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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Injustice: Gamers Among Us

This is the first of several guests posts on the recently released Injustice: Gods Among Us game, written by those who have played it!

sgAndy Kapellusch Recently, Shrine founder Rob Kelly put out a call for any F.O.A.M.ers that planned on playing the game  to review Injustice: Gods Among Us. Naturally, I leaped at the chance. Not only had I pre-ordered the game, I was first in line to pick it up yesterday when it was released. And honestly, as a DC fan, I can now die happy. Injustice cracks the code when it comes to creating an intense DC Universe combat experience. There are so many great things about I:GAU that the small nitpicks are barely worth mentioning.

But we all know what you people really want to hear: How does Aquaman stack up? Before I answer, I'd like everyone to know: This is Spoiler Country!

If you are one of those people who can't function if somebody talks in depth about something online, I suggest you cray about it elsewhere. Also, it's a fighting game: Just assume everybody fights everybody at some point, and some people aren't who you think they are, ok?

It my pleasure to announce that as a die-hard Aquaman fan, I:GAU treats our noble Sea King,  not only with respect in the main storyline, but pays tribute to both his iconic status and as a character with a serious fanbase. Aquaman is treated as an equal of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, and frankly...The game treats him like a fourth member of the Big Three. Villains and heroes respect him, and there is nary a mention of fish jokes, all vestiges of the Super Friends cartoon are all but forgotten in the Beat' em Up. And for good reason...this game is downright brutal. How brutal?  "Joker beating Nightwing to oblivion with a crowbar" brutal..."Aquaman feeding opponents to a Great white Shark" brutal.
Now, I may have already lost you. I heard a lot of people on Facebook (Shrine Members, even!) saying the same thing: "I don't like it when Heroes fight Heroes! This isn't Marvel!!!" First off guys, Sick Burn on the Marvel joke. High Five. Secondly, and more importantly, the game utilizes a new, revolutionary system called "Story Mode 2.0". You get an immersive storyline, and then battle adversaries when the need arises, and it arises often in I:GAU.  But you are just needlessly fighting your compatriots for no reason: In true DC fashion, this story is all about the multiverse. Well...at least, another-verse.

Without ruining too much, something really bad happens, and in our timeline, it's negated by the heroes getting pulled into another universe where it did happen, because their Batman needs a bunch of heroes to fight the corrupted former heroes of the second earth. Sorry, if it's a little sticky, but, hey, guys, there is pretty good chance if you are reading this, you are a DC fan and should be used to it by now. Anyways, you spend a lot of your time fighting evil counterparts of yourself, and evil counterparts of your JLA buddies. Which is cool, because the differences are subtle, but fantastic nods, often, to greater "Elseworlds" or canon storylines beloved in the community... (Sinestro Corps Hal, anyone?)  It took me about seven hours of gameplay for the story mode, but that's including an hour of me losing to the final boss over and over again. Because I am bad at stuff.

One of the absolute joys of the game is finally seeing somebody take Aquaman not only seriously, but fiercely banishing any thought of portraying him in anything but a positive light. His teammates trust him, the villains fear him and he is the lynch-pin in many critical plot points and story-lines. Not to mention, "Earth 2" Aquaman is inherently more totalitarian, which makes him, in theory, even more of a force to be reckoned with. Also, in the geek tropes department, he has an "Mirror, Mirror Spock Beard"...with no other major changes to his costume, except for a darker greens and oranges, I think.
As for his appearance, I wasn't completely sold on the idea. He has these weird shoulder gauntlets made out of, like, manta-squid skin, or something. I have no idea. Also, he has a collar made of what I can only assume is reminiscent of an open shark's mouth/waves. But honestly...it looks very "In Universe", which is awesome. Also, it's not an entirely bad thing for him to have some edge, and some mystery, especially how the game sets up his iconography as a deep, royal enigma who is a hero twice over, both humble and overpowered. He's in nearly every important JLA cut scene, and is relied to carry his weight on the team, which he does beautifully. I honestly don't think anybody who plays through the story mode will have any excuse not to hold him in the highest regard hereafter.

The one thing I wish they hadn't done is cast Phil Lamar as his voice. Lamar is a fantastic voice actor, and he is actually reprising his role from Young Justice, as Alan Tudyk did for Green Arrow (another favorite, yay!), but Lamar only has one voice that is both heroic and authoritative. Often times, Aquaman sounds a lot like John Stewart when barking orders or speaking menacingly (which happens a few times). It completely took my out of the moment, because it was Aquaman, not Stewart on screen. But, I mean, other than that, I can tell Lamar was at least trying to be mindful of the separation, but sometimes it just didn't pan out. Also, his (Aquaman's) ears are a little different...they are kind of pointed back, but round, like they had originally intended them to be pointy (which, I think I saw on a few pieces of concept art, but I couldn't really tell on my TV. It's not glaring, but in a few cut-scenes towards the end, they are more noticeable. Not a deal-breaker, but any means.

Aquaman is also one of the best, and most dangerous fighters in the game, has a reach twice that of most other characters, except Nightwing, who do not possess a long weapon like his iconic trident. Unlike Nightwing, however, Aquaman is not an acrobat...he's a brawler. You definitely do not want to be on the receiving end of ANY of the good king's attacks, much less this super-awesome move where you basically brain your opponent as hard as you can with the broadside of the head of the trident. (BONK, BONK! ON THE HEAD!)
Aquaman is an absolute monster of a fighter, with range, and real weight behind all of his attacks, His finished involves flooding the arena with a tidal wave, lots of stabbing and sharks. He's just deadly, that's the long and short of it.

Sadly, most parts of his supporting cast go unnoticed, although "Mera's Fury" is a rather potent attack he can perform, and the Atlantis arena has a giant golden statue on it's ceiling that could be Topo, if you chose to believe it is (I do).
But no Garth, no Vulko, no Tusky, no Salty the Aquadog, no Kaldur'ahm and there is a giant gap where Black Manta should be. Like, huge. I want to play as Black Manta. Can you imagine how awesome that would be, in a fighting game, to just destroy, say, the Joker as Manta? Awesome! But, I digress.

The game contains several different modes, and while the storyline is the bulk of the experience, there are of course single, one off fights, online play, and mode called S.T.A.R. Labs where each hero has cool missions that can be unlocked. Unfortunately, they are all ungodly hard and you have to play them for ever before you can advance to the next one. It works on a star system, much like Angry Birds, where if you complete tasks really well, the more stars you get. But you need those stars to advance...I'll write about Aquaman's S.T.A.R. Labs experience in an article next year, when I get done working up to it. They are so hard, it's not really fun for me. You mileage may vary, though. Another awesome mode takes place in a set of missions called "Battles", where you fight a series of ten opponents, and are rewarded with the "Earth 2" epilogue for that character. (Another favorite character of mine, the Flash, gets a great epilogue as well).

Aquaman's is fantastic. He becomes a major force for ecology and justice, and the whole world loves him for it. The elect him "President of the World", and his reign is benevolent and just. It's a little far fetched, but hey: A happy ending is a happy ending. Flash's is pretty great as well. They really capture Arthur's essence well in all aspects, and like I said before, but it deserves repeating: Aquaman is shown at all times being heroic, as a valuable team member and powerhouse, and is so very respectful of his fragile but growing place in DC's pantheon of popular heroes.

I cannot recommend this game to Aquaman fans and DC fans enough...there are so many great references and shout outs, not to mention lots and lost of Alternate Skins! The game is a winner, and and an especially big win for Aquaman and his fans! Injustice: Gods Among Us is a most have for anyone who ever wished they could be Aquaman!


ari said...

Dammit Kap! This gave me goosebumps! I have had a lot of non-AC-loving friends send me messages telling me how much of a BAMF he is in this game, I'm so excited to play it :D

r duncan said...

Not really my thing but I think I'll give it a try. Great review.

Newsarama also had a very positive write-up at http://www.newsarama.com/games/injustice-gods-among-us-review.html.

The writer said "Injustice: Gods Among Us is without a doubt the most fun I've had playing a fighting game in well over a decade, and to me, rewrites what the entire genre can be."

He ended his review with... "Now, off to skewer that wuss Superman with my trident a few more times."
That must mean he really likes playing Aquaman.

Andrew Luckett said...

Awesome review, Andy! I've been waffling on buying this game, but consarn it, you've convinced me! Goodbye, hours of productivity; hello, days of unshaven, bleary-eyed joy!

But seriously, I'm so glad to hear that Aquaman is handled so well in this game (especially that epilogue; that sounds outstanding). This, along with the current Johns/Reis/Prado/Reis/Pelletier comic run, are two big bricks in the growing wall of Aquaman in the role of (as Max says above) BAMF. So color me content.

In regard to the absence of Manta and the Aqua-family; well, the gamemakers have to save something for the inevitable sequel(s) ;).

Earth 2 Chris said...

My son has been playing this (and in fact, he actually beat the story part already), and I have to agree, Aquaman is a BAD MO-FO here. I won't go into spoilers either, but Arthur is definitely treated as a heavyweight.

The voicework is spot-on and stellar as well. I've only played the game a bit as of yet (mostly just me and the boy fighting each other), but it is a much better, more DC-centric game than I thought it would be. I half-expected just a brutish blood bath with no soul. I was wrong!


Ryan said...

Whats Mera's Fury all about? Is she in the game?