Back in April, Netherrealm Studios - the studio behind Mortal Kombat - took a stab at a full-fledged DC Comics fighting game after its quick dip with Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Injustice: Gods Among Us was the product and while it shared Mortal Kombat's dour sensibilities, it was a very different game. Injustice stood as a pretty solid break from what Netherrealm had previously built while it was still Midway Games. Now, Injustice is getting a re-release with the Ultimate Edition on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and the all-new PlayStation 4. Sorry, Xbox One fans, there's no confirmed version of Injustice: Ultimate coming to the platform.
Here's a recap for those just joining the fight: Injustice retains the heavier fighting feel of the Mortal Kombat series, but ditches the block button for a Street Fighter-style hold-back-to-block system. Instead, your attacks are spread across three attack buttons and a special button that changes depending on which hero or villain you're controlling. There's also no Fatalities to be found. Instead, each character can unleash big combat cutscenes when their super bar is full, which are all pretty damn impressive the first time around. (Less so on the 20th time.) The full roster of 30 characters is widely varied; Batman doesn't control like Superman, but he doesn't control like Nightwing either. Kudos to Netherrealm for making each fighter distinct.
Injustice also features some crazy, detailed levels. Each is based on locations around the DC Universe and each is full of characters and Easter eggs for comics fans to find. In addition, the backgrounds are interactive in two distinct ways. The first is the inclusion of random stage items like plaques, statues, missiles and more. You can use these items to do some quick damage to your foes and each character utilizes them in different ways. The second method involves using certain attacks to knock enemies through the level, which does some damage and provides you with a change of scenery.
Injustice: Ultimate Edition isn't a brand-new outing for the series. Instead, it's what you would normally find in a Game of the Year Edition. All of the DLC released for Injustice since April is included right out of the gate. That means Batgirl, Lobo, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Zod, and Scorpion are available without additional purchase. Each new character has their own special S.T.A.R. Labs missions, which include fights, platforming, and stealth missions. Injustice: Ultimate Edition also includes all the character skins, spanning the original Injustice looks, the New 52 skins, costumes from other media, and looks based on some of the best DC Comics stories. All told, the included DLC comes to around $60 when purchased separately on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, so it's a great deal for new players.
The PlayStation 4 and Vita versions of Injustice: Ultimate Edition represent the highs and lows the game can achieve while still holding onto its core. Neither version was done internally at Netherrealm, who's probably busy working on a next-gen Mortal Kombat. Instead, High Voltage Studios handled the PlayStation 4 version, while Armature Studio ported the PlayStation Vita version. Despite the fact that the ports were handed off to different developers, the gameplay remains exactly the same across all platforms.
The PlayStation 4 version sports a visual upgrade, bringing the game up to 1080p while retaining the 60 frames per second of the current-gen versions. Animations are a bit smoother and textures got an upgrade, but Injustice on PS4 doesn't really show off on its new platform. I think it may be the game's artstyle, which favors darker colors, because there just isn't the 'pop' found in other next-gen games. It looks better, but it doesn't look way better.
High Voltage also added the option to use the touchpad for story minigames and certain S.T.A.R. Labs missions. You can turn that off if you so desire, but the touchpad controls work just fine. Otherwise, you're gaining Vita Remote Play and the PlayStation 4's impressive Sharing features, meaning that excellent combo you just did can be preserved for posterity. There's nothing here that screams 'buy me again' if you own the game on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 and have been keeping up with the DLC. Injustice: Ultimate Edition is a solid port of a solid game, but it's not enough to warrant a console purchase if you don't already own a PlayStation 4. Injustice: Ultimate is the second or third game you purchase for the PS4; it's the 'get one free' that follows the 'buy one'.
In contrast, Injustice: Ultimate Edition on PlayStation Vita is a good development effort that falls way short of the mark. As I said before, the game plays exactly like its home console counterparts, but it's let down by the PlayStation Vita itself. The game runs at 60 fps on the Vita, but to hit that mark, Armature had to make cuts to the character models. On Vita, the models are low-poly and low-texture; they look like the PS3 and 360 models left in the microwave for too long. Some modeled details on the console character models are reduced muddy, ugly textures on the Vita version. That's the sacrifice that had to take place in order to keep the 60 fps and the crazy levels.
The other issue I had is the Vita's controls: the portable's directional pad just isn't as good as the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 d-pads. I had difficulty reliably performing back-forward motions in a match using the Vita d-pad and the nubbin analog stick wasn't a better option. In addition, fitting the home console controls on the Vita meant shoving some moves together: Throw is normally one of the shoulder buttons, but on Vita it's Square and X together. The closer button placement on the Vita makes throws and throw cancels harder to pull off.
I'd like to recommend the Vita version of Injustice: Ultimate Edition, because Armature obviously put some work into cramming the game onto the platform, but the final product isn't up to snuff. I can't recommend it to anyone except the hardcore Injustice fan who wants the same action on the go. Perhaps your deep, abiding love for the game might push you past the port's shortcomings.
So you have a PlayStation 4 version that's well-done, but not a spectacular improvement over the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, and a PlayStation Vita port that tried to fit the game into a shell too weak to hold it. If you have Injustice on 360 or PS3 already, you're probably better off picking out the DLC that works for you. If you haven't bought a PS4 yet, Injustice: Ultimate Edition on that platform won't change your mind and you're probably better off getting the new edition on current generation consoles. If you've bought a PlayStation 4 and you're looking for a solid game to flesh out your library, here you go. At least you have the option, unlike prospective Xbox One owners. And if you're the absolute biggest fan of Injustice and you own the PlayStation Vita, then you might find some enjoyment in that version, but there's better places to play.