When it comes to the DC Universe I’m not too shy about my dislike of Superman and how boring I find him as a character, but if there is one thing that can always pull me into a story involving Supes it’s when he absolutely snaps and is the antagonist, and thankfully WB Games and Netherealm Studios are back with Injustice 2!
Quick backstory for those of you who may not have played the first Injustice – Joker manages to drug superman into believing he is fighting Doomsday when in fact it’s Lois, by killing Lois (who again he thought was Doomsday at the time) he triggers a Nuke that was tied to Lois’s heartbeat and when it stopped the bomb went off. Having killed his wife and unborn child (She was pregnant at the time) we finally see Superman snap and murder the Joker and begin the implementation of his Regime. Superman is eventually taken down by the Earth Prime counterparts of his Regime and is imprisoned by Insurgency Batman and the rest of his crew and so ends one threat and opens us up to another which is where this game starts off.
Now that we’ve gotten that brief synopsis of Injustice 1 out of the way let’s move into what we’re really here for, Injustice 2! Before I jump into the technical details of the gear system, stats and online let’s talk about the campaign/story mode, now for me ever since Netherealm rebooted the Mortal Kombat series with MK9, they have been the kings of solid storylines within fighting games. Normally the “story” mode is the traditional pick one character, fight through the roster until the final “boss” and then you get an individual comic styled ending specific to that character, and while Injustice 2 does have that (No need to get rid of it if not broken right?) they go above and beyond by crafting an interwoven story that sees the entire roster interacting through large scale events and scenes. Fights transition so smoothly from your characters having dialogue to it switching to the 2D plane for battle.
The wonderful thing about the story aside from asshole superman is that it utilizes its full cast as either controllable characters or as the villains that make up the story battles helping introduce players to a rather sizeable portion of the cast and seeing how they play before going online. The campaign is broken up into 13 chapters with each chapter focusing on 1 or 2 characters, during the chapters involving two characters the player is given a choice before each battle who they want to control (Really cool little feature is that dialogue as well as transition into the fight changes depending on who you select) giving the story a bit of replay value and even adding an alternate ending once you play through as the characters you didn’t select the first time.
The story itself is good, as I said at the beginning I am a fan of anything where Superman is in the wrong so I may be a tad biased but I do feel that with such an amazing roster and some great deep pulls (Swamp Thing! So happy we got him) I felt that a few of the characters were highly underused in the campaign and unfortunately it was all the characters I was really excited to see, two of my biggest disappointments in terms of being utilized poorly are Doctor Fate and Swamp Thing. Fate is basically useless (despite how god damn powerful he is) and Swamp Things part in the story basically amounts to “oops, my bad” All that aside however this is a fighting game, with a story, a well-done story at that! Let that sink in for a second and consider how rare that is.
Now onto one of the most interesting features I‘ve encountered in a fighting game which is the gear and stat system! While For Honor is a “fighting” game with gear and stats it’s not a traditional fighter like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter where this is a completely new feature added to a much-beloved series. Many fighting game veterans may see the gear system initially as something that will give players certain unfair advantages online, purists rejoice however as gear stats are disabled for online ranked play so you don’t need to worry about your opponent having that gear advantage tarnish your W/L stat, Deadshot probably still will but it won’t be because of gear.
Speaking as a huge fighting game fan, I would consider myself a veteran albeit casual in the sense that I will play every day and learn combos and the such but I play for fun, I don’t like to lose haha but I’m pretty indifferent when it comes to leaderboards and rank. Normally as much as I love fighters this becomes a problem since if I am not at my friends playing with them on the weekend and have already finished what little “campaign” other fighters have, the game usually gets shelved. The introduction of the gear system and having each individual fighter have their own level (which increases as they gain XP by you using them) gives me something to work towards and unlock. It could be argued that leveling up to learn additional abilities or finding them in Mother Boxes (more on these later) could have just been added to the base move set and was only done to prolong the life of the game, I, however, see it as a way of making even mirror matches unique. Ryu vs Ryu is always going to be the same, while a Black Canary vs Black Canary match could be vastly different, one may have a command grab slotted while the other may have a sonic grenade slotted to give herself a bit of a zoning tool.
Now gear, abilities, and shaders (alternate colour schemes for your heroes) are all obtained from drops after matches or by opening Mother Boxes which is the DC Universe word for Loot Box (And in DC lore are Apokoliptian sentient super computers) ranging from bronze to platinum. You can purchase bronze through gold mother boxes for an increasing amount of credits 1,000-25,000 respectively per box, bronze tends to give 2-3 items, silver 3-4 and gold 4-5, all mother boxes currently (may be changed in the future) have a chance of dropping abilities, shaders and epic gear. I have had multiple gold boxes only drop common/rare gear whereas I’ve gotten epics from plenty of bronze boxes, so as it is now while the more expensive boxes supposedly have a higher drop rate the chance of dropping 25K credits and getting 6 blues vs spending 5k on 5 bronze boxes and getting 2 epics total is better value for the price.
Moving onto the various game modes because not everyone is like me and can be entertained for hours by playing dress up with superheroes, Netherealm has given us a host of game modes we know and love which have become staples across fighters with online capabilities. You’ve got your traditional ranked matches and rooms where gear stats are disabled for the purists who want to climb the leaderboards and test their mettle against other high-ranking opponents, the Multiverse which is Injustice’s version of Kombat Towers with a few added alterations to the battle such as hyper-speed or fluctuating gravity (These are also explained nicely as Ocean Master messing with the tides or Reverse Flash tampering with the speed force) and finally as I mentioned above Injustice 2 still does keep with the traditional arcade tower, where once finished each character will get their own specific ending similar to all other fighters, it did, however, take me awhile to realize where and what it was (can be found in the Multiverse under Combat AI Simulator)
“Protip: To avoid motion sickness, use an a.i. loadout on any events that alter controls or flip screens.”
Now something very important I feel I need to mention for those of you who play ranked or even just play online a lot. The load times are fantastic, like unbelievably so. I was very impressed that after my friend and I had selected our fighters the time it took to load us into the match itself was almost non-existent compared to other fighters. Combat flowed smoothly and it felt as if there was no input delay from what I was pushing to what was happening on screen, even when I am getting my ass handed to me online I can’t even blame it on lag which is amazing! My biggest complaint which isn’t even really a complaint but more so a suggestion for a quality of life change, and this is something I suggest to all new and veteran players alike is to make it that “input shortcut” and “Release Check” are turned to off (they should be off by default Netherealm! *shakes fist*), while these are supposed to make performing moves much more fluid in theory, it just doesn’t work out that way for most (me included) so if you’re finding yourself struggling with hitting your combos be sure to try turning these off and see if it helps.
So with everything said and done I’ve really got to hand it to Netherealm, they’ve crafted an excellent fighter for both the serious and the casual fan alike, implemented a story that is still better than the live-action DCU films (Love you DC but you gotta step-up in this dept) which is unheard of in the fighting genre, a deep roster with your standard heavy hitters like Batman and Wonder Woman and then deep pulls like Swamp Thing, Doctor Fate and Cheetah (all while well known in the DC Universe are rarely one of the first 5 named if you ask someone to name DC characters). If you grew up with the arcades or just love getting together with your friends on weekends to argue over who could beat who in a fight and enjoy fighters, you can’t go wrong in picking up Injustice 2.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher on a PlayStation 4.