Injustice: Gods Among Us PS4 review – When worlds, fists, and Mortal Kombat leftovers collide
Rather fittingly for a fighter centred on the masked heroes and villains of the DC universe, this is a game typified by impostors and mistaken identity. The masquerade theme kicks off in Injustice: Gods Among Us‘ single-player Story mode, a gloriously silly campaign that sees a bunch of the ‘real’ DC champions and evil-doers transported to a parallel universe in which an expanding empire of twisted heroes are taking control of the world, lead by a surly-looking Superman.
But another doppelganger dilemma kicks in as soon as you start to play. For all of the DC trappings, Injustice feels uncomfortably similar to NetherRealm’s last fighter, 2011’s Mortal Kombat. That was the sensation on PS3, and it’s just as present in this next-gen incarnation, which is bolstered by all the DLC from the previous platform and a higher resolution.
It’s there from the moment you land your first hit. The nippy, lightweight character movement, stiff animations and whip-crack sound-effects feel lifted wholesale from the Sub Zero & co’s gore-‘em-up. More perturbing, the standard character designs scream of comic book heroes tragically trapped in the bodies of demonic MK warriors (or vice versa; the lines really are that blurred). Rather than the bold, bright brashness you’d expect given the DC license, it’s all unnecessary armour and angular, metallic spikes.
The MK series’ trademark ‘dial-a-combo’ system still makes up the core combat model, so your DualShock 4’s less taxed than it would be by having you input Tekken-like 20-press sequences. How you feel about that will depend entirely upon your taste in scrappers in the first place. The Street Fighter-loving, frame-counting, cancel-exploiting combat explorers of the world are likely to find Injustice’s list of preset, pause-menu combos somewhat limiting in creativity.
However, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a fair amount of welcome improvements that (almost) make Injustice feel like its own game on next-gen. The key tweak to the MK formula is the inclusion of universal launcher moves, which enable you to spring your hapless opponent sky-high for mid-air punishment either close-up or after a brutal bounce off the far wall. This leads into Injustice’s most enjoyable element – its ostentatious juggle game.
Alas, there’s one area in which Injustice feels
like an impostor: being an actual PS4 game. Smoother framerates aside, nothing here
makes it stand out as next-gen
Alas, there’s one final area in which Injustice feels like an impostor: being an actual PS4 game. Smoother framerates aside, nothing here makes it stand out as next-gen. The only real upgrade that comes with this Ultimate Edition is the inclusion of all the DLC characters and costumes. That said, the amount of content provided is bountiful. Six fighters are added to the standard roster, and you also get the various bonuses that came with them in their original downloadable forms.
Most welcome is the raft of new challenge missions for the STAR Labs section, Injustice’s inventive answer to Mortal Kombat’s Challenge Tower. This single-player mode presents a gauntlet of creative, character-specific tasks, such as meeting certain time limits without taking a hit or using sunlight to charge Superman’s powers. It’s a constantly surprising and demanding spin on solo fighting, and so more of it is certainly a good thing. Least welcome is the tacked-on swipe control for the DualShock 4’s touchpad. Only really used in mini-games, it’s a basic token gesture that neither adds nor detracts much at all. But hey, it’s there all the same.
Like Superman himself in shrunken spandex, this straddles the generation gap rather awkwardly, but there’s an accessible fight worth investigating if you’re into the license (and, inevitably, MK). If you’re one of the Injustice fans obsessed enough to want to move the fight to PS4, then the cheap, £10 upgrade cost makes this the smart way to go. Anyone else has some serious thinking to do.