INJUSTICE 2 Review
Following my previous hands-on with INJUSTICE 2’s beta, I was eager to jump into the final game, try some of the new characters and playstyles, and see if NetherRealm could really nail the perfect superhero fighting game. Much of what I said back in that preview holds true, with many of the returning characters utilizing familiar movesets from the original game, with the new arrivals offering bold new play styles. The controls and general flow of combat are unchanged, but the best aspect of INJUSTICE 2 is that it might just be the most robust fighting game in recent memory.
While the beta allowed access to INJUSTICE 2’s competitive online multiplayer, it was not until the game’s launch that the singleplayer portion of the game became available, of which there are many. The main story picks up not too long after the results of the first game, in which a tyrannical Superman from another dimension has been imprisoned by Batman while his allies try and put their world back together. This is a game about superheroes beating each other to a pulp, so it doesn’t take long for a new threat to the world to arise in the form of Gorilla Grodd. The DC D-lister amasses a team of villains under the banner of “The Society” (real creative) to bring his own order over the destructive humans. The situation only worsens when the alien mastermind Brainiac invades, declaring war on the world in the name of attaining all of the knowledge of the universe.
My educational experience had far less rooftop brawls with caped men in tights, but that’s just me
The campaign has no shortage of apocalyptic set pieces, but shrewdly focuses more so on the relationships between the various heroes and villains of the DC Universe and their take on “true justice.” Should Batman turn to the evil Superman for aid when he proves unable to stop the advancing Brainiac? Better yet, can he even trust Superman to not make the situation worse? Many of the characters from the first game have gone through changes. For example, Green Lantern, who had sided with Superman in the first INJUSTICE, is on a quest for redemption in the sequel, trying to earn back the right to his Lantern ring. Over the course of the story you’ll play as a bulk of the main cast as their paths collide with each other, and though some of the fights feel forced (brainwashed heroes and such) it is never too distracting. The is the plot to a fighting game, but it’s also set in the most fanservice-y of DC universes. INJUSTICE 2 is less DAWN OF JUSTICE and more of one of those silly bottle episodes where the most unlikely of relationships are formed, and it serves admirably for that brand of guilty pleasure.
In addition to the campaign and arcade modes, INJUSTICE 2 offers the new Multiverse Mode for near infinite hours of singleplayer content. These constantly refreshing battles are tied to different planets in the multiverse and cycle every few hours or days. They each offer specific objectives, tasks that require completion and also some fun nuances. The Multiverse is comparable to the challenge towers seen in Mortal Kombat, but the biggest difference here is the reward you receive for completing objectives: gear.
Atrocitus’s powers include bleeding on people and owning a cat, so if he can get his own DC game, I probably stand a good chance myself
In place of the costumes that are par for the fighting genre, gear allows players to outfit their character with modular sets of armor and accessories to enhance their stats, like health and ability damage. These bonuses can be utilized in Multiverse events as well as in unranked player matches online. (Tournaments are already susceptible to cheating without built-in, unfair advantages, after all.) Gear is a bold move forward for the fighting game genre, as it allows players to make their favorite character with their own fashion sense and playstyle. Does The Flash’s lack of projectiles leave you vulnerable to zoning characters? Outfit him with a ranged bolt of lightning and you’re good to go!
Gear is earned by nearly everything in the game, from campaign to Multiverse, and even online matches. And as you play as characters, you increase their power level and the ability to wear more powerful gear. While I tend to favor the more competitive side of the game, which does not incorporate gear stats or ability modifiers, I couldn’t resist watching my characters evolve as I kept playing them, getting new pieces of headgear or a new shader to change the color of their suit.
These Shaders also come in a Premium variant, practically changing a character into a completely separate one with unique dialogue, voice actor, and ability effects, but maintaining the same moveset. For example, a premium shader exists to transform relative unknown Captain Cold into the classic villain Mr. Freeze, or change The Flash into his ultimate rival, The Reverse Flash. Fighting games are notorious for milking gamers for money with their menagerie of premium costumes, but gear offers an excellent alternative that avoids paywalls and rewards veteran players. I can only hope that NetherRealm continues to produce more and more gear, and even some with ties to specific comic book storylines or even movies. It’s easy to imagine that we could see gear resembling the costumes from The CW’s run of DC shows, as well as older runs from the comics.
On top of the unprecedented levels of content in both gameplay and customization, the presentation itself feels incredibly polished. Graphically, INJUSTICE 2 boasts some of my favorite motion capture and facial animations in the genre, sometimes veering into the uncanny valley. While I’m sure the choice to focus hyperrealism over stylization won’t fly with everyone, the amount of detail is undeniably breathtaking. Even with its stellar visuals, the game runs at a smooth frame rate across all modes and platforms, and each fight is accented with slick cinematics and powerful sound design.
Superman is more of a CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND kind of guy.
There is just so much to love and enjoy about INJUSTICE 2 that finding something to criticize is a struggle. Much of the game’s roster feels balanced while still offering diverse playstyles. Deadshot and Darkseid might be a pain with their powerful projectiles, but NetherRealm has given every character the ability to break combos, roll across the screen with invincibility, and clash, a last minute wager of super meter to regain some much needed health. The matches of INJUSTICE 2 are about utilizing the resources of the Super Meter and knowing each character’s strength and weaknesses to find victory. Given the wealth of alternate strategies at hand, I can never blame the game for any of my losses.
INJUSTICE 2 is a complete package, a dream come true for both comic and fighting fans. With endless single player content, a stylish campaign with multiple endings, a competitive and balanced multiplayer, and a robust system of customization, there is something here for everyone. The fighting game genre as a whole often feels daunting to approach, as online matches are typically punishing and inputs for combos are seemingly impossible. But INJUSTICE 2 feels accessible, ready for new players to try their hand at the genre, and offers a unique spin on the DC Universe with characters that fans have loved for decades. Fans get to create their version of their favorite characters and watch them smash enemies into the pavement.
NetherRealm has announced that nine more fighters are on the way in the form of DLC, and if past games are any indication, the game will continue to receive support in the form of patches and tweaks if balance is ever questioned. I cannot get enough of INJUSTICE 2, and I don’t think I’ll get sick of it anytime soon.
Reviewed on Xbox One, also available on PlayStation 4