Despite a few minor issues, NetherRealm Studios' new fighting game looks great and plays even better.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
NOTE: Injustice 2 was played on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review Code provided.
As far as fighting games go, the general audience only has three choices: Capcom’s Street Fighter series, Mortal Kombat and Injustice. The latter two come from the same studio and where Mortal Kombat focuses on gore, fatalities and eviscerations, Injustice centers around D.C. characters. 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us was a delightfully surprising new fighting game experience. And after Mortal Kombat X, everyone has been waiting to see how NetherRealm would advance the fighting game genre again. A few tweaks there and a few additions here, and Injustice 2 becomes one of the most approachable fighting games in years, though it does leave the hardcore chomping at the bit…a bit.
NetherRealm Studios’ penchant for singleplayer campaigns continues with a high-level of quality cutscenes interspersed with one-on-one fights. Injustice 2 continues where Injustice 1 left off, with Superman incarcerated for his fascist regime and Batman trying to figure out how to beat the villain of the week, Brainiac. There are so many story highs in Injustice 2. Voice acting and facial animations are stellar and make Bioware’s recent Mass Effect pale in comparison. But the story is painfully predictable. If you have any knowledge of D.C. stories or characters, you know exactly what is happening and who will align with who in the constant struggle of Batman v. Superman. The game offers choices in who you play as but, based on the events depicted in both Injustice games, it’s pretty clear who is right and who is wrong.
There are a few occasional shockers, but it seems that the writers were more interested in the bigger picture and neglected the small stuff. For example, one of the most beloved D.C. characters gets nearly fatally stabbed and someone cauterizes the wound and gets them to safety. As soon as we’re off to the next chapter, it gets dropped immediately -- no one says anything. Even Batman, who was close to the “stabbee,” says nothing on the matter. There’s cold and then there’s blissfully ignorant. It’s also a complete waste that Darkseid, the Thanos of the D.C. universe, makes an appearance as a playable character (pre-order bonus for some, $5.99 USD for everyone else) -- he was not used at all in the main story, not even as a post-credits teaser of things to come. A power-hungry, corrupt Superman doesn’t join forces with a fascist Darkseid after beating Brainiac? For shame, NetherRealm. For shame.
Once you complete the 12-chapter story mode, the player is left with a host of different options. The Multiverse is the biggest draw to casual and hardcore fighting game players. Much like Mortal Kombat X’s Arcade Mode/Tower Mode, you fight a sequence of A.I. controlled enemies but with each multiverse, there are different modifiers for each one that can either act in your favor or not. You are given allies such as Raven, Flash or Atrocitus to help you in combat or there’ll be Penguins that will hobble onto the map and fire rockets at you at the worst times. And each multiverse is divided up by difficulty level so you can choose the easier multiverse stages for practice or go for the harder ones for better loot – more on that later. The Multiverse stages are all timed at either a couple of hours or a couple of days so there’s incentive to check in every so often and play Injustice 2.
Along with the Multiverse, you have the same practice, 1v1 fights against A.I. and tutorial modes for players who are new to the fighting game genre. Multiplayer consists of local and online combat. Players have a wide selection of different combatants along with the usual suspects like Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, Gorilla Grodd, Cheetah, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, etc., have all been included and each one has powers and abilities that are different enough from each other that there aren’t any repeats. More characters such as Red Hood, Starfire and Sub-Zero have already been announced for the future and there will be more characters on the way if the studio’s history is any indication.
Online modes are a tad disappointing with only 1v1 fights and a King of the Hill mode being the only offerings with no 2v2, 3v3, or modifiers in sight. The connection for my review session ranged from good to bad, but at least you can see what their internet connection is before you accept to fight them. Each fight, single or online, is recorded so you can go back, watch and learn from your mistakes. Certain characters will become obvious favorites and have been dissected at this point but it’s difficult to know which characters are OP (Overpowered) or not and which ones need balance tweaks in the first month of release.
No matter what you do in Injustice 2, you will always be gaining gear and this is, by far, the glue that holds the entire game together. Gear affects your individual character’s stats and appearance. As you grow in individual levels, your gear and stats will get better. And when you take your Batman into the multiverse or online, there won’t be two Batmen that look the same. The gear system also encourages you to try different characters and raise their levels too so you won’t just pick favorites. The gear ranges from repeats to dramatic differences for the various D.C. characters and it’s all governed on an RNG (Random Number Generator) system much like Overwatch or Destiny. It’s addictive to the point of obsession but at least you can purchase them with in-game currency.
Gear tends to stack but there are two ways it can be re-appropriated. One lets you re-roll the same gear for better stats but it stays at the same level. A basic white won’t magically turn into a Blue Rare or Epic Gold. The other alternative is to change the appearance of gear that you don’t like with stats that you do but this is done with a rare commodity known as source crystals. These are given out at rare intervals in-game and is effectively Warner Bros.’ attempt to gouge players for micro-transactions. It’s not as blatant or disgusting as the “buying fatalities” or “buying the Krypt” systems from MKX but it’s still not ideal.
Despite these and other minor issues, Injustice 2 looks great and plays even better. Each character is faithfully re-created and does the D.C. Comics legacy proud. If you have any love for fighting games or D.C., Injustice 2 is an easy recommendation for the casual players. If you’re a hardcore fighter, there’s enough depth that you can sink your teeth into. Just don’t come in expecting a diverse array of modes.