The resurgence in the popularity of beat-‘em-up videogames on the current-generation formats, courtesy of the hugely popular Street Fighter IV, has seen many franchises given a new lease of life. Mortal Kombat was undeniably stuck in a rut, but thanks to the reboot offered by Netherrealm Studios back in 2011 the franchise had once again found its former glory. It’s never going to be a tournament fighter, but Mortal Kombat is undeniably a hugely enjoyable videogame.
Enter Injustice: Gods Among Us, for all intents and purposes the spiritual successor to Mortal Kombat. The combat system has been brought to the DC Universe characters wholesale – just as it was with Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe – with many of the characters being comparable to those included in the parent title. Deathstroke in particular players like Stryker, while Cyborg is closely related to Jax. Flash has many similarities to Kabal and Hawkgirl isn’t a million miles away from Sindel. This isn’t simply in terms of physical appearance or a couple of moves; this is at the fundamental core of the way in which you play the character. Injustice: Gods Among Us uses Mortal Kombat’s fighting system so comprehensively that the ties between the two are unmistakable.
Where Injustice: Gods Among Us stakes a claim of it’s own is in the use of the environments (though clearly never quite as bold as the progressive interaction seen in Dead or Alive 5). At specific points of each stage there will be interactive objects that players can use to their advantage with a press of the RB button. Some will have aggressive uses, others will allow you a movement advantage, and some will depend on exactly what type of character you are. The fact that every stage offers at least two or three items means that players will learn what each character will do at each point and slowly begin incorporating them into their strategy; it’s a clever addition that won’t force a win but can give you a moment’s respite and break an opponent’s advantage when needed.
Injustice: Gods Among Us does of course feature an unlock system – as is the most common report of a player’s progression these days – encompassing all of the player’s actions. Wins and losses, on- or offline, transitions, supermoves and perfect rounds are all recorded and added to your tally, with new items becoming available when reaching specific levels. It’s a simple system that arguably works best with the Battle mode – Injustice: Gods Among Us’ welcoming take on the traditional arcade ladder – wherein new rulesets can be seen but not accessed until unlocked. The S.T.A.R. Labs mode is another welcome addition, featuring two hundred and forty unique challenges akin to many console beat-‘em-up’s tower modes.
As a multiplayer title Injustice: Gods Among Us shines. Despite what the money men would have you believe, it remains a rarity that a videogame will perform better online than it does locally, and yet Injustice: Gods Among Us features such a plentiful variety of gameplay modes through Xbox LIVE that it’s hard to suggest otherwise. Lag seems to finally been an issue of the past, for the most part at least, as Injustice: Gods Among Us is just as capable a beat-‘em-up experience online as it is against an increasingly difficult ladder of artificial players.
Injustice: Gods Among Us has all of the goods in the right place, from it’s reasonably well presented story mode to having the Joker as a very fun character to play as, quick to combo and a nice range on those gangly limbs, but there appears to be something missing. It’s almost as if the development team broke down the components of Mortal Kombat and put them back together without realising one vital ingredient: passion. Injustice: Gods Among Us is undeniably a good videogame product, but it doesn’t have the soul that made Mortal Kombat such an influential design.