they never mentioned getting rid of it, if it even can be disabled. That’s going to make catching the Joker a whole hell of a lot more difficult since he can’t be harmed by most things. Also, why/how is evil Superman able to kill evil Captain Marvel so easily? He fries his brain when he gets annoyed with him in a cut-scene, that just felt cheap.SPOILERS OVER
The story plays exactly like the Mortal Kombat (2011) story mode with in-engine cut-scenes giving way to seamless battle transitions. It’s slightly marred by the environmental transitions though. Meaning, the scene starts in one area, you fight, you knock the enemy into another part of the level, and then you win, the next cut-scene will be back in the original level. Also, if you fight multiple people in the same level, the objects/levels will be new again during the second fight.
The last two story issues are as follows: 1. One of the mini-games has Black Adam throwing cars driving on the street at Superman, and Superman blowing them up with his heat vision. Black Adam throws at least 30 cars in this sequence, and Superman (you) blow them up with button prompts. Basically, Superman has killed 30 people that were just driving on the street. Unless they also were infused with magic Nano-juice, in which case they’re fine, and why would they care about Superman at all? 2. I beat the game very quickly. I did skip a lot of the cut-scenes, near the start, but my total time playing was 1:43:13 (not known if this includes cut-scenes watched or not). The story mode is a 12 chapter affair, with one character (Batman) repeated twice. Mortal Kombat 2011 has a 16 chapter affair, but no characters were repeated, and it felt a whole lot longer. Because the story mode only has 11 characters in it, you don’t get a good grasp of a lot of the other more minor characters.
By contrast, MKvDC has a much more simple, but logical (in a comic book sense) explanation for why everything is going haywire: Magic. Enough said, really. Darkseid and Shao Khan are fused together and are merging the two universes. That’s FINE. Once the story is over, everyone kind of goes off on their merry old way. The game is divided into two sides, a MK and a DC side, and it comes together for each one in the end.
The Verdict: MKvDC -- MKvDC doesn’t have the best story in the world, but it’s not inherently ripped off from earlier DC works (to my knowledge) and doesn’t have huge gaping holes in the logic of it. The story in Injustice is really bad, but at least it’s short, so that’s a semi-plus.
Graphics and Audio
Given MKvDC’s age, Injustice pretty much blows it out of the water on the A/V side of the equation. Injustice looks great, and keeps a fast pace throughout the action. There are a few odd bugs, notably how characters try and get up during the end of a match after the round is over, but it’s very minor. The environments look great, especially when characters are crashing into them as does all the level-based weaponry. I don’t particularly agree with all the costume changes, and a few characters look highly weird (Raven/Flash) but it does grow on you. It’s also jarring to see some characters in a cut-scene and then fighting, Green Latern looks the strangest. The audio is handled extremely well with the known voice actors for most character (sans Mark Hamill as the Joker) coming back; Kevin Conroy as Batman, George Newbern as Superman, Grey DeLisle as Catwoman, etc. The presentation side of Injustice is a treat.
MKvDC isn’t a slouch, but it’s almost 5 years old at this point. Some characters in the game are actually voiced better (Tara Platt as Wonder Woman), the classic costumes are nice, and the way the costumes deform in this game is better than in Injustice. Still, it’s not as detailed as in Injustice, the levels are flatter (despite being a 3D game), and aside from Mrs. Platt, most of the other voice work in MKvDC isn’t great.
The Verdict: Injustice – It looks superb, and manages to keep up a lot faster than MKvDC, despite them both being an Unreal Engine 3 game. Injustice also hits a lot closer to home with the traditional voicework of Conroy, DeLisle, Strong, Newbern, etc. doing voice work, making it feel like a part of the DC cannon. Despite some of the goofy looking costumes, and a few graphical quirks, Injustice is a better experience overall.
Multiplayer and Extras
I’ll start with MKvDC, just because it’ll be quicker. Honestly, the game doesn’t have a lot of extra bits going for it. It has the story mode, an arcade mode, practice/training, and an online mode. The online mode is functional, with you able to create a ranked, player, or private match, having leaderboards, your own stats, as well as the room (join/create) functionality. It all works but is fairly basic. There’s kind of nothing else, once the story/arcade mode is all unlocked, unless you like playing online.
Injustice takes a page from the Mortal Kombat (2011) playbook and gives you a fairly large amount of modes to tackle. The first is “S.T.A.R. Labs” which is akin to the Challenge Tower from MK. You have to fulfill such tasks as performing special moves, avoid being hit, throw enemies 5 times during a match, avoid debris, etc. during a match in different missions. You collect starts based on which three objectives you were able to do which unlocks new missions/characters for you to tackle. It’s a fun mode, but the annoying part is, is that it’s static. You start off with Superman, and then go to Batman, then to Catwoman, etc. To unlock the Ares missions (the last ones), you need a minimum of 350 stars. If this mode had been dynamic so you could pick who you want to learn first, then I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more.
The other big single player mode is “Battles” which has 20 different variants for you to play with. The basic one is “Classic”, which is just akin to an arcade mode, but you do get an ending when you’re done. But more extreme ones include “Help From Above” (enemy health restored every 30 seconds), “Give and Take” (steal health from enemy, they can do the same), or the aptly title “Impossible” (try and beat the whole cast on one health bar). A lot of these modes are for the more hardcore fans, but they are at least conceptually interesting.
The real meat of the game is the online mode, which has the usual ranked/player/private match types. The types include 1 vs. 1, Survivor, and KOTH (King of the Hill) which involves people being in a room, with one person as the King, and everyone trying to take them down, and betting on the outcome of the fight with experience points.
Honestly, the online parts of both games work fairly well. MKvDC is a little smoother (at the moment), but that's only because not a lot of people are playing it. I had around 15 or so matches in Injustice, and 13/15 of them were fine, the other 2 were a little laggy but still playable enough.
Experience is persistent across all modes in the game, and ties into your Hero Card (battle tag, essentially) and the unlock system. Each time you level up, you gain armory/access keys for the archives (think vault) where you can buy alternate costumes, music tracks, concept art, or most of the Battles menu types.
The Verdict: Injustice – Honestly, was it even a tossup?
Final Winner: Injustice: Gods Among Us
Injustice may have some odd bits to it, the challenge mode isn’t structured well, the roster of characters is hit or miss, and the story is beyond stupid if you think about it for 5 seconds, but it’s still a very well made fighting game. It has some interesting fighting systems (especially coming from NetherRealm), such as the removal of the block button, the Clash, and the background item interaction. Add to that the online modes, the unlockables, and the myriad of different battle conditions for you to fight with; Injustice will keep you coming back for a long time. It’s a better experience than MKvDC for sure and better than most other fighting games as well (Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a prime example), but between the two, honestly, I still would give it up to Mortal Kombat (2011). That is just personal preference mind you, but at least the story mode made more sense. However, if they ever get around to introducing Cyber Batman, then the scales may tip in this game’s favor.
For a game built on Unreal Engine 3, it’s not janky in the slightest. Characters animate well, the transitions between fights and cut-scenes is seamless, and the environments destroy quite nicely. There is some oddity with how characters look in the sce
Most of it is solid, but a few parts (The Clash) feel awkward. Blocking by holding away is a welcome change. The roster is a bit unbalanced, but most of the fighters are effective and there is a good amount of speed in the matches to keep things moving.
Like everyone else, the audio portion of the game holds up admirably. The music fits into the overall motif the game is going for, the sound effects are brutal, and the voice acting is all spot on, with sever actors reprising their riles from prior games
The multiplayer is likely to keep you entertained for quite a while, especially with the persistent leveling system. The story mode can be completed in a day, but the different battle modes are interesting and challenging takes for you to try and clear.
I did enjoy my time with this game, despite some quirks. Some characters are fun to play, notably Green Arrow and Black Adam, and the whole presentation/length of hidden material makes unlocking extras rewarding.