Along with first-person shooters, so-called "beat-'em-up" one-on-one fighting games have traditionally been a source of worry for parents.
Yet "Injustice: Gods Among Us" (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment) is different. Though its mechanics are based on the most recent version of the grotesque "Mortal Kombat" franchise, this DC Comics offering proves to be a significantly more family-friendly affair -- albeit not without complications.
"Injustice" is set in an alternate universe, a mirror image of the standard DC cosmos in which Superman has become the villain. Having had his mind temporarily taken over by Batman's nemesis, the Joker, Superman kills longtime flame Lois Lane as well as his unborn son. Coming to, and realizing what he's done, Superman is hurled into a rage and subsequently takes over the world, installing himself as High Councillor.
The gamer plays the main set of characters from the standard DC world, who have found themselves transported into this variant reality. The good guys must fight through their evil counterparts who have allied with Superman, stopping carnage and the destruction of freedom.
Although the plot is far below the quality of DC's best, it does serve to bridge battles, and is also one of the more wholesome chronicles from a moral standpoint.
Many entries in the genre merely give a loose justification for gory battle. "Injustice," by contrast, tones down the blood and gives the gamer something positive to struggle for, namely, the prevention of world war and totalitarianism.
Additionally, taking its cue from Batman's guiding principles, "Injustice" involves no killing on the part of the gamer; opponents are merely exhausted into submission. Indeed, one of the principal themes of the title is that there has been enough fatal violence, and peace must replace it. That's obviously a sentiment parents will welcome.
Other congenial themes include the implicit challenge to Superman's dictatorial aims, goals he justifies by holding out the prospect of a world freed of crime thanks to his dominion over it. The game implicitly refutes the idea that such seemingly good outcomes can justify bad actions, even as it affirms that free will and conscience must always be respected.
Despite its virtues, "Injustice" is, unfortunately, tainted by the all-too-common tendency among superhero games to aim for grittiness. Thus a "Sin City" striptease backdrop is needlessly included, as is some objectionable language here and there. Nonetheless, some parents may consider this generally worthwhile title acceptable for older teens.
Reviewed on Xbox 360; also available on PlayStation 3 and Wii U.
The game contains much stylized violence with minimal blood, some mild sexual content, and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is T -- Teen.