Superheroes and villains collide in this addictive mash-up.
The iOS App Store contains plenty of card battle games that more or less play exactly the same, which is why Injustice: Gods Among Us stands out. Part card battler and part three-on-three fighting game, the iPhone and iPad edition of the upcoming console beat-em-up lets users create their own DC Comics dream team of superheroes and villains, from Batman, The Flash and Wonder Woman to Lex Luthor, The Joker and Doomsday. Mix and match, upgrade and unlock support cards to gain that all-important edge. Frantic, addictive and powered by Unreal Engine, this is a prime example of mobile gaming done right, with a wonderful layer of fan service to stitch it all together, and it's free-to-play.
To start, you receive three base cards (Green Arrow, Deathstroke and Nightwing), with the goal of pitting these iconic characters against a series of opponents. What's especially cool is the way the developers at NetherRealm Studios broke up the card and fighting components. Before jumping into a match, you select the three cards, top off energy levels (energy is required to play the game) or purchase new cards from the shop, providing you have enough virtual cash; acquiring more in a hurry requires in-app purchase.
Once the team is set, you square off against the computer, and you're able to tag in/out characters, each of which possess individual health bars. Meanwhile, the fighting is touch based. Tap to punch, string together several taps for a combo and swipe left/right to unleash more powerful maneuvers. The more strikes you land, the more Power you gain. Obtain enough of that, and you stand to pull off a Special Move that incorporates a character's best attributes. In Catwoman's case, for instance, she scratches enemies with her claws. For Green Arrow, he fires an arrow straight into his adversary. You do this through prompted commands, be it swiping in a certain direction, tapping rapidly or lining up a moving bar within a specific area. Quick Time Events, really, but they don't come off the wrong way at all. If anything, the control scheme is easily understood and intuitive.
No offense to the characters we mentioned, but obviously, the majority of players will desire more famous faces from DC lore, and suffice to say, there's a good number to choose from. Considering we expect more via future update, NetherRealm did one heck of a job in the debut version, despite the overwhelming number of enhanced variations. From Bane and Solomon Grundy to Cyborg and Sinestro, gamers will definitely have their favorites, and that's for starters. We also have Support Cards that imbue these characters with special abilities. Keep in mind this all comes at a steep price. Want to pick up Superman right away? He costs 220,000, and you'll be lucky to have 7,000 after 45 minutes of playtime. Of course, you can always roll the dice and buy card packs in the hope that he's in there.
As we previously mentioned, NetherRealm harnessed Epic's Unreal Engine to create the game's visuals, and this is without question one of the best-looking iOS titles we've seen. Each hero and villain overflows with painstaking detail, and you're able to rotate these characters around to get a better look at the designers' craftsmanship. Longtime comic book fans won't be disappointed.
If there's anything to complain about, it's the fact that you fight the same characters repeatedly. Sure, they grow more difficult to defeat, but after six or seven matches, "oh, it's you again." Beyond that, there's no multiplayer mode, which is something we'd like to see in an update. Not sure how it would work, but considering this is a card battle and fighting mash-up, not being able to compete against a buddy is a lost opportunity.
In its current form, though, Injustice: Gods Among Us is more than a promotional vehicle for the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii U title. It's a quality game in its own right, one that deserves more attention throughout the year. If you don't have this on your Apple device, you're missing out on something special.
What's Hot:Quality graphics, numerous superheroes and villains, successful card battler/fighting game mash-up, tons of cool special moves tailor made with each character in mind, free-to-play.
What's Not:Repeating opponents, no multiplayer mode, a lot of grinding to unlock the best cards.