Who would win a fight: Batman or Superman? It's an age-old question for comic book fans, and the reason a game like Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition exists. We want to see our favorite heroes and villains beat the snot out of each other.
Developer NetherRealm Studios finds a suitably comic book way for this to happen, using a dimension-hopping story to smash alternative versions of familiar characters against one another. It's a conceit typical of the DC Comics multiverse, but it opens the door for Injustice's greatest strength—its story mode.
Much like its stablemate Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition, Injustice's main single-player mode is an eight-hour campaign told from multiple perspectives. Each chapter puts you in control of a different character—including the villains—and mixes up traditional 1 vs 1 fights with QTE minigames. The story mode autosaves at each fight so if you lose you can quickly start again, but transitions between smooth 60fps fights and the pre-rendered 30fps movie cinematics can be a little jarring. That said, the story's quality compares pretty well to the recent Justice League animated series—it's not Shakespeare, but I wanted to find out what was going to happen next.
NetherRealm has streamlined its typical MK fighting engine into a four-button configuration. Each of the game's 30 characters have light, medium, and heavy attacks as well as a quick button for a “character trait” power. Batman summons robot bat-droids, while Green Lantern glows, well, green, and hits harder for a short time. You can throw enemies with a simple tap of LB, or, if your Super Power gauge is full, pull both trigger buttons for an ultra combo that launches into a character-specific cutscene of carnage. It's nice that these spectacles are easy to pull off, especially compared to more complicated fighting games, and I'll never tire of launching a foe into near-earth orbit as Superman, then slamming them back down for massive damage. But their ease of use also means you'll see these cutscenes a lot .
All those toys
Each stage also includes interactive elements: massive rockets to throw, thrones you can bounce an enemy off of. Aquaman's Atlantis level, for example, lets you shatter its sides to drown your foe in a massive tidal wave. Many levels have secondary areas as well. With a well-timed kick, I sent Hawkgirl tumbling forcefully through the outer walls of Wayne Manor, right through to the mansion's dining room. The interactivity enhances the over-the-top comic violence on display, as does the sound of each brutal hit connecting. I feel like a superhero while playing, leaving wanton destruction in my wake.
Outside of Battle mode, which offers a wide variety of ladder-style challenges, Injustice's big time sink is S.T.A.R. Labs, where you try to complete more than 240 character-specific challenges that serve to teach you the game's more complex techniques. Points earned here and in other modes let you unlock concept art, music, and more in the Hall of Justice Archives. Notably, new character skins are already unlocked in Ultimate Edition, as are the console version's six DLC characters.
Injustice's longevity is tied to its multiplayer, which unfortunately is an issue. Local battles work without a hitch, but are limited to one-on-one fights. Online is a different story: finding someone to play against often doesn't work (whether due to matchmaking issues or lack of a player base is unclear), and when it does, the incredible levels of input lag make the fight frustrating. King Of The Hill and Survival modes sound great, but unless the lag issues are resolved soon, they're wasted.
If NetherRealm can get its online issues sorted, Injustice could be a top-notch fighting game.There's a tremendous amount of content here, including a ton of easter eggs for fans in both Story mode and unlockable content. It'd be a shame if no one plays it.