Injustice 2 PS4 Review
There is a belief that the more you work at something the more you become better at doing said work, due to the increase experience and knowledge. This is something NetherRealm Studios has clearly shown since bringing back the rebooted Mortal Kombat. Each game released by the studio builds upon their concept of what a fighting game should be, and their recent title, Injustice 2, is the most flashy and concrete demonstration of what the studio has been building towards. It has taken the issues with Injustice: Gods Among Us and corrected them, along with building on top of their love for single player to create an impressive sequel that is brimming with content, no matter if you are a single player or a multiplayer fan.
Building continuity with the comics and its predecessor, Injustice 2 continues with the idea of a Superman who has lost his morale guidance, stricken by grief due to the death of his wife, Lois Lane, by his hands. This, on top of losing Metropolis to Joker’s trickery, which caused a nuclear explosion to go off as soon as Lois died, sent Superman into cold heartless dictator mode. The man of steel wants criminals punished, eradicated even, and he wants the world protected by his “good” intentions. Batman wants none of this shit, and by the end of the first game Superman was subdued, thanks to Batman and his buddies, and now sits in jail as punishment for his crimes. Five years later, a new threat comes in Injustice 2, with the rise of a group known as the Society, a band made up of a few famous DC villains getting the world ready for the arrival of Brainiac. The story focuses on DC characters being able to work together after the rift between once Justice League comrades that occurred due to Superman’s heel turn.
When it comes to fighting games and their stories, it’s a feature that isn’t exactly known for being competent. Currently there is no other development studio focused on fighting games that produces a story mode quite like NetherRealm does. This is thanks to the time the team spends on making it a key feature, rather than thrown together for a tick on the box. It’s fantastic seeing all your favourite DC characters in wonderfully produced cutscenes across its length of five hours. This is visually the most beautiful looking NetherRealm game, and all the complaints with facial modelling and animation have been put to rest in Injustice 2 – it now features some of the best in any fighting game. Just spend a few minutes with Harley Quinn to see a full demonstration of the work gone into Injustice 2 to fix the wrongs of the laughable faces of the original.
The campaign, while having some dumb moments, comes together as an entertaining piece of work that impressively puts all these characters into a plot and succeeds in letting the major stars have their screen time to shine. I do wish some of the other characters were more important to the story and could shine just as well, but I understand how hard it is to fit Swamp Thing into a flying skull ship – they could have at least let us play the bad guys in some of the scenes, though. Injustice 2 brings visuals and fantastic voice performances that make the heroes and villains amusing to watch in the story as much fun as they are to play. The only issue I have is that not everyone gets to be playable in the story, meaning that it has some shortcomings in being a gateway for players to sample each character in the game before jumping deeper into the ones they like the feel and look of after playing them. Apart from that, you’re going to experience one of the best implementations of story content in a fighting game, and it is one that takes the huge source material and uses it with confidence.
This time around the character list gets a revamp, with some absent to allow for other heroes to come in and bring their abilities to the series. Absentees include the likes of Batgirl, Doomsday, Raven, Shazam and Zatanna. Shockingly, only twelve characters make the return, but it’s the obvious ones – Batman, Superman, Green Arrow, Flash – so if your main was one of the big driving guns of the DC universe, then it’s safe to say they are still here. The newcomers are an exciting bunch, with a lot of them probably joining due to the popularity of the recent DC TV shows that feature characters like Captain Cold, Firestorm, Deadshot, Black Canary, Gorilla Grodd and Supergirl. It’s a more varied cast than the first game, and it includes superheroes that let NetherRealm experiment with bringing different play styles into its fighting mechanics.
Be it Mortal Kombat or Injustice, NetherRealm seem to be able to create a fighting system that lets casual people who want to fight able to have a lot of fun, even if it’s just upper-cutting and pressing a few buttons to link some simple combo chains. Injustice 2 employs a three strength system of light, medium and heavy attacks, with combination presses or shortcut triggers used to perform grabs or stage interactive elements (throwing a alligator, running up the wall to escape a corner or smashing a car on someone are some examples). Block is done by holding back (like Street Fighter and not like Mortal Kombat‘s block button) and special moves can be performed with directional inputs and a button press. Each character has a fourth button that is a character specific ability. For example, Supergirl will shoot lasers from her eyes, and holding down the button with R2 will allow her to discharge all her character specific metre for a longer eye laser that pushes characters away as she walks forward. Others include Black Canary’s cry, Aquaman’s improved hit reaction (extendable combos) and Cyborg’s drone summon.
There is a respectable tutorial included that goes into more detail about the mechanics for anyone who wants to learn the game and go beyond abusing the powerful super moves, or clash mechanic that allows the gamble of super metre in exchange to overcome the foe to gain health or deal damage, depending if you initiated the clash or not. You’ll learn more key concepts, such as buffing special moves (think two button EX moves in Street Fighter) where the attack can be used by pressing an additional button after the special move input to drain a quarter of the super metre to deal more damage. In terms of supers, some remain brilliantly executed, especially ones that go to the extreme and define the name super – seeing Supergirl take someone into orbit, fly around the sun and then eye laser them back down to Earth with a bundle of meteors looks awesome, but then you get duds, like Bane, who does some lame exaggerated DDT.
Combat comes across as the best executed by the studio. It’s faster than the previous game, and the animations, while still having those NetherRealm quirks, is slightly improved over their previous fighting games. Like with any fighting game, the fundamentals matter in being good, Injustice 2 still requires good players to known when to poke, bait, manage metre, and be in the right position, but there are less quirky mechanics implemented that I feel people will find it easier to step up from being an novice to an intermediate and can have a blast in the game’s online mode. This time around, going online is a smoother experience, with net code being solid from the get go – lag was not an issue for 90% of my fights, and when it was, it wasn’t awfully unplayable. There’s the typical ranked and unranked matches for standard play, while King of the Hill is great for people to show off how long they can keep winning before being dethroned.
And if you aren’t a person who goes online much, then there is a bulk of single player content within the Multiverse that will offer many hours of enjoyment. The Multiverse is an evolved form of the Live Towers from Mortal Kombat X, which offers constantly changing timed challenges to test your might against various combatants and mods. These could be standard battles, but things become hectic when the game throws in modifiers that change up the flow of a fight. I’ve seen icicles rain down from the skies that instantly freeze characters in place, robot drones that shoot lasers, assist summons, disabled jumps – there is a ton of variety added here, and I often found myself jumping on for an hour to simply see what the next challenges were. Plus, the Multiverse is a great place to gain gear, experience for characters and loot boxes, the last major new addition to Injustice 2.
Rather than go with alternative costumes, although there are premium skins that change the character into someone else entirely while keeping the same moves, e.g. Reverse Flash for The Flash, gear can be acquired that will replace parts of the standard costume – head, torso, arms, legs and character weapon. These can be mixed to create the costume you want to show off to everyone else. Gear has another element on top of the cosmetics. Each gear has a level and can modify character stats to give additional health, improve defence and strength, and power-up special attacks. While there are many duplicate looking pieces of gear, there seems to be a ton of them when it comes to their statistics, as they cover the whole character level range of 1 – 20 (characters cannot equip gear higher than their level), and if you don’t like the look of a more powerful gear piece, you can transmogrify it into a presentable gear piece while keeping its stats, making everyone a happy bunny.
The Multiverse is the place where gear becomes important to use, as some challenges recommend character levels, but that doesn’t mean you have to abide by it. If you are masochist, you can try beat a level 20 Batman with a level 2 Black Canary if you so wish, but unless you want to rage, I would advise not to try such a painful experience. Beating the Multiverse challenges will unlock gear, coins and even loot chests. Yep, of course there was going to be some sort of microtransactions implemented in the game when there are loot chests involved, but Injustice 2 keeps on dropping so much gear that I never felt the urge to ever buy any. Not only do you get chests from levels and the Multiverse challenges, but joining a guild and having the people in there perform the daily guild tasks and generally just play the game will keep the loot chests incoming. I didn’t log into Injustice 2 for about 4 days and I was met with 11 loot boxes to open up, thanks to my active guild members.
Gear scratches the obsessive compulsive disorder to keep hoarding new stuff. There is something about gaining a new piece and seeing it transform a character into something a bit different, be it colour, clothing or skills. NetherRealm has done gear right here, as it could have broken the game, due to the more you play, the more powerful your character will be, but online modes can be filtered so that you can either play with gear on or off. The more professional route, Ranked, always has it turned off to make the fights fair. Disabled gear means that only their stats are disabled, your fighter will still look as dumb or as cool as you have built them to be.
Injustice 2 is a bigger, better, more beautiful follow up to Gods Among Us that improves on the irks of the first game to make it a polished fighter. No matter if your enjoyment falls into single player or multiplayer, there is so much high quality content, from the big budget flair of the story mode, the impressive presentation, the Multiverse’s changing challenges, and the solid online code built in Injustice 2 that it can supply many hours, days and weeks of brutal entertainment, no matter the skill level of the player. I feel confident in saying that Injustice 2 is the best work NetherRealm Studios has ever done, and in that, making it an excellent fighting game for fans of the genre or lovers of superheroes.