Published May 08, 2013A Venn diagram of comic book fans and videogamers would show a pretty large community crossover. One of the first efforts to bring these folks together was Capcom's Street Fighter-based 1994 coin-op classic, X-Men: Children of the Atom. After all, what license makes more sense in a fighter scenario than superheroes, a genre rooted in super-powered punch-ups?
Fast-forward almost two decades and we now have the other side of the comic-publishing coin with Injustice: Gods Among Us, a 2.5D fighting game that takes the lessons of 2008's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe crossover clash and goes all-in with Superman and his amazing friends. Unlike most fighters, the single-player game functions as far more than a drawn-out tutorial for the meatier multiplayer. The plot follows the ever-popular quantum physics-based concept that every major event creates separate universes, parallel realities where the event did or did not happen.
But before you call the Fringe folks about copyright, er, infringement, if anyone is entitled to do a multiverse story, it's DC, which went so far into this multiverse idea back in the acid-soaked '60s and '70s that it had to stage the legendary limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths in the mid-'80s to try and bring their continuity back under control. (Not forever, though, as DC's relatively recent Infinite Crisis and 52 limited series have re-established the multiverse.)
The story here is that the Joker sets off a nuke in Metropolis, killing Lois Lane, Superman and Lois's child, and his best friend, Jimmy Olson. The tragedy drives Superman over the edge and he becomes a super-dictator, bringing the other heroes (and collaborating villains) under his leadership to end crime by creating a fascist police state. Batman, of course, maintains his independence and manages to pull in a bunch of DC heroes from our universe, where the nuke failed to go off.
This cleverly sets up a storyline that makes the multiple playable characters, fantastical multi-levelled environments and constant one-on-one fights (including numerous clashes between good and evil versions of the same heroes) actually sensible, and it's interesting enough that you want to watch the cut-scenes rather than skip 'em to get to the fighting.
That's great, too, though. NetherRealm (the studio that launched with the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot) builds upon its fighting engine here. The special moves that often seem silly in regular fighting games are, in this context, estimable fan-service for comic geeks, and each character's ultimate move is as over-the-top as you could ever possibly hope, highlighted by Flash running around the planet to deliver a knock-out blow and Aquaman (yes, Aquaman) summoning a tidal wave and shark to fight his battle. (Extra fan-service is provided by iconic settings like the Hall of Justice, an orbiting Watchtower, the Fortress of Solitude and Arkham Asylum.)
However, the story mode will only last hours, while the single and multiplayer fights can go on for basically ever. The roster of superheroes and supervillains is pretty deep, with 24 shipped and more arriving via DLC, ranging from DC's holy trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to the cooler cats like Green Arrow, Harley Quinn and Shazam. Non-story combat modes range from single fight one-offs to the 240 challenges in S.T.A.R. Labs, as well as local and online multiplayer.
Now, I'm not actually a fan of fighting games — a few matches here and there, sure — but usually I'm satisfied with test-driving a demo. Here, I locked in for hours on end. No doubt that's because I am a comic book fan, but for those with an interest in either, I recommend Injustice for all. (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive)