Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition isn’t a superhero video game, it’s the superhero video game. While those who’ve focussed on the choice of the word ‘Ultimate’ that this game claims to be (thanks to all of the DLC crammed into the newer edition’s package) may chastise for stating the obvious, Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition is exactly that superlative not because of the extra offerings but because at a base level, it just fundamentally works.
Injustice: Gods Amongst Us Ultimate (Graphics) Edition
Amongst the gritty, heart wrenching backstories at the heart of a superhero or villain’s tale, or the captivating story of how the god’s aligned to give them their powers (Wonder Woman) or the gadgets they bought to make their crime fighting a tad easier (we’re looking at you, Batman), it can be easy to forget that most of these super-lives are based on hard fought rivalries amongst each other. And it’s these fantasies which the PS4’s bolstered RAM and TeraFLOPS let you play it in full, eye-popping HD glory.
It’s true that Injustice is an exceedingly good looking game, which developer NeverRealm Studios are clearly very proud of, dotting menus and periods of inactivity with still frames that show off the sharp edges of blades or the grimaced teeth amidst a warrior cry. In action, the next-gen visuals are almost as good, with character models crafted with as much care as the very pages they were lifted from. I’d argue that even beneath the Technicolor spandex varieties and metal plated armour that reflects light somewhat dynamically, the roster of characters themselves seem to be the most true to live versions of DC’s money makers available. And while we’ll get to the fighting gameplay itself in a minute, be assured that every battle looks as solid as the abs and biceps that you’ll be punching and kicking at. The intricacies of Lex Luthor’s suit, for example, heaves realistically during combat and you can see every intersection of hulking steel, but more than that, the actual worlds that characters like Lex, Batman and co. spend tearing apart with their intergalactic warfare makes excellent use of the PS4’s graphic capabilities.
While everything in the foreground looks fine enough, the levels (which you can interact with) boast just as much life, such as the giant floating space rocks that circles one level, which you can see with as much clarity (albeit from a distance) out of windows which distort the image appropriately. Is the distortion necessary? Of course not, but the fact that its there is just another example of NeverRealm, dare I say, showing off. What has suffered, strangely, at the hands of the PS4, are the cutscenes, which aren’t interactive but make up as good a chunk of the game as you’d expect given Injustice: Gods Among Us’ source material’s emphasis on storytelling. Unfortunately, they do come off a bit ‘we didn’t have time to upscale them fully from PS3, so here they are on next-gen looking only marginally better’, so hardly an eyesore, but they stick out like a throbbing, red thumb amongst all of the superpowered pretty surrounding them.
Keeping It True to Comic Book Life
Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition isn’t all style but no substance either, with all of these cutscenes and impressive graphical fidelity being in aid of a story mode that’s universes better than almost anything I’ve seen in The New 52 (DC’s revamped line of comics). It centres around a plot in which Superman has gone nutso bananas thanks to the Joker (who else?) tricking him into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. Remind you a bit of God of War? That’s the vibe I got too, but it was interesting there and it’s interesting here as well, even moreso when you take into account that Superman has decided to round up al of our favourite good guys, use them as his personal army and take over the entire universe and them some. It’s certainly one form of grief management, but really, it gives NeverRealm a reason to pack a real story punch into Injustice: Gods Among Us, without tinkering with the canon too much.It also gives us an excuse to love even more DC characters, due to the dual versions of them running around.
And, as if a story that resembles that of a comic book itself wasn’t enough, the chapters are peppered with those incredible fight scenes as if they were delicious meals, each course a new way of seeing your favourite superstars knock the immortality out of each other and get your saliva glands going in anticipation for each new superhero or villain that you’ll be assuming the role of. This amounts to just about everyone getting their fair share of battles, outside of the one match exhibition mode, with Batman enthusiasts given an equal shout as those who love the perennial thorn in his side, Joker, or those who are fans of the criminally overlooked, Cyborg. It’s all in context too and while there are certainly one or two battles that seem shoehorned in, you’ll care very little, overlooking it because the action is just that amazing.
‘Thwack’, ‘Kaboom’ and ‘Blam!’ Personified
When you throw a punch with square and it thumps with a satisfying ‘squelch’ that would almost seem comedic in any other game, you know that you’re dealing substantial damage and when you go in for a grab with the ‘L1’ button and find yourself laughing wildly as your character’s dedicated animation of them zipping forward for a jab at the torso, only to superspeed and blindside them with an attack form behind (in Flash’s case) you see the hard work that this game has required. This is just scratching the surface, though, as each character has their own animations for ‘extra’ moves, meaning that while punches and kicks are run of the mill, everything else is incredibly specific. Take another example of the Green Lantern, who is a shapeshifter extraordinaire with his ring; his L1 attack brings up a brick wall, while the Yellow Lantern can use his ring to thrust you into the air, fling you across the other side of the map and maybe even whack you with a giant battering ram for good measure. Put together, along with ridiculous, over the top special attacks (which you can carry out by filling up a meter) that can even see you running over people with cars (again, that would be Batman) and context based attacks in which you can throw in-level bombs (or chairs, or pianos or anything else you can get your hands on), kick opponents into background-placed thrones and the uppercut them through walls (sometimes into outer space) into entirely new sections of levels, are all very good ways of chipping away at your enemy’s two life bars and it’s also a showcase of some impressively well executed features.
Given that the game does all of my favourite things – offers up great gameplay, a wonderful story and features diverse characters in a way that is commendable and true to any ‘team up, fight evil’ caper worth its supersalt – it would perhaps be a better use of my time just to publish a list of all of the things I liked with a footnote of the very few that I didn’t like. The problem with that, of course, is that I can’t pick holes in places where errors just aren’t there, by which I mean Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition is just a few pips shy of being the perfect game. What keeps it from the 10 out of 10 mark are those cutscenes because it dims the sheen on what is otherwise a magnificently looking game. There’s also the omissions of some of the best characters in DC history (Batwoman, for example) and the fact that the learning curve may put some off, but these are small things in the face of a wonderful game that might not be the best of the PS4 launch offerings but it’s definitely in the top 3, which definitely makes this game ‘Ultimate’ to me.