How do you make a compelling fighting game story with beloved characters that have already existed for decades in countless comics, films, television and games? Add an alternate Earth, a power-mad alien and tons of Easter eggs and you’re off to a good start…
In April 2013 Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm Studios released Injustice: Gods Among Us a new fighting game centered around many of the well known DC Comics characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. The game was well received critically and by fans for its attention to detail, authenticity to the DC universe and for presenting a slightly different kind of superhero story. The game begins with a bang, quite literally as Joker explodes a nuclear bomb in Metropolis killing millions while also tricking Superman into murdering long time partner Lois Lane. This sends Clark over the edge murdering the psychotic villain and establishing a military peacekeeping force to safeguard the planet with himself firmly as the leader much to the disappointment of Batman.
This is the concept behind much of the drama in Injustice: Gods Among Us – with Earth’s most powerful being in control it will take something special to put things right which is why the Insurgency created by Batman to undermine Superman’s authority teleports several of their counterparts from an alternate Earth to aid in their mission.
The dark and violent opening to the game sets a real precedent and immediately grabs the player’s attention letting them know this is not the DC comics universe they may be familiar with. It sets a dark and gritty tone to the rest of the plot which continues to throw up darker moments throughout. Despite the sombre tone NetherRealm stayed true to the vibrant and colourful nature of some of the source material and the game overall is much more rooted in comics rather than films or other media.
What makes Injustice: Gods Among Us so compelling is the twist on well-known characters. The largest twist being Superman himself. He’s a formidable foe and the rest of the cast are fearful of him and his considerable powers, even Batman who typically keeps his emotions in check seems a little shaken by this drastic shift in his friend. After the devastation in Metropolis the plot jumps five years ahead – which is when characters from an alternate Earth appear – when Superman has stamped out any significant opposition and has control over various aspects of different civilisations such as the Amazons. This emphasises the underground nature of the Insurgency and adds desperation to the proceedings as Superman looks to finish off the last of his enemies.
Superman maintains control via a number of characters who have stayed loyal to him including Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Nightwing and more. This leads to some interesting scenarios as characters from the other Earth meet their counterparts who have turned their back on what makes them a hero in the first place. Memorable encounters include Aquaman facing off against his twin who is ready to submit to Superman and turn over the might of Atlantis or when Green Lantern meets this Earth’s Hal Jordan who has become a Yellow Lantern using fear as his power. By switching characters consistently every few battles Injustice: Gods Among Us helps you get used to using different strategies and moves while making this DC story frenetic and high energy which is important for a fighting game.
Even more interesting than characters meeting their doppelgangers is how some characters have unexpected roles to play in the story. Lex Luthor is pretending to work for Superman while secretly feeding information to Batman and the Insurgency, he also helps to develop a nanotech pill which can boost resilience and strength which accounts for why Superman can’t simply crush his enemies with his god-like abilities immediately. Earth Prime’s Joker is disappointed to find that this universe’s Harley Quinn while still devoted to the Joker is also working for Batman. The contrast between what you expect from some of these two dimensional characters and the reality is a nice surprise as the plot unfolds. In addition, some of the heroes on Superman’s side haven’t turned evil but simply believe Superman’s aim for world peace is noble even at the expense of a few casualties.
For DC fans there’s plenty to sink your teeth into from alternate costumes and facts about characters to authentic representation of some well established figures. The game has a pretty good voice cast including Kevin Conroy, Troy Baker, Susan Eisenberg, Jennifer Hale and Neal McDonough and the entire cast captures the serious, humorous and often zany sides of these larger than life characters. As you’d expect from the creators of Mortal Kombat there are some very over-the-top super moves in this from smashing an imagined pair of buses into your enemies as Green Lantern, punching someone into space as Superman or running around the Earth to supercharge your punch as the Flash. It’s all done with a passion and love for the source material that is admirable right down to Green Arrow’s trick arrows. One of the highlights is the transition scenes which are activated if you hit an enemy off the edge of the screen which will throw each of you to a new area but with some extra DC Easter eggs and characters who pop up to cause damage along the way.
The appearance and mannerisms of the characters are well realised, Batman is calculated, Green Arrow makes quips and Wonder Woman is stoic. There’s a torturous edge however to some characters which adds a layer of history to this new universe. Green Arrow was killed by Superman early on in the Insurgency which we never see while Dick Grayson was also killed and Damian, Bruce Wayne’s son who has taken over the Nightwing mantle and sided with Superman, is implicated. Lex Luthor also meets a brutal end once Superman discovers his betrayal. The fact that some of these darkest elements are left to the imagination adds a real weight to the story in what could have been a straight forward plot.
Overall, Injustice: Gods Among Us stands out as one of the best superhero stories and one of the best stories in any fighting game. The game even spawned its own run of comics focusing on the events before Superman’s regime was toppled in the game. By including great attention to detail around its characters and offering a twist on what you’d expect from a plot about DC superheroes Injustice: Gods Among Us is a story that earns the title of ‘super’.
What did you think of Injustice: Gods Among Us? What did you think of this alternate take on DC’s iconic characters?
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