Joker has more tricks than we know. Lining up a charged assault, he pulls out a pie from his jacket, smacking his opponent in the face with gleeful laughter. In escalation only Joker can make sense of, the madcap villain exposes a lead pipe, smashing the blinded and pie-faced hero over the head. Next, Joker brandishes a pistol that fires point blank, followed by a pose with a rocket launcher, scorching both fighters in the ensuing explosion. It is reckless, vile, and completely within the mindset of Batman’s famous foe.
Injustice is grossly violent, Jokers loony playfulness aside. The sensation of impact with undeterred, raw power makes for a superlative adaptation of the Mortal Kombat engine. This is more than cheeky exploitation, adequately explained through otherwise clumsy narrative structure as to why the likes of Joker can inflict such punishing roundhouse kicks. DC’s comic universe breathes on the brooding nightlife of Gotham, stages fitted with grimy strip clubs or rotting sewage trucks. Piercing strikes and errant rocket launchers somehow fit.
Injustice carries the strength of 10 mortal men with every hit, sometimes a shocking display of vicious annihilation. We have come far from the days of comic code censorship, now in a place where Harley Quinn can be stabbed in the chest with a knife and we hardly wince. Seeing the saturated colors of a Marvel fighting title and the interest in blackened, dirty, and crumbling locales here differentiates brands. DC allows their characters to be mauled, showing bodily damage near to the bone as conflict escalates.
Sucked into an alternate universe meant to make sense of a Batman versus Batman brawl, the Justice League’s quest is one to take down a rogue multi-verse Superman, manipulated into killing his son and Lois Lane. It is with immediacy that Injustice begins to fight, whether the purpose is delivered to the audience or not. Clashes sprawl across Metropolis, fan service filled and increasing as the 50 fights ensue over the story.
Warner’s Mortal Kombat team juices their grim predecessor with sadistic special moves that globe trot into completion. By comparison, the likes of Doomsday makes Joker’s rocket launcher fiesta appear quaint. The Superman-killer smashes his opponents into the ground, through the center of the Earth and back up to the fighting arena. That type of fury is unleashed with a full special meter, priming an assault of such magnitude, it would obliterate much of the planet in the quest for victory.
Those flourishes are grandiose, interruptions to the main fighting engine that derive character. That is key to Injustice: representing the licensed heroes and villains. Tradition dictates that Mortal Kombat combatants are identical within their basic attacks; Injustice throws the idea out. Not only is a button reserved for personalized moves, the general three-button approach represents a core change in fighting ideals. While combos are familiar in execution methods, the end results carry flair appropriate to the fighter’s disposition.
You can feel the inherent differences. This is an engine built for rugged, stiff engagements. Aquaman can break from that mold, smart design allowing him to breathe and execute fluid motions or combos. His transitions deviate wildly from the likes of a leathery Batman who feels restrictive in his strikes, more direct in delivery. Each will display general quirks to change up methods, matching methodologies found within their own backstories. Some take it further, Wonder Woman and Nightwing capable of switching stances to deliver two distinctive types of weapons jousting.
Injustice is filled with ridiculous antics, the type that keep discovery highlighted. Multiplayer battles, online or off, catapult the level of competitiveness as heroes are blasted through walls into separate arenas. Stage shifts are not only technical marvels, but absurdly overdone as to involve villains excised from the core roster, earth movers, missile launchers, or helicopters. These would be sanguine fatalities in Mortal Kombat. Here, they become part of the routine strife.
While Warner’s latest will find a die-hard, technically-inclined fighting community, elements are staged for accessibility. Clashes become betting games where the super meter can be wagered to recover health or deal damage out of desperation. Fighters charge one another, the resulting blinding flash of light stopping the fight cold while assessment occurs. It is creation of scale without doing much of anything, and a basic break from the pacing rampancy that genre newcomers may find unwieldy.
Gotham’s (and other fantasy realms) staging grounds are enabled within the midst of combat. Objects can be wielded to make the fights about more than spacing, but placement. Being battered with a thrown dumpster or wall hanging is tactical failure, dealt damage without the briskness of timed juggle combos. Backgrounds are more than superficial locations; they are as alive and in play as the DC icons themselves.
All of these Meta Humans brawl through story and versus modes, the addition of S.T.A.R.S. a value proposition of escalating challenges with the entirety of the roster. The unlockable selection of 240 individualized scenarios break from the standard fighting to tweak it, maybe slicing the health meter, strength, or other element from the player. A handful of dopey mini-games (also within the storyline) are too goofy and clumsy for words. It works anyway to back up an arcade mode with additional tiered gameplay quirks, extending the play time in this world of battling comic idols.
Injustice is smart, much like the medium from which it spawned. This is a careful and calculated entry, engineered to respect source material while also ripping flesh from its Teen-rated, bony facade. Nothing feels false, catering to blended fans of comics, fighters, and video games in general. Consider Injustice a culture smash where a pie in the face is only one step away from splitting the planet in two.