I’ll share my first thoughts on Injustice: Gods Among Us (on the Wii U, for a change). This is not intended to be a comprehensive review; but rather a first look based on about five hours of single player, story mode play.
First off, the Wii U version is fab. No issues. The game did not require an update out of the box. Load times are on par with games of this nature, and so far I’ve seen no glaring glitches in execution – and NO “screaming lockups” as I like to call it. You can play the game ENTIRELY off-screen or use the GamePad as a move cheat sheet. I was concerned the GamePad might not make a good fighting controller, but 5 minutes in, I knew I was golden. It feels and executes great – the D-Pad working perfect for a high-octane fighter like MK. Everything was fast, responsive and comfortable.
If I had ANY complaints (and I bet the other consoles do it too) it would be about the occasional little hiccups when transitioning from video cut-scenes to engine-rendered cut scenes; and the closed captioning isn’t always spot on. Certainly nothing that affects the game.
As a responsible journalist, I will mention one thing. There is a tiny lag on the audio between the TV and the GamePad which appears to be limited to the cinematics. I haven’t sat and compared video streams – but regardless, the lag is likely about 250ms. I haven’t tried two players (one on TV and one on GamePad) to see if this affects the play – but if it IS limited to cinematics? This shouldn’t affect things. If both players use the TV to play on? Again, no issue.
Note: My readers have informed me that the game is missing “friend” match up online play with the Wii U version; meaning you can only play online with random match ups. I will have to test and confirm.
At the time of writing, I’m on chapter 11 of the Single Player story; that’s all I have to evaluate for now – but I feel I’ve played enough (almost 5 hours including the tutorial, etc) to give a good overview of the core mechanics and story.
First, cinematics are fully skippable. Thanks WB. While in this case, I don’t want to skip the story, many times I do – and it is nice that there is an option.
Note: there may be VERY MINOR spoilers ahead.
The game throws you in the middle of chaos; you’re not really sure what’s going on. It’s dark, grim – and amazingly enough; people die. Not just villains but heroes too. You’ve probably already heard that there is an alternative universe thing going on so I’m not worried about breaking the seal on that.
Without giving away the plot line; Superman is bad in the alternative universe (the hows and whys are decent story material; it isn’t just Bizarro type anti-heroes) and he has part of the hero’s league working with him while others are insurrectionists.
The worlds cross over and some of “our” DC Universe ends up over there (they call our citizens “alternates”) – including heroes and villains. Yes, there is a story why the cross-over happened, but it is kinda weak.
Anyway, “our” people join forces with the insurrectionists in that universe to try and stop Superman (who has pretty much lost his mind).
Much like the excellent MK released a year or two ago, the story is mainly a means of getting you from one fight to another. The story line is definitely several notches above MK’s; and the cinematics could easily have been an existing movie they chopped up and made into a video game. It’s all CG of course, but you can tell they put a lot of effort into it. Like hands in film Westworld, teeth and mouths in CG characters … well, they just can’t quite get those right. But I digress…
As the story progresses and each chapter unfolds, you’ll get more and more back story on what happened – and you’ll assume a new hero or villain for the duration of that chapter. It feels a bit … formulaic … at times, but for the most part, it does the trick. Again, if you’re familiar with MK’s latest entry, you’ll feel at home here.
You must defeat the opponent to move the story along. You’ll retry until you do; and the game (much like its predecessors) will ratchet back the difficulty a tad … to keep the game interesting.
I play all games on “medium” or “normal” difficulty level. This game has settings ranging from Very Easy to Hard. Being seasoned in MK, I should have notched the game up one degree of difficulty as I rarely lose – and the few times I have, I decimated the opponent the second bout. Most of my failures are the first bout I fight with a new chapter’s character as I learn their moves and strengths.
Word to the wise; know thy self and ratchet the difficulty up appropriately if you want a good challenge.
The Game Play
This is the MK engine; no doubt about it. Fighting is fast and fluid – often frantic. If you enjoyed the fighting engine from the latest MK game? You will be right at home here. I put a lot of time into that game, and I felt like I was putting on a well-broken in pair of shoes.
As with MK, there are core moves for all characters. Each character also has their Super Moves and Advanced Moves. Some of the controls overlap, of course – but most of the actual execution is unique to the character.
Some weaker “special” moves have fairly quick recharges (like Batman’s bat summoning) which you’ll get to pull off several times a bout. The “Super Utra Leet” bar slowly builds; which allows you to pull off this game’s “X-Ray Move”. If executed properly (and not blocked or deflected) it unleashes fantastic 8, 9 hit (30%+ health destruction) combos tailor made for the character. You’ll get one or two of these per bout. Currently my favorite “Super Ultra Leet” moves are Aquaman’s, Batman’s and Lex Luthor’s. Great stuff and oddly enough, don’t seem to get old. Look, anything with a shark in it? I’m in.
As before, each character has “two lives” so to speak; once your health bar drains down once – you are knocked down and you get to pour through your bar a second time. Once that’s gone, you’re defeated.
Each bout (win or lose) you gain at least XP and will probably level up (not sure what that means in the grand scheme of things yet).
There is a wager system that lets you “bet” some of your “Super Ultra Leet” bar in a cinematic clash that may restore some of your health. I’m still getting grips on how this works. I usually don’t win, so something must be going on.
Let’s move on to the Arena; where the game really comes alive.
We’re used to having “multi-level” arenas and even arenas that have weapons laying around to pick up and use. In some cases, we’ve had passive environmentals we could use to our advantage.
Injustice has truly upped the ante in this … er, arena.
As before, you can throw/punch a character to a new location within the arena. This causes massive damage to the person getting punched through. As before, there are some things on the ground (grenades for example) you can pick up and use. The passive environmentals have been traded out for direct action ones – and what’s great is; not all characters can use them in the same way.
There are usually three or four of these direct action environmentals in each arena. There is a “hot spot” usually in the middle that allows you to punch or kick your opponent “into” the environment where they take damage then pop back out – allowing you to “juggle” them with more moves. Very satisfying. Then on the extreme edges of the arena (usually) there are items; cars, neon signs or other such items laying around. If you have a “power” character, like Solomon Grundy or Superman – you can GRAB these and FLING them at your opponent. However, if you’re Batman or Harley/Harleen Quinn, you can only use these items as SPRINGBOARDS or in some other minimalistic way. With the neon sign, for example if you’re a power character, you rip the whole sign down and use it. If you’re more a gadget character, you can only grab the smaller arrow neon sign below the larger one.
There are some arenas that have buttons you can push to call out missiles or force an environmental action to happen. All characters can use these.
This system keeps the arenas fresh – based on the character you’re using. Every arena has at least a few goodies to play with.
The arenas are what really step this game up above the predecessors. It feels new, fresh and exciting.
If you’re looking for a totally different game than the last MK or MK vs DC Universe – you’re not going to find it here. Just like this year’s Call of Duty won’t be a completely different game – Injustice is an EVOLUTION of the “MK style fighting genre”. The strengths are all here, the old weaknesses removed – and we have some fresh new stuff to appreciate.
It remains to be seen if the multiplayer stands up to the fun I’m having with the single player story mode, but so far – the game has been well worth my time and money.
For Wii U owners? It’s almost a must buy – if nothing else because we’ve had a really long dry spell and this is a true current-gen game that makes NO sacrifices coming to a Nintendo platform. Plus, you’ll get off-screen play and you’ll be help fueling the development of the Wii U as well.
Simply put, if you love MK-style fighters, you enjoyed the last MK release and superheroes are your thing? This is a no brainer. The story delivers, there is fresh arena meat to consume and the combat engine is a very obvious fine-tuned, well-oiled machine at this point and it shows.
If you’re coming from the Street Fighter crowd (or are simply on the fence), then MK games are always hit and miss with you anyway. Hold up for a demo and you can decide then.
Now that I’ve wasted a bunch of time on this review, I can go back to stopping Superman 🙂