Injustice: Gods Among Us is the DC Entertainment superhero fighter released April 16. Mortal Kombat Online is reviewing the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

Anyone familiar with NetherRealm Studios' previous fighting game - Mortal Kombat - is going to have an immediate sense of familiarity coming into Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Built upon the same framework as the 2011 release, there are unavoidable similarities. Gameplay is restricted to the classic 2D plane, with a standard emphasis on short combo strings and juggling. It would have been easy for the developer to surrender completely to the status quo, slapping a four-colour coat of superhero paint over the engine that brought them so much success. That isn't the case, however, and the superhero experience is thankfully better for it.

Underlying mechanics make the experience quite unlike anything MK has had before, bringing Injustice much closer to the tropes of other popular series in the genre. There are three primary attack buttons - light, medium and heavy - as well as a fourth dedicated to a unique character power. This button serves a different purpose for each hero or villain. Characters like Superman and Green Lantern gain a simple damage boost for their attacks, while others adapt their playing technique into a new mode or stance. The power button sees Nightwing whip out his full length staff; Hawkgirl takes flight for an aerial based assault. Each power plays to the unique strategies of the character and helps further differentiate a diverse cast. Green Arrow's elemental arrows and Solomon Grundy's pain chain throws deserve special mention.

A prominent gameplay feature of Injustice is the interactive environment system. Each stage is filled with assorted hazards, weapons and breakable junk. When a character is within range, you need only hit the right button to interact with the object. Interaction types are divided based on the innate abilities of the character. In Bruce Wayne's mansion, a chandelier might be the trapeze for launching a lithe hero into a high flying attack -- or it might be ripped from the ceiling and hurled across the arena as a weapon itself. The ease with which these hotspots are activated adds a real sense of urgency that wouldn't otherwise be in the fight. Players will want to take advantage of the environment before their opponent, particularly where strategy will allow some players to destroy the object, rendering it useless to repeat attempts.

Interaction takes on another dimension when the arena itself is the object in play! Get too close to the edge of the stage and a power attack will send you flying through the walls into another area. This isn't a new concept. Stage hazards were common throughout the previous generation of 3D Mortal Kombat games, 2008's Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe laying the groundwork for the dramatic style used in Injustice. It's a surprisingly welcome addition that adds excitement and strategy to the battles.

As with Mortal Kombat, Injustice makes use of a super meter. You feed the meter by dealing and taking damage - using it to enhance special attacks, perform bounce cancels to extend combos, or by gambling the full charge on a super move! In the second half of the fight, the meter can also be used to break out of a combo by entering the clash system. Players can wager a chunk of their meter to either regain health or deal damage, dependent upon who initiated the clash. Between the risk/reward strategy and the numbers involved, it's a system that won't be easily abused, but ensures the fight to the finish always has the potential for the unexpected.

The super moves in Injustice are completely over the top -- exactly what you would hope for in a comic-inspired fighting game! Supers are perhaps the single greatest investment into the hyper-real absurdity of the superhero canon. They're essentially cinematic sequences, demonstrating super-powers in ways that couldn't otherwise sit comfortably within the constraints of a balanced fighting mechanic. They're a treat to watch the first few times, but the novelty does wear off through repetition. They aren't too long, so there's that working in their favour. Aquaman's impossible access to tidal floods filled with sharks is destined to be a favourite.

The introduction of back to block to the NetherRealm vernacular is by no means indication of a preference for one type of player over another. One of Injustice's biggest triumphs is undoubtedly the way it bridges the gap between the hardcore and casual fighting game audiences. The systems are very deep, yet extremely accessible - something NetherRealm has been striving for since the beginning. The moves list is full of detailed information, including move data and frame data. It might be a bit baffling to casuals, but the hardcore audience will surely be very thankful.

Player customization offers a backdoor to players grappling with the defaults. Controls can be remapped to the whim of the user, even allowing players to switch to a Street Fighter style for special moves. You can also tag up to six moves (or combos) for quick reference, adding them to a cheat list beneath your health bar - very useful for mere mortals who might forget these important inputs!

When it comes to modes, the makers of Mortal Kombat have stayed much closer to home. The traditional arcade ladder is found in the "Battles" menu, where you will also find a number of unlockable options not unlike what was found in MK's Test Your Luck mode. They offer a range of selectable challenges that pit you against clocks and modifiers. It's pretty standard fare, but a nice change of pace when you tire of garden variety fights.

S.T.A.R. Labs is the equivalent of Mortal Kombat's Challenge Tower - offering over 200 missions, with a wide variety of objectives. You'll get a grade out of 3 stars for every mission you complete, which determines how quickly you'll unlock additional challenges. Some of these can be frustrating, particularly at the 3 star level. Like the MK Challenge Tower, there's promise of a special unlockable reward at the conclusion of a perfect 3 star run. If you're expecting the reward to match the effort involved, you'll be sorely disappointed by the lone Flash costume that awaits [spoiled by the Facebook account before game release, no less].

Also returning is the much talked about story mode, which plays out in a manner much the same as the last two Mortal Kombat games [including the pioneering Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe].

You'll play as half the Injustice cast, following them through cinematics that carry the narrative from playable fight to fight. Thrown into the mix are a series of mini-games, as well, which occur before appropriate fights. Most are quick time events, requiring a basic input chain to determine a handicap in the following battle. They are few and far between, so it's never as tedious as it could be, but it's a shame they all play the same.

The cut scenes are well presented and a more elaborate evolution from what was achieved in Mortal Kombat. Situations unfold beyond the shortlist of playable stage environments, veering into backdrops and set pieces tailored to the plot. It compliments the interactive movie that the mode is designed to be, but praise for the much hyped story ends there. The premise is a noteable step up from Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe's Rage macguffin, but it all seems like a convoluted justification for the entire concept of the game - superheroes fighting. The introduction of a parallel universe feels needlessly repetitive and amounts to almost nothing interesting. It's by no means terrible, but it's also completely forgettable. It's disappointing the production value is wasted, far outclassing the bland and uninteresting story that was a much-hyped centerpiece for promotion of the game.

When adapting material from the DC library, games like this are standing on the shoulders of giants. The sheer volume of incredible content on offer makes the flat-footed approach of Injustice all the more bitter. Fundamental missteps undermine their own work -- like the preoccupation of the game concept through concepts like 'power pills.' The canon available to Injustice supplies far superior explanations than this meagre, unnecessary distraction. The concept further harms itself with the availability of an utterly irrelevant cast of villains. This game could have very easily made use of its cast and mode to tell a more compelling story, with a more naturally self-sustained logic. Instead, it is much ado about nothing.

Visually, Injustice has a lot to offer. The spectacular super moves are an obvious highlight and sure to get a reaction from people. Many of them are grand in scope, sending the fighters into space or through the core of the earth, with plenty of tasty particle effects to enjoy. The stages are highly detailed and vibrant with lots of depth and attention to detail. In all respects, this is superhero spectacle.

Performance wise, gameplay runs at a solid 60 frames per second. Unfortunately that does drop down to rather choppy framerates during the elaborate super moves, as well as during the story mode cutscenes, which showed some considerable slowing down in places. It won't be a major issue to most players, considering that the frame rate only drops when you aren't in direct control of the action, but it's a notable issue nonetheless.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is now available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii U. Post your thoughts by joining the conversation in the DC Universe Injustice forum.