The original release of Injustice: Gods Among Us delivers exactly the kind of glorious fights you’d expect from the DC Universe's mightiest, and makes them as fun and rewarding to watch as they are to play. Now NetherRealm has released Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition, collecting all the currently available DLC and sprucing it up for the PlayStation 4 and PC, and the result is…largely the same. Ultimate Edition looks and runs a bit nicer, but it doesn’t do anything substantial enough to warrant picking it up if you already own the original.
For its first trick, Injustice does something that few fighting games ever even attempt to do: tell an interesting story. What if Superman lost faith in humanity and, with his near-infinite power, decided it was time to stop protecting and start ruling? We've seen him “retire” in Kingdom Come, and watched him wreck shop whilst being mind-controlled a few billion times, but this is a far darker spin than all that. This isn't about a mopey alien who just wants somewhere to belong, it’s about a god who's decided his subjects no longer deserve free will.
As heavy as it sounds, Injustice still finds time for the same kind of action, adventure, and humor that made the Justice League animated series such a treat. The story mode’s primary fault is that its reach exceeds its artist’s grasp. Close-up’s on main characters look good, but when the in-engine cut scenes attempt to depict clashing armies or sweeping cityscapes, bland textures and shoddily modeled buildings erode the visual impact a bit, and neither the PS4’s or PC’s beefier internals do nothing to change that fact.
Outside of looking sharper and smoother, the move to next-gen hasn’t done much else in terms of effects or post-processing, resulting in a fighter that looks decidedly less impressive than say Killer Instinct. Ultimate Edition certainly isn’t ugly by any means, but even compared to other cross-generation titles, it only looks good rather than great.
Despite this, it still manages to capture the godlike abilities of DC's finest. NetherRealm took 24 characters, many of whom have never been seen in a video game, and translated their abilities and personas over beautifully. This is Injustice's greatest feat, and Ultimate Edition drives that home further by including the additional six characters that have come out since launch. There's reverence for the DC Universe in each menu screen and every matchup-specific line of dialogue.
Each fighter possesses a unique mechanic based on their super-power that truly makes their style distinct. Solomon Grundy, for instance, gets a series of chain throws, each of which buffs a different attribute of his for the remainder of the match. The Flash, on the other hand, can call upon the Speed Force to effectively slow opponents to a crawl.
Also new, but potentially more troublesome, are the interactive environments. Each setting is jam-packed with heavy objects to pick up and throw, or bounce your opponent off of, and landing certain attacks at the right spots triggers a stage change, sending your enemy careening spectacularly through a series of obstacles. I have mixed feelings about these. Sure, it's badass when Doomsday backhands Superman clean through a pair of skyscrapers in downtown Metropolis... but when mere mortal heroes like Batman or Green Arrow do the same exact thing, it just looks plain silly. Between that, and animations that look great one moment and jerky the next, the illusion of two superheroes clashing can crumble at times. It never keeps the fighting from being fun, but Injustice is so effective when it maintains that spell that I hate to see it broken.
Finally, I'd be doing Injustice an injustice if I didn't mention just how much content is included. NetherRealm has once again spoiled us with things to do and a mountain of costumes, art, and music to unlock. STAR Labs is the new challenge tower, offering hundreds of fights to complete under special conditions. If you just feel like jumping into a series of matches, you can unlock and fight in a number of battle ladders, each with different stipulations like heroes only (no villains) or surviving on one health bar. Training mode has been significantly beefed up too, with frame data and detailed move descriptions built right in. Online lobbies have also improved, with the ability to bet XP on who will win the next match - and even issue challenges for how they'll win it. It helps keep lobbies fun and interactive, even when you're last in line to fight.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is an exciting, unique-feeling fighter at the beginner level, and a deeper, more interesting one at the advanced level. Story mode is a pleasant surprise, but the real reason to play is the thrill of harnessing the god-like powers of some of the most overwhelming figures in the comic realm. Ultimate Edition on PS4 and PC is the best-looking, most complete version you can buy right now, but if you already own Injustice on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, there isn’t much reason to upgrade, especially if you already bought the DLC.