If you ever wondered what a fighting game would look like if it had the budget of a major AAA franchise and licensing from one of the biggest comic book companies in the world then Injustice 2 is that game. Combining top notch production values with tight gameplay and an addictive Gear system, developer NetherRealm Studios may have crafted their best effort yet.
Right off the bat you’ll notice how amazing Injustice 2 looks. This is a graphics showcase if I’ve ever seen one. Character models feature an insane amount of little details that bring them to life. From the emotive facial animations to characters’ attire flowing in the wind, I was taken back by how good this game looks at every turn. I remember feeling this way back when Mortal Kombat X was first released in 2015 so to see NRS take things even further in this department makes we wonder what they can possibly do to top themselves again.
While kicking and punching as one of 28 DC heroes and villains, you’ll find Injustice 2 feels familiar, but with a few new additions that add some extra tools for each character. Like the previous entry, Injustice operates as a 3 button fighter with light, medium and heavy attacks with the 4 button acting as a character power. Each character gets a different power and learning to use them adds some nice variety. New gameplay additions include an air escape that lets you get out of combos at the cost of Super Meter. It acts like a combo breaker from Killer Instinct and like KI, if you use it incorrectly then your opponent can punish you for it. Another new mechanic is a roll cancel which allows you to safely pass through projectiles if your opponent is attempting to beat you using solely range attacks. It also costs meter so with this, the air escape, the returning Clash and generally extending combos I found micromanaging Super Meter to be an interesting meta game.
One of the biggest worries players had going into Injustice 2 was the Gear System. Adding an RPG element which allows us to customize the characters with brand new looks while also making them stronger or adding more defense or health meant the possibility of completely breaking the game. And in some cases it does. Fighting a fully Geared character that is level 20 (max level) with a level 1 character and the basic Gear they come with proves to be a challenge that you aren’t supposed to win. It’s possible but takes a ton of work and a lot of trial and error. Thankfully NRS took some precautions in making sure it’s not completely out of hand.
In Players matches both players need to agree to turn Gear augments off so things remain fair. This makes both characters max level and you only bring the aesthetic looks of your Gear, so collecting them isn’t completely lost. This mode is turned off by default in Ranked matches so that’s where all the serous players gather. Unfortunately in King of the Hill both players need to agree to turn off Gear after EVERY SINGLE MATCH. It can be pretty annoying when you just want to jump in and people aren’t the same levels. And while I’m on the online portion of the game let me say that the netcode of Injustice 2 is superb. No longer are you fighting lag along with your opponent. A good connection is rewarded with great netplay.
Now while online is where a large chunk of the player base will spend their time, this isn’t to say the rest of Injustice 2 is lacking. NRS brings along probably the most cinematic Story mode yet that once again raises the bar on what we want from fighting games. Showing off those gorgeous visuals, the Story has some great looking cut scenes that transition seamlessly into gameplay. Taking place a few years after the first Injustice, Batman and Superman learn that Brainiac has targeted their Earth for assimilation so an uneasy alliance is formed. The story only took me about 5 hours to complete including the alternate ending but it was definitely enjoyable from beginning to end. It’s obvious that the writers are big DC fans and enjoy doing this stuff too. Injustice 2 is full of references and in-jokes from DC lore, and the game oozes personality when characters interact with each other.
After Story mode is done there is still things like Practice, 1v1 Versus an AI or the AI Battle Simulator lets you customize AI controlled characters to battle other AI teams in a simulation. The big single player winner here though is the Multiverse mode. This is absolutely the best addition to Injustice 2 in my opinion. In what is a blown up version of the Living Towers from MK X, the Multiverse offers a near endless supply of varied battles to fight through as events change daily. Some change in a few days while others every few hours. It is here where the Gear system truly shines as you face AI with all different kinds of Gear at different levels. How you set up your Gear also matters as some of the harder challenges might call for different Gear with different stats. The Multiverse is where you’ll want to level up your character and grind for Gear and the things they drop in Mother Boxes, which act like an Overwatch loot box. And also located in the Multiverse is the Arcade mode where you can view specific character endings after clearing a set number of opponents.
Now I’m happy to report that you CANNOT buy Mother Boxes with real world money. Only the in game currency called credits. You also earn Guild credits while in an online Guild as well as Regen Token which help you alter existing Gear. All of this can’t be bought. The only currency you can buy with money is Source Crystals and these are used for purchasing purely cosmetic items like shaders which change a character’s colors. They can also be used to buy the premiere skins like the Power Girl outfit for Supergirl or the Reverse Flash for Flash with each adding different lines of dialogue. And you can also use the Source Crystals to instantly level up a character to max level after you’ve reached 20 once with one of them. So while it sucks this is there, I don’t believe you ever need to spend money on them. I have always felt rewarded in that either Gear or credits is coming my way. Everything can be earned in game if you’re willing to play. Well… except Darkseid if you didn’t pre-order.
The DLC situation is no doubt the biggest hurdle to overcome in Injustice 2. NRS made a bold and possibly stupid move to announce that 9 characters were coming over the course of the game prior to release. This is great for the games’ longevity and means we have a lot of new fighters to mess with over the coming months. But it also means these could have been left out to be sold later. Both sides have valid points. NRS revealed the first 3 and silhouette teases for the other 6 so we have a decent idea who is coming. It’s an extra $40 if you want the remaining 9 fighters at a discounted price or $6 each based on the Darkseid pricing. It’s a lot to invest and it’s understandable if you wish to purchase Injustice 2 after all of the characters are available. However, all of those DLC characters don’t mean the rest of the game is lacking.
Also available on: PS4