Injustice: Gods Among Us is basically an interactive Nineties comic-book event.
By that, we mean that the underpinning story of the main campaign is a silly excuse to get a lot of familiar characters fighting, even when those reasons seem beyond narrative logic. The Flash and Green Lantern partially disagree on something trivial? They must fight! From the creators of the Mortal Kombat series, this mash-up of accessible beat-‘em-up gameplay and a big old fan service sugar rush settles into guilty pleasure territory early on, never really threatening to leave.
The storyline sees superheroes from the main DC Universe thrust into a dangerous alternate one, where Superman has been tricked into killing a pregnant Lois Lane by the Joker, leading him to establish an all-crushing dictatorship where Batman leads a rebellion against them (subtlety has no place here).
Alternate Universe Batman wants the JLA to help out – the setup fires off in batshit directions from there, told through a colourful array of ludicrous cutscenes that revel in Dragonball Z-style melodrama and posturing, with an entirely forgettable tale that’s comparable to books you’d find in a 99p box at a comic shop.
Injustice is a beat-‘em-up very much in the vein of Mortal Kombat, only with a steadier learning curve for those who might not typically be interested in such games. The idea is you pick your favourite character, get a friend to choose theirs and batter each other, before arguing over which of the two combatants had the cheapest attacks.
Visually, there’s something clunky about the cutscenes and character models that makes the whole thing feel slightly unconvincing (the voice-acting isn’t great, either, save for Kevin Conroy’s always-good Batman), but it’s easy to get to grips with most of the effective moves and stand a chance in a fight.
The translation of the DC licence is also admirably in-depth, despite its daft incongruities. In keeping with DC’s recent pro-Aquaman badass streak, we found the Atlantean king to be overpowered and bizarrely effective against most foes, while Superman felt slow and a little useless by comparison (which makes no sense).
There’s a definite lack of balance, here – not such an issue considering that the novelty factor of DC superheroes scrapping is the main source of Injustice’s appeal, but it’s a little bizarre when some of DC’s biggest titans (Wonder Woman is difficult, too) pale next to characters who the typical non-comic reader might have a good chuckle at.
Fan pandering is the saving grace here, then.
The presence of the likes of Sinestro, Black Adam, Nightwing and Green Arrow all speak of NetherRealm’s desire to craft a fighting game full of characters that various DC fans might enjoy. There’s an exaggerated mentality to their designs that makes them look significantly uglier than the DC icons depicted in the Arkham series, yet it’s a satisfyingly sprawling range with a fair old number of moves to master, as well as outstandingly fun special powers that can turn the tide of any fight (Batman rams a Batmobile into enemies, Aquaman attacks them with fish, and so on).
Even if the story mode boasts a less than worthy narrative, it at least offers a sense of value that few beat-‘em-ups really bother with, as well as providing an extended tutorial for people intrigued about going further into the competitive aspects of fighting games. Injustice, then, serves its purpose for both fans of this genre and DC devotees, though neither group is likely to be overwhelmed by it.