Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Injustice 2 is the sequel to NetherRealm Studios’ all DC-based fast fighting game Injustice: Gods Among us from 2013. Gods Among Us received solid praise and reviews, while selling over 3 million copies. Now the sequel is upon here, yet the gods are no longer among us, or so it would appear. Is this need for concern?
I will go ahead and say this takes place solely on the Earth where Superman went rogue, the more mainstream Earth-One, Earth Prime or whatever you want to call it plays no factor in this story. Injustice 2 picks up right after Injustice: Gods Among Us with Superman locked up and characters like Shazam for example still in the grave. Bruce Wayne is dealing with the aftermath of this conflict as he now has Brother Eye to keep an eye out on the world, with a newly reformed Harley Quinn behind the controls. He has to rely on other heroes to protect the world while he stays behind monitoring Brother Eye and running his company. Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd has formed the Society with numerous DC villains like Captain Cold, Poison Ivy and Deadshot for example. Dr. Fate is having issues as the helmet is taking over Kent Nelson and finally Brainiac is coming to Earth to… collect. We introduce Supergirl in this story that has a prior history with Brainiac and knows what is in store. Superman argues he must be set free in order to fight Brainiac and save the Earth. Batman is not trustworthy of Superman though, and probably for good reason. The story deals with fear, acceptance, regret, revenge and trust. Honestly though, I wish Supergirl had a little more time and better closure within the final act, especially in regards to our villain. I’m starting to feel this may be the norm. Personally, I do not mind the dark stories, since people were put off by that in the first game basically being heroes against heroes. It seems this game still builds off that, as it should since the events from the previous cannot simply be pushed under the rug and adjusted to overnight. However, something a bit more hopeful and uplifting would not have hurt in the final story. I have heard some people argue the game is better than recent DC films. I would argue against this right away, given the story is fine but narrative wise it is far from stellar since the game is arranged with cut-scenes of people talking, sometimes leading to bickering or fighting, then you take control of the character(s) and play the game, rinse and repeat.
Gameplay wise the game has remained relatively the same and intact from the previous installment. You have several characters to choose from, which all have specific character traits like Superman’s attack increase for example or Atrocitus’ use of Dex-Starr. In addition are their super moves and the clash system in hopes to break out of a combo and regain some life. NetherRealm did add a few new mechanics to the system such as a Roll Escape, Air Escape and Delayed Get-Up. Roll Escape being useful for added mobility, helping get around projectiles and maneuvering out of sticky situations. The Air Escape allows you to get out of juggles, yet both of these new tactics require super meter. Whereas the Delayed get-Up just keeps your character on the ground longer after a knockdown to just throw your opponent off their game. There have been tweaks here and there, for example the stage transitions remain, but seem to be cut shorter. This is probably due to people complaining about their overall length, since it’s the equivalent of placing a cut scene in the middle of your match, plus after a few times the novelty wears off. Stage Interactions are no longer unblockable save for a select few like heavy objects like a car per se. Finally, a few original characters have had some minor changes such as new trait, new super move or new attack strings but overall you can do most of the same stuff before and bring all prior knowledge with you from the first game.
Yet, the new addition that does not make this game just some new expansion is the gear system. With the gear system you level up your characters through the game, rather it be on-line or offline and acquiring new gear. This gear consists of heads, arms, legs, torso and more. Each item has an added bonus in regards to Attack, Defense, Ability or Health. In addition, some might come with an extra perk like a experience multiplier, granted some of these perks cannot be used in all modes of the game. One other note is each piece of gear requires a certain level of your character. Gear can be acquired by unlocking Mother Boxes you either collect or purchase. Another reason behind the gear is to visually customize your character. I was not sure about this at first because what if I have a piece of gear for I character I really like but find a better one but not matching to my aesthetic taste? No worry, you can transform gear as well as the cost in-game money.
Another new installment in this game is the Multiverse mode where you battle through various challenges with their own string of opponents, some opponents offer bonus challenges as well. Some battles will offer different goals, handicaps and stipulations, for example, one is no use of special moves. You gain access to more matches the more you play each individual verse as each one has roughly three within them. You can even replay each verse to obtain all and any possible rewards like Mother Boxes and more. However, the kicker is each verse is on a timer, as the Multiverse is constantly updating. Plus, each verse has their own difficulty, anywhere from 1 to 4. Multiverse is a great mode for people looking for challenges and wanting to always upgrade their characters, level up and acquire more gear, as this mode will be the biggest pay-off.
On-line mode has not changed much, except for the addition of guilds. Here, you can build a guild up of to 50 players to cooperate within the daily and weekly challenges and objectives and share in their respective gear. Now, if you’re one of those highly competitive players and are concerned about the gear system tilting competition away from skill and towards bonuses and perks, do not worry as that can be turned off. Then gear only serves as cosmetic differences. I will say that the netcode is a huge improvement over the previous title. Injustice: Gods Among Us was always in constant state of lag it felt, as if you were playing underwater. You almost had to adapt and play, plan and strategize differently then off-line.
Graphically the game is terrific. The previous game is four years old and from the last-gen and is already slowly showing its age. Injustice 2 has vividly realistic but stylish character models. I was amazed when I first saw Black Canary, as she did not appear as some generic, blonde with plastic like qualities and little to no expression. Everyone is completely individualistic with great lighting and effects. I cannot deny I am not fond of the character designs, as this dates back to the first game with this crazy quasi-90’s, battle tech, armor appeal. I can buy this for someone like Batman maybe, but Supergirl, The Flash, really? This especially plays in with the gear as well, where no one piece has blown me away yet.
Audio and sound wise the game still has the great voice cast of Justice League like Kevin Conroy (Batman), George Newbern (Superman) & Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman) along with some great new talent such as Robert Englund, known best as Freddy Krueger or you may recognize him as Felix Faust from Justice League. Englund goes on to voice Scarecrow. Then we have Jeffery Combs, the Re-Animator voicing Brainiac, who you may know as Scarecrow from The New Batman Animated Series and The Question from Justice League Unlimited. The overall music volume, especially background volume is better this time, however, these games still continue to dish out rather unforgettable music. Not to say it’s bad but it leaves no lasting impression.
A few other nitpicks include the awkward placing of a traditional arcade mode. It’s in the Multiverse mode under Battle Simulator, which is odd since I had to turn to people on-line to find this. One problem in Injustice: Gods Among Us was projectile based characters. These characters were rather used and abused with quick, easy projectiles attacks to spam requiring no risk on the attacker’s behalf. There have been some minor fixes to this, for one the knock back on projectile attacks has been scaled, instead of practically full-screen before. There is also the Roll Escape now which can be used, but still isn’t the best method to be honest. Indeed there is fun in all of this customization but I miss being able to just pick through my different pre-set alternate outfits for my character(s).
Overall the game looks great and plays great, definitely an improvement over the first without feeling like just some upgraded game. We have better net code, a more challenging boss, new mechanics and a new game mode to keep you busy for hours. Thus, plenty of replay value here.
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