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One of the most oft-debated discussions in any comic shop or among friends when discussing the vast DC Comics universe is “Who would win in a fight?” It's a bone that DC throws its fans time and time again, with numerous Batman Vs. Superman match-ups for fans to enjoy; however, the results of these fights may not be what you expected as it's just that one writer's interpretation. Perhaps you truly believe that in a no-holds barred slugfest Superman really could defeat Batman, and what of the fights you may want to see that will most likely never get written? Bane Vs. Flash? Joker Vs. Aquaman? Lex Luthor Vs. Doomsday? If you've ever been the type to assemble DC Comics dream matches in your spare time, Injustice: Gods Among Us is the answer you've been waiting for.


While Marvel fans have been placated for years thanks to Capcom's numerous fighting game offerings, DC fans have not been so lucky. There was the horrible Justice League Task Force in the 90s and then the equally bad Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe a few years back; while NetherRealm, then Midway, seemed to have a handle on the DC Universe with that game it just didn't gel all that well with the Mortal Kombat license. Now a part of Warner Bros., NetherRealm is finally getting the chance to answer the question fans have: What could this studio do with a fighting game only encapsulating the DC universe? The answer begins with the character roster: 24 characters, hand-selected across the entire DC universe. Sure, you've got your heavy hitters such as Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor, Joker and Green Lantern but on the flipside you've got Killer Frost, Cyborg, Ares, Hawkgirl and Black Adam, characters that have never appeared in a game in any capacity. You've got stages ranging from Metropolis to Atlantis with some of these characters most iconic voices, such as Kevin Conroy as Batman, making a return. At its core, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a love letter to DC fans and will more than likely convert a few non-comic readers.

This love letter extends to the story, following the same approach that NetherRealm did with 2011's Mortal Kombat. Multiple chapters, each focusing on only one playable character, expand on the premise of the game: what happens when Superman stops serving us and makes us serve him? The result is all out war in the DC universe, as the heroes and villains of the world are either with him or against him, and some of the sides these characters take will shock you. The story, which was created with help by comic writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, will also answer some of the lingering questions that fans have had since the game was announced, such as “How would Green Arrow ever stand a chance against Superman?” The story is in-depth, rivals that of any comic and has its shares of twists and turns; for example, not every character is going to escape this story alive. The claim has already been made that Injustice is the start of a new franchise so where they go from here will be exciting to see. Keep in mind as well that Injustice is set in an alternative universe, so prior knowledge of these characters is not required. While there are some references only a true comics fan will get, fans who aren't knowledgeable in the DC universe will still enjoy the story from start to finish.

For a fighting game, the story and character selection may be great but the real question among gamers is “how does it play?” If you've played the 2011 release of Mortal Kombat and enjoyed it (which many did) then it's safe to say you will love Injustice. Powered by the same engine as Mortal Kombat, the Unreal Engine 3, Injustice is like breaking in a new pair of shoes: it's a tight but familiar fit at first and the more you wear them the better it feels. The fighting engine will feel familiar but there has been a few changes made to the game to separate it from Mortal Kombat. For starters, Injustice does away with the block button, going with the standard “hold back to block” method seen in many other fighting games. Levels are strewn with interactive objects that players can use, giving the game that comic book feel. For example, Superman can lift a car and throw it at his opponents while Batman can explode it with a well placed Batarang. To further tap into the comic history of each character is a special ability that you can activate, called a character trait, as well as a super move. For example, Flash's character trait can slow down time while his super move consists of using the Speed Force to land one around-the-world super-charged punch. Each character fights exactly how you expect them to, cementing the fact that NetherRealm nailed each of these characters and really know their DC stuff.

NetherRealm is known for its bevy of unlockables and additional modes and Injustice doesn't disappoint. Each character features multiple costumes, both from within the in-game universe and out of it (ranging from New 52 looks to looks based on other properties, such as Arkham City) and a host of single player game modes. Outside of Story mode is the classic Battle Mode consisting of a simple arcade-style ladder fight and the S.T.A.R. Labs mode, consisting of 240 unique challenges ranging from one-on-one fights to mini-games based on other genres, such as shmups. If you're a single player only gamer you will absolutely get your money's worth with this game. Completed the single player mode and ready to test your might against the rest of the world? Injustice features full online multiplayer modes, ranging from your standard one-on-one battle to King Of The Hill mode, a mode that looks to recreate the classic arcade feeling as up to eight spectators can watch a match in progress, even making bets on the outcome of the match. A new addition is a two-player online Practice mode, enabling you and a friend to practice scenarios and match-ups in a safe environment. The online play is fast and fluid, a huge step up from NetherRealm's previous efforts.

The biggest question on every fighting game fan's mind is going to be “but is it balanced?” Right now, it's too early to say unfortunately. The interactive environments can definitely be skewed towards a stronger character but luckily those environments can be turned off. Right now, online play is dominated by ranged attacks but this is more than likely due to players not knowing how to properly combat them. The potential is there for a balanced game and NetherRealm is known for releasing frequent balance updates; fighting game aficionados can purchase this game knowing that should a balance issue arise, NetherRealm will quickly take care of it. The graphics are great; it may not break any records but the emphasis seems to be placed on image quality and frame rate. In addition, the music is just simply there; it's neither memorable nor horrible, at times resembling music heard in some of the DC movies or  television cartoon series. Together the blend into a nice package that simply feels right when enjoying the game.


Much like Mortal Kombat, NetherRealm has announced that downloadable content will be hitting the game in the form of four additional characters. Don't see your favorite character in the rosters? Keep an eye out on the DLC. While many players bemoan the lack of DLC, it will serve to keep Injustice fresh and with the entire DC roster to choose from, the DLC character choices should be exciting.


Injustice: Gods Among Us may well be the last fighting game we get before the next generation starts and it's safe to say the genre will still receive a lot of attention. Injustice succeeds on every level: characters, story, gameplay, online modes and content. In an age where many games give us only the bare minimum for content, Injustice gives us everything but the proverbial kitchen sink (and that's probably locked away in the game somewhere too!) If you're a DC fan, a fighting game fan or just looking for an awesome game, Injustice needs to be the next title you pick up at the store.

 

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