Title: Injustice 2
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Genre: Adventure, Fighting
Official Site: Injustice
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Where To Buy It: Retail, Playstation Store, XBox Games Store
In 2013, a bit of an anomaly hit video game shelves. Injustice: Gods Among Us was a fighting game featuring characters from the DC universe engaged in combat with a fighting engine that showed all the hallmarks of the Mortal Kombat series. As unlikely as it seemed at the time, the title was a commercial and critical hit with many feeling that the game surpassed the fighting chops of its more established MK inspiration. NetherRealm’s foray into a second 2-D fighting franchise proved to not be a “fatality” for either proving there is plenty of room for well-produced fighters in the gaming space, hence the obvious follow-up to the success and the release of Injustice 2.
The Injustice 2 story picks up where its predecessor left off with Batman picking up the pieces after Superman went rogue in the first title after falling prey to an insidious plan hatched by the Joker. Once again loyalties are split amongst a huge cast of DC characters although the cause has changed. This time the heroes and villains we have come to either side with Batman, who believes in a pure form of justice and never taking a life, or Superman, who wants to eliminate criminals before they have the opportunity to harm the innocent any further. Without divulging too much, the new dynamic quickly makes strange bedfellows with former partners squaring off against each other and mortal enemies joining forces over 12 chapters that mix impressive cutscenes and one-on-one combat. The story introduces further elements that blur the line between these factions with a parallel plot focusing on Brainiac’s attack on Earth, mirroring the one on Krypton which resulted in its destruction and the jettison of a baby Superman and teen Supergirl into outer space.
Several elements bring a fresh take to the story mode formula. First, it was great to be given the option during several matches to choose which character I would fight as to advance the story. Not only did this provide variety but it also allows players to select characters based on their gameplay strengths. For instance, multiple times you can choose to fight as Green Arrow or Black Canary. Both fighters play very differently with Arrow excelling at range attacks and Canary have stronger close-up melee abilities. Secondly, the introduction of the gear system impacts both the story mode and the overall Injustice 2 experience throughout all modes. Based on achieving certain objectives within a fight or overall how well you do, gear will be provided for each fight that can be used to directly impact how you play. Some gear will be purely cosmetic such as letting you play with a character’s color scheme. Other gear will directly impact how you play such as increasing the damage inflicted by a character’s melee weapon. With this new, more dangerous weapon as an option, the hope is that gamers will play differently to fully harness this advantage. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the gear system to the game, giving characters a more organic progression in skill and forcing me to adjust how I played them based on their new found strengths. I also enjoyed that distribution of gear was strictly random and could be imparted on a character I was playing a lot of or one whom I had yet to try off the roster. It turned the game’s RPG elements into one of improving the game’s entire stable at once as opposed to only maxing out that character you have grown fond of.
While it is nice to have a strong story mode to cement a base around, there would be very little to hang a good game on were the fighting mechanic not equally solid. Thankfully, Injustice 2 has this in spades. Controls flow crisply with effectively no lag hangover of pre-rendered animations. All that is expected though for a fighting game in 2017. What truly impresses is the layer upon layer of nuance that has been integrated into the fighting system. It allows button mashers to be competitive with those familiar with the controls although their odds of winning would certainly be skewed. The nuance comes from options that a casual gamer may never explore but will tilt a match into the favor of those who choose to study the layers. During each match a meter fills that ultimately, when bursting, will enable a super move that triggers a pre-rendered animation of ultimate destruction such as Supergirl building momentum around the sun the punch an enemy into an asteroid or a giant Swamp Thing punching an enemy into an underground layer to have their extremities grabbed and used to swing their limp body onto a pointed rock. This is great fun and is available to most fighters each match when their meter builds.
The fun of Injustice 2 happens when gamers look to the other options available to them to use their meter. Will they deplete a portion of their super meter to spark an evasive roll that catches their opponent off guard and sets them up in a better footing? Perhaps they will use the meter instead to break-up a combo they are currently receiving to cut short what would be a greater amount of damage received. The strategy this dynamic introduces means that as gamers learn Injustice 2’s finer points, they will find an ever increasing repertoire of superhero destruction at their fingers that must be considered. This further includes when and if to engage environmental objects that can influence a fight such as throwing a garbage can, or alligator, at an enemy or literally punching your foe through an item. This may always seem like the wisest choice but the perfectly balanced Injustice 2 presents many opportunities where it is better to finish a combo or continue a natural progression of moves than to punch Deadshot through a truck. All of these moves are introduced in an excellent tutorial mode that removes a bit of the mystery of the game mechanics for those new to the title. While moves are introduced at a gradual clip, there is simply so much content that it could even be further expanded as a training tool.
The fact that Injustice 2 is greater than the sum of its parts is displayed in no better way than the Multiverse mode. The mode allows gamers the opportunity to complete daily challenges to earn gear and at the same time try out new characters, strategies and loot load outs. With a specific move tutorial for every fighter on the roster and a smorgasbord of challenges, there is no waiting for content to keep gamers immersed in the Injustice 2 experience. This mode also offers the opportunity to tune fighting approaches so that they are ready for the online multiplayer arena when ready. At the time of writing, there have been a few minor lag issues with the online mode, although it appears to be generally responsive with quick matches made. The addition of the prospective winning percentage of a match based on the players involved was also an incredibly wise addition to the game which gives each match a greater level of importance.
The presentation in Injustice 2 is another coup for a fighting game. The game shimmers with backgrounds almost jumping off the screen and fluid flowing animations. Whether it be the lighting details on Batman‘s armor in a swamp level or Supergirl’s bright costume acting as a beacon in Gorilla City the game’s visuals are a true homage to the DC roots of presenting the characters in a hand drawn media form. I did have a slightly jarring experience with the facial character models of a couple characters. Superman for instance in no way resembles how the hero has been previously portrayed in comics, TV and the movies. Every time I saw him I was slightly pulled out of the experience because he looked almost like an imposter of the Superman I know. This is but a mere quibble as the other characters and voice acting more than make-up and delivers an incredibly immersive experience that had me wanting to spend more time with Injustice 2 than any other fighting game I can recollect over the past several decades.
All told Injustice 2 hits all the right marks for a fighting game offering an incredible adventure for those only looking to explore the game on a skin deep level while layering nuanced strategies and moves that will have veterans engrossed for months. While the presentation is dramatic, bold and captivating it is the game’s depth from intriguing modes, moves and gear system that truly makes Injustice 2 stand apart from the rest of the field.
- Gameplay: An incredibly tight fighting system that unfolds layer upon layer of complexity at a thoughtful pacing. Allows newbies to gain a foothold easily but will take a true veteran to master the mechanic. Game modes give plenty of replayability.
- Graphics: Beautiful animations, characters, and interactive backgrounds. The level of polish is evident although a few of the character models and rather jarring from their appearance from other media. Ie: Superman looks a little too much like Judd Nelson.
- Sound: Voice acting is top notch with a few favorites, such as Kevin Conroy, lending their talents to the game. Personalities of the characters come through in the audio and the intensity of the combat is conveyed in the sound effects.
- Presentation: Slick! From harrowing super moves to fighters engaging in smack talk during clashes to the cutscenes, every last detail feels like it has been painstakingly addressed.
- Fighting mechanic as smooth as silk with plenty of depth
- Story and Multiverse modes deep and engaging
- Each character plays differently
- Visuals are a thing of beauty
- Gear system a nice addition to a fighting game
- Tutorial could be even more gradual
- A few character models don't look as expected