I consider myself a pretty big fighting game fan. Although you won’t see me running up 300+ hit combos in Marvel vs. Capcom, I seem to fare better with NetherRealm developed games. Although I started on Street Fighter, I found my true fighting game companion in Mortal Kombat 9. Although it wasn’t love at first sight, I’ve grown to admire NetherRealm’s more tame franchise, Injustice. The sell is easy; who doesn’t want to see a fight between Batman and Superman? The first game was surprisingly good, albeit flawed. Head honcho Ed Boon and team aim to impress with the follow-up, Injustice 2. I won’t lie, it’s a pretty good combo of content.
Planet Earth: Civil War
If there is one developer that showed the most love for story modes in fighting games lately, it’s NetherRealm Studios. Mortal Kombat 9 was impressive at first, but Mortal Kombat X and Injustice proved their ability to craft an interesting story around standard 2D fighting. Injustice 2 is the best so far, and arguably the most impressive fighting game story mode I’ve seen.
Injustice 2‘s story picks up after the original, with the Joker dead at the hands of Superman. Insistent that killing isn’t the answer, Batman has Superman locked up. As various other heroes pick sides, we have our set up. In the background, the villain Brainiac plans an evil plot to take over the Earth. With a small civil war between heroes and a world needing to be saved, will they be able to come together and prove victorious? *yawn*. It’s not the most inspired structure, but thanks to some absolutely incredible facial animations, impressive action, and top notch voice work, the narrative remains interesting. It’s essentially fan service turned up to 11, with constant in-jokes and references to past comics and story lines. The civil war format allows for some interesting match ups, with both sides quite well balanced.
However, the story completely loses track of itself little over halfway through. I’m sure seasoned DC fans will be able to keep up, but for those with just a passing interest, expect to get lost. Characters are introduced without clear motives, heroes change sides multiple times, and there’s even a healthy dose of double agency. After a while, I stopped paying attention to the minutia of the narrative and succumbed to the spectacle. As a container for action, the story mode is excellent. It’s got some really high quality visuals and a decent enough script, even if it’s unoriginal.
The best part of the entire experience is the sense of choice given to the player. For the most part, you’ll play as a specific character from chapter to chapter. Occasionally, you’ll have a choice between two characters. These duo-chapters felt fun and organic, and were enjoyable to replay later. Although there aren’t many, the game contains a couple branching paths. As an incentive to replay story chapters, the choice is excellent. As a way to give the player a hand in shaping the narrative, it’s doubly so.
Catching Super Hands
I think the thing that strikes me first about Injustice 2‘s combat is its accessibility. While there isn’t an “auto combo” button like other fighters, the basic elements of fighting are easy to pick up. Characters are inherently fun to try out, since most of them feel rather different. Learning each character is fun and rewarding, as you learn new strategies and fight in new ways. Becoming truly masterful with a character will require some time in the training room, but even a novice player will find themselves pulling off cool looking combos.
There’s a sort of spectacle to every aspect of Injustice 2‘s combat. Some of it was in the original game, but amped up in the sequel. Executing a simple move nearby certain walls will perform “stage transitions”, in which one character is violently thrown to a new portion of the stage to fight on. The stage itself can be interacted with quite a bit as well, something Mortal Kombat X also did. Injustice 2‘s environment interactions vary from trampolining off pillars to throwing giant alligators. Each new interaction is cool to see and exciting to discover.
This is even more true for the Super Moves. Much like Mortal Kombat‘s “X-Ray” moves, you execute these ultimate attacks by pressing both triggers when your Super meter is full. If the attack is successful, a cinematic will play out, showing your character decimate the other in style. Each character has a personal Super Move, and while some are more imaginative than others, the majority are absolutely excellent. Thanks to a great mix of comic violence and inventive attacks, these Super Moves are some of the best looking of the bunch. This tone is apparent throughout the whole battle system, making the entirety of combat a visual treat.
There’s Always a Lighthouse
Ever heard of the Multiverse theory? If you haven’t, well… look it up. Injustice 2 uses the DC Multiverse theme as the forefront for its post game content. If you’re not entirely interested in online multiplayer, Multiverse mode is your saving grace. For some like me who enjoys both competitive online multiplayer and unique single player content, I couldn’t be more impressed.
Multiverse mode presents you with a handful of ever changing planets. Each planet is in a different universe, where truly every variance is represented. These planets are only accessible for a varying amount of time, some a couple days, others a couple hours. Each planet has several fight ladders to go against, with a small narrative to back it up. For example, one challenge found me paired up with Blue Beetle whom I could call on mid-fight for assistance (a feature not normally in the game). By using feature modifiers and rewarding the player with ample loot, Multiverse mode is an ever-evolving cycle of challenges to attempt. The stories told within the Multiverse aren’t exceptionally deep, but each one does feel personalized. With hundreds (and possibly thousands) of different planets, it’s easy to see investing a lot of time into Multiverse mode.
The biggest thing that Injustice 2 does to ensure replayability is the loot system. As I played the story mode, I found myself unlocking various pieces of armor and such, but didn’t pay much mind. It wasn’t until I dived into Multiverse mode that I saw the true genius in it. As you complete challenges, story chapters, and various Multiverse planets and objectives, you’ll unlock credits and gear. There are several categories of gear, AAaeach specific to the character. These pieces of gear have unique aesthetic qualities, as well as stat boosts. Don’t worry, stats bonuses don’t affect online ranked play, but do affect Multiverse. Gear has a variety of rarity, from the standard common to the shiny gold rares. Gear also has level requirements, with each character having an individual experience bar that increases as you play as them.
Most gear is acquired through loot boxes, but loot boxes are constantly given to the player for completing challenges. You can use your credits to buy additional loot boxes (which also have their own degree of rarity), along with selling any unwanted gear to gain credits back. Gear stats can be re-rolled using “regeneration tokens”, and the stats can also be transferred to a different looking gear piece. It all sounds complex and confusing, but is rather easy to pick up in practice. The end result is a customized version of your favorite hero, boosted up with passive bonuses and extra strength. NetherRealm was smart for using the loot box as a container for gear, as this is usually something contained to premium currency. The act of opening a new loot box every few fights feels very rewarding, and I was constantly excited to see what I had received.
I didn’t spent a ton of time in the online arenas of Injustice 2, but the essentials are there. I found myself so impressed with the single player content that I didn’t feel a need to rush to multiplayer. Thankfully I found little issue with the online multiplayer. I encountered a tiny bit of lag every now and again, but none more than expected. Matchmaking is decently quick, so you’ll never find yourself staring at a search for too long.
There isn’t a huge variety of modes, but you’ll find your standard fare here. There’s ranked and unranked searches, along with an unranked King of the Hill mode. Leaderboards can be found for each, and there’s some nice customization in your calling card (similar to Call of Duty‘s emblem and background tiles). NetherRealm games always have a dedicated community, so regardless of ability or experience, you’ll be able to find a reasonable opponent quickly.
For those who like an extra dash of social, you can join or create a guild. Being a member of a guild gives you add benefits, usually in the form of extra loot crates. As you and other guild members complete multiverse challenges and other content, you’ll be rewarded with guild currency. This currency can also be used to buy loot crates, and is a good reward to group together. Solo players won’t be at a huge disadvantage, but I recommend joining up with a guild just for the free goodies.
The Bottom Line on Injustice 2
Fighting games rarely impress me. As a fan of single player content, most fighters are disappointing. Few games are able to wrap me up in their mechanics enough to warrant serious competitive play, and the aforementioned lack of content fails to bring me back for more. Then there’s Injustice 2. Constantly rewarding, endlessly varied, and a hell of a spectacle, Injustice 2 is more than I could’ve hoped for.
Although I’m not a huge DC fan, I can tell a lot of passion and love went into making sure everything looked and felt perfect (with the exception of The Joker, perhaps). Injustice 2 feels like an experience crafted especially for fans of the superhero genre (regardless of Marvel vs DC preference), and a love letter to solo fighting game fans. A frequent visual stutter in the cinematics of the story mode are a major flaw, but can be overlooked due to the excellent quality. I’m not kidding when I say the facial animations are amazing; they’re possibly the best I’ve seen since L.A. Noire and Uncharted 4.
If you like fighting games, you should give Injustice 2 a go. If you like DC, you should probably just buy it outright. Injustice 2 is a fantastic time, accessible to all levels of skill, and a constant loop of reward and progression. It sets a new bar for story modes, a new bar for single player content, and still manages to contain a solid online offering. While you finish reading this, I’m probably busy leveling up my Blue Beetle to maximum level. Once that’s done, I’ll move onto the next character, and then the next. I don’t foresee myself setting down Injustice 2 in the near future; that means you should probably pick it up.
Note: This game was played on an Xbox One.