Mortal Kombat Konnoisseurs NetherRealm are back with a second installment of Injustice; the fighter that pits the cream of DC Comics’ superheroes and villains against each other. This time there’s a real effort to offer a feature complete package from the off, but will that be enough for Batman and co to take the fighting game crown?
Complete Injustice 2 roster
Injustice: Gods Amongst Us was another feather in the cap of good licensed DC Comics games after the rise of the Arkham series. We got not only a highly competent fighter featuring the likes of Batman, Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Joker and more duking it out across realities, but also a really good single player story mode. This time there’s more effort put into making the rest of the game worthwhile, with new additions to the solid core being utilized for long-term rewards.
The fighting remains pretty much the same, with existing roster members getting a tweak to movesets, and all new specials. The same two bar health system is present as well, as is the contextual scenery assists and transitions that made up much of the original Injustice’s novelty factor. It’s all a little more refined of course, but there wasn’t much need to ‘fix’ Injustice’s gameplay to begin with so it’s no big deal to get more of the same. It’s what surrounds it that truly improves Injustice’s sequel.
The biggest overhaul in Injustice 2 comes in the RPG-lite element. Before it was a mere xp bar to show how good you were, now there’s precious loot to be earned, and stat boosts to acquire from levelling up individual characters. You can earn new gear for your favorite characters, giving them an aesthetic change as well as improving things such as strength, health, speed, and more. Naturally (sadly) there’s an abundance of loot boxes to accommodate the gear system, and while yes, you can earn it via play, it is very much skewed towards encouraging you to open your wallet. There’s at least a decent amount given to you through regular play, but the random nature of what you get, meaning you aren’t even certain to get gear for your favourite characters that consistently, creates a potluck situation designed to tempt a certain crowd out of a bit of cash for a few extra tries. It’s an unfortunate blemish on what is otherwise a welcome addition.
There’s a new mode for your enjoyment though, that makes that ranking up and loot-hunting a bit more meaningful. The Multiverse gives you an ever-changing set of challenges for all skill levels. You general run a gauntlet of 3 plus opponents with some sort of modifier applied to the fights such as lower gravity, attacks that cause electric shock, depleted health bars and so on. It’s a great way of keeping the already familiar fighting fresh, and giving players a genuine challenge away from online play.
Ah yes, online play remains largely the same as before. Impressively solid from the get go, but the gear system adds the only real new wrinkle to the formula, offering both the challenge of facing customised versions of the roster, and frustration at the gap between those who are time-saturated/willing to pay for more loot boxes and anyone else. Of course, if you’re in the crowd that want more than the odd fight online now and again then there’s so much more depth to it this time, but otherwise it’s a bit intimidating.
Injustice 2’s story picks up a while after the events of Injustice: Gods Amongst Us, with Superman held captive for his reign of terror, and the rest of his Regime either reformed characters or in hiding from Batman and his group.Just when it appears things are returning to something close to normal, a group of villains, led by Gorilla Grodd, are trying to spring Supes from prison. This start point unfurls into a war for the future of Earth itself, as the ruthless collector/destroyer Brainiac seeks to strip the planet of useful information before destroying it. As a result, fragile alliances are formed, friendships are broken, and reputations tarnished/redeemed in a branching story mode that spans several pleasing hours. The story in Injustice Gods Amongst Us was a highlight of that game, and it’s no different here. Nearly every fight in this mode feels earned with decent exposition and explanation as to the why and the how of each scuffle. Only in the odd moment do we get the ‘oh well, let’s fight because we disagree mildly’ ridiculousness.
There’s some interesting character development too, mostly away from the likes of the Batman vs Superman bickering. Harley Quinn, despite popularity, was undernourished as a character in the original Injustice, but here, she’s easily the underlying star of the show. Harley here evokes the daffy humour of her comic book counterpart, adding a gleefully glib side to the general straight-shooting style of the plot, and having her on Batman’s side makes for some interesting conversations. That’s enhanced further by having regular Quinn voice actor Tara Strong deliver the lines, in fact it’s a strength of Injustice 2 in general that so many characters are voiced by actors who have previously voiced the characters.
Elsewhere, a focus on Flash’s remorse for siding with Superman is a good thread, Wonder Woman’s cruelly ruthless streak grows from the first game, Gorilla Grodd gets a prominent villain role, Green Arrow and Black Canary get time to develop, with their story thread being connected and teamwork based. (Alan Tudyk voices Green Arrow superbly too), and the introduction of Supergirl as the third perspective in Batman and Superman’s ongoing war of ideals is a smart move.
What this fresh focus tells us is that NetherRealm are clearly wise to which DC characters have gained popularity in mainstream media since Injustice Gods Amongst Us was in development. The television universe of Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow are the biggest influences in terms of roster changes and story prominence, but that hasn’t meant a full shift to more familiar faces for those less involved in comic books beyond television and movies. The likes of the Red Lantern Atrocitious, Blue Beetle, and Doctor Fate fill out an already impressive roster, adding a bit of credence for the more enthusiastic DC Comics readers, and a little bit of fresh variety for the casual fan. It’s accessible whilst still being an enticing prospect for the more devoted fan.
Also proving particularly enticing is the updated visuals. Injustice 2 sees NetherRealm properly let loose from the shackles of the previous console generation for the first time and the results are truly impressive. Injustice 2 is simply a gorgeous looking game. The character detail is ridiculously deep, and the facial animations are from the top shelf. Sure, it gets a little deep into the uncanny valley at times, usually with more dramatic facial expressions, but it’s remarkable how well the subtler tics are handled. In pure technical terms, Injustice 2 is easily the best looking fighter around.
So it’s clear that Injustice 2 is a much-improved sequel with the odd annoying trait. The loot box/gear system is generally a good thing, tied to a cynical businessmodel. The fighting itself, while good, isn’t on the level of the something like Street Fighter V, yet Injustice 2 stuffs so much value into the package that it’s not a major issue. Viewed as a whole, Injustice 2 makes a great case for being the best fighting game on the market.