I remember being surprised when ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ was first revealed. Whilst NetherRealm Studios had toyed around with DC characters in ‘Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe’, I never anticipated that they’d create a game based entirely around the popular crime fighters and the villains they’re protecting the world from.
It proved to be a success though, with the game not only popular with critics but fighting game fans too. Four years on and we finally have a sequel that continues directly on from the last game. There was something about it that worried me though – could Injustice 2 provide the same exciting gameplay as its predecessor, or is the whole formula of super heroes facing off against each other getting tiring now (especially after fan criticism of movies like ‘Batman vs Superman’ and ‘Suicide Squad’)?
I was wrong to be worried. Not only does Injustice 2 deliver everything I hoped it would, it exceeded my expectations in almost every facet of design.
Injustice 2 follows on from the previous game, with Superman from the alternate universe imprisoned for his crimes against humanity and Batman looking to rebuild society in a more justice-driven way. It’s all going relatively smoothly too, with nearly all of the super heroes working together to bring peace and prosperity back to the world. Things take a turn for the worse though when super villain Braniac comes down to Earth to kill the two remaining Kryptonians and destroy the planet in the process.
Much like ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’, Injustice 2 isn’t afraid to throw in plenty of its own ideas and use each character in a unique and unpredictable way. The whole story keeps you in suspense from start to end, and with your favourite heroes acting in uncertain ways you’re really kept intrigued as to how events are going to unfold. Plus, the game shifts its focus around three very different groups that have their own approach to the situation this time around, giving the story a bit more depth and allowing you to see events play out from different perspectives. It’s a gripping tale that’ll last you around four to five hours, though those hours are certainly well spent. NetherRealm studios have established themselves as the masters of storytelling in fighters over the years and the trend continues in Injustice 2.
If you’ve played any NetherRealm Studios fighting release in the past, you’ll be right at home with Injustice 2. It plays just like its predecessor; if you haven’t played that (and I highly recommend you do – it’s awesome) then you can just think of it as ‘Mortal Kombat’ but with DC super heroes. This means you’ve got intense fast-paced combat, with slick moves that can be pulled off through the use of simple button combinations. It results in a fighter that’s easy for just about anyone to pick up and play, but (ignore the cliché) difficult to master. It shouldn’t take too long to string together combinations of attacks with ease though, and with all characters having similar button inputs to pull off special attacks, once you’ve mastered one it’s easy enough to master another.
Alongside the standard fighting mechanics, each character also has their own super move that can be used after fully charging your power meter. These super moves are impressive; not only because they dish out a decent amount of damage upon your foe, but because they look absolutely spectacular too. Take Flash’s super move for example: he uses his ultra speed to take his opponent to Egypt to smash their face against the Great Sphinx, then uses his speed to travel back in time to smash them against a dinosaur, and then takes them forward in time to the present to smash their body against THEMSELVES. It looks ridiculously cool in-game and really utilises each character’s powers in a variety of different ways. Don’t get me wrong, some of the super moves are more impressive than others, though they’re all a treat to witness and add some epic moments to each battle.
All in all though, fighting is just plain fun in Injustice 2. You’ll feel right at home as soon as you start playing the game, regardless of any experience (or lack of) you might have had with fighting games in the past. There’s so much depth to it all that just about any battle can play out completely differently. I was constantly surprised at what the game threw at me, but most importantly constantly impressed. I’d go as far as saying that the game features the best combat mechanics of any fighting game released this generation.
Regardless of how well a fighting game plays, it’s nothing without a strong roster of characters to take control of. With its interesting assemblage of DC heroes and villains though, Injustice 2 has one of the most diverse and impressive selection of fighters I’ve seen in a fighting game for quite some time. You’ve got plenty of characters returning from the last game, with fan favourites such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Flash, Green Lantern, and The Joker bringing their varied fighting skills to the fray once more. There are some newcomers too, including the likes of Gorilla Grodd, Atrocitus, Blue Beetle, Captain Cold, and Scarecrow just to name a few.
Whilst I’ve always been a fan of the DC Universe, I found that Injustice 2 featured a lot of characters that I’d never heard of before. Familiar faces like Batman, Superman, and The Joker are known by just about anyone, but others like Blue Beetle, Cheetah, and Dr Fate were just a few of the characters I’d never even seen before. Now I’ll admit that despite being a fan of it, I wouldn’t say I’m incredibly knowledgeable of the DC Universe. However, seeing some of these combatants being chosen over more popular characters was surprising. It was a pleasant surprise though – whilst I didn’t know much about these characters to begin with, they’ve all left a mark on me after getting to play through the game as them. No character in the game felt under-developed or just there as filler, with each having their spot in the roster that felt relevant and integral to the game.
Each character has their own unique moveset that utilises their abilities or powers in a variety of different ways too. Whilst characters such as Batman depends heavily on his gadgets and hand to hand combat, Superman will instead be using his heat vision or ice breath to take down opponents. Wonder Woman on the other hand will depend upon her lasso, whilst Deadshot has a varied arsenal of ranged weaponry to pick off his opponents with ease. There really is a ton of diversity with each character’s moveset, but it always stays true to the source material. It feels as though the movesets are designed around the character, as opposed to the character limited around a traditional fighting game set of moves – you’ll really feel as though you’re actually playing as your favourite DC super heroes or villains.
Injustice 2 actually features some RPG elements, with each character having their own level and stats that you’re able to increase as you play through the game as them. Whilst it does see them becoming stronger, their level is also important due to the customisation options in the game. Rather than offering different preset costumes, Injustice 2 sees you unlocking a plethora of gear for each character that doesn’t only change their look but also affects their stats and abilities. They come in Mother Boxes, which essentially act like the loot boxes you get in games like ‘Overwatch’ with each one containing random gear. They come in five different varieties (bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond) with the more valuable boxes containing rarer gear. You can’t just use any gear you want though, with some of the more valuable pieces requiring your character to be at a specific level. There are some ways around this, but it does force you to grind through the game at times.
The loot collecting aspect of Injustice 2 adds a whole new way to play the game, giving the player some extra incentive to complete the plethora of single player challenges on offer. Whilst I’ve always enjoyed fighters, I’ve never been that competitive on the online scene. It’s meant that I typically step away from them for awhile once I’ve fully exhausted any single player modes on offer. With Injustice 2 though, I keep coming back for more just to unlock extra Mother Boxes to try and get all that rare loot. It’s incredibly addictive and with the reward often being some ultra-cool piece of gear that’s actually relevant to each character and their history, it’ll keep you coming back for more time and time again.
Injustice 2 has a decent variety of multiplayer options on offer, with local multiplayer, online multiplayer, and tournaments giving you a decent variety of ways to play. I’ve spent a good few hours fighting others online and haven’t seen a single issue with disconnects or lag, with the netcode working splendidly to provide gamers with issue-free battles online. One neat feature in online battles is that the game tells you what your odds of success are ahead of each fight based upon you and your opponent’s ranking. It actually gave me a little encouragement; when the game tells you you’ve got a 10% chance of winning, you really want to defy those odds and beat your opponent down. In my experience though those low winning odds have been quite accurate…
Outside of the single player story mode and online multiplayer, you’ve also got the ‘Multiverse’ that puts you into a string of battles against AI opponents in varying circumstances. These battles often have optional objectives too, giving you an extra challenge that’ll encourage you to change your fighting style. The Multiverse challenges are a lot of fun though and add a whole extra dimension (literally) to the game. They change up daily, and with each Multiverse having its own little storyline to go along with it, there’s a surprising amount of depth to be found. There were some restrictions in place though. Some of the Multiverse challenges required you to have levelled up a specific character or spent a certain amount of coins in-game. Whilst they aren’t necessarily the most difficult of challenges to overcome, they can be pretty time consuming and will stop you from progressing all the way through certain Multiverses. Of course, you get the best rewards when you see a Multiverse through all the way to completion, so being denied access because you haven’t got Batman to level twenty yet could be frustrating. On the flipside, it gives you an extra incentive to work at the game and level up each character, so it depends on how you look at it.
One thing that really surprised me about Injustice 2 was just how stunning the game looks. I revisited ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ on the Playstation 4 ahead of the game’s release, and whilst I appreciate that it’s just a remastered edition of a last gen game, the improvement in visuals between both games is ridiculous. Hell, you’ve only got to look at the visually impressive ‘Mortal Kombat X’ to appreciate how good Injustice 2 really looks. Everything is vastly improved, with character animations slick and fluid, environment designs full of detail and constantly changing as you progress through each battle, and character’s faces… well… they’re something else. Injustice 2 has some of the most impressive facial animations I’ve seen in any video game. It’s almost lifelike, with each word spoken or facial reaction looking like it could’ve come straight from a real person that was right in front of you. When you see all of this striking visual beauty take place in some of the game’s action-packed cinematics, you won’t be able to help but to be in awe of it all.
The audio design is absolutely on point too, with some impressive voice acting on show from start to end. One of the things I really appreciated about Injustice 2 was the way that characters interacted with each other. There are no fixed lines for each character’s intro; instead, they interact directly with their opponent with each character having multiple lines of unique dialogue depending on who they’re facing off against. It added a more personal aspect to each encounter, something which could be especially appreciated when having a hero battle against one of their arch enemies. I was constantly impressed at just how much attention to detail has gone into the game.
After loving ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’ so much, I’d been eagerly anticipating Injustice 2. There was just this little part of me that was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype.
You know what though? It exceeded all of my expectations, in turn providing one of the best fighting experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing in my lifetime of gaming. I’m often guilty of riding high on a video game after I’ve enjoyed it, but everything about Injustice 2 is simply fine-tuned to perfection. The slick and accessible fighting mechanics, the fantastic roster made up of DC super heroes and villains, the addictive customisation options, the multiple game modes that offer something new every day, and the jaw dropping visuals – they all come together to create one of the finest fighting games that has ever been released.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: 19/05/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One