‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ an heroic triumph

Who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman?

While this argument will live forever on the playgrounds, message boards and comic book stores of the world, players finally have a chance to back up their claims in a one-on-one DC Comics fighting game from the makers of “Mortal Kombat.”

Have you spent the last five years trying to convince your friends that Aquaman does not, in fact, suck harder than a whirlpool? Challenge them to a game of “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and show them that the King of the Seas is also the king of fisticuffs.

While “Injustice” could have been a dull, sloppy fighter and still probably have sold a million copies, (it’s magnificently mediocre predecessor, “Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe,” did just that), even hardcore fighting gamers who don’t know a Deathstroke from a Doomsday will find a deep fighting system that requires both fighters to adapt to the game’s dynamic arenas or die trying.

Unlike most fighting games, “Injustice” features a bona fide story mode, and it is sure to entertain fans of the comics. After the Joker wipes out Metropolis with a nuclear bomb, Superman kills the clown and decides to take the fate of the world into his own hands. He establishes a super-powered regime that brings order to the world and can only be challenged by his former ally, Batman.

Desperate, Batman opens a rift in space/time that brings Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Aquaman from another dimension into his world. A few amusing twists later (Lex Luthor is a good guy now! Green Lantern has become a Yellow Lantern! Aquaman is about to sign control of Atlantis over to Superman!) and the heroes set out to take down the Man of Steel and his tyrannical regime.

While the dialogue between characters will bring a smile to every comic book nerd’s face, the overarching story fizzles out before the end. Dictator Superman is an interesting idea, but he’s just so darn evil that it feels like a completely different character rather than the grief-stricken fallen hero he’s supposed to be. Still, the story mode is an admirable effort that tries very hard to come up with excuses for all these characters to fight one another, and for the most part it succeeds.

The heart and soul of a fighting game isn’t the story mode or goofy side missions, (of which “Injustice” has many) but the combat. NetherRealm Studios wisely blends the best of the “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter” worlds with some exciting new elements, like the Clash system and interactive environments. All the batarangs, heat vision and laughing gas in the world won’t save you from getting a car chucked your way or from getting punched through several stories’ worth of Wayne Manor.

Speedy characters like The Flash will leap around the environment instead of destroying it, and gadget-centric fighters like Batman will plant bombs to blow it up. One of the most fun things about “Injustice” is that where you play is almost as important as whom you play. Certain characters excel in certain arenas, and the ability to punch an opponent from one arena to another mid-combat means that the tide of battle can always be turned in an instant.

In addition to the usual slew of unique combos, special moves and supers, each character can activate their unique power with one button press. For instance, Harley Quin will open a present with a random effect, Hawkgirl will take flight, and Ares will summon swords and axes from thin air. These powers make for a much more diverse roster than any “Mortal Kombat” game to date and can lead to some downright dirty tactics.

“Injustice” has a decent story mode and silly-but-fun minigames for the casual crowd, but the real draw (other than the rare chance to play as Aquaman of course) is the exciting and dynamic combat. For fans of superheroes and quality fighting games, missing out on “Injustice” would be a crime.

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