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Injustice 2 Review – Gods Return to Us (PS4)

Time flies when you’re having fun, and yet it’s hard to believe that it’s been over four years since we saw the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us. NetherRealm has been very busy during the intervening time, and they have crafted a sequel to the solid original. Time to see if Injustice 2 can live up to the high standards set by the first game.

Unreal Looks

Injustice 2 looks phenomenal. It’s very hard to believe that this is the Unreal Engine 3. Yet when you think about it, an engine as mature as this is perfect for a fighting game. It runs at a locked 60 frames-per-second, which is crucial in any game that has you checking on the number of frames you have to cancel or counter a move. Cutscenes appear to have some sort of filter or post-processing applied, which makes for a slight downgrade to character models when transitioning into a fight. The effect is subtle, however, and isn’t cause for alarm. Injustice 2 is still leagues ahead in terms of fidelity compared to Gods Among Us.

If you’ve played a NetherRealm game within the last couple of years, then you know that they have been consistently stepping up their cinematic storytelling capabilities. Right off the bat, Injustice 2 shows just how far they have come. The story takes place some time after the events of the first game in the alternate universe where Superman had turned to questionable morals, and centers around Batman fighting off various threats to Earth while attempting to keep Superman locked up. It’s wildly entertaining, and if you’re a hardcore DC fan, then you’re in for a treat with all the cameos and references.

Speaking of the campaign, you can expect to finish a single playthrough in around the three or four-hour mark, depending on how well you can handle your chosen difficulty level. There are five difficulty levels, from very easy to very hard, and casual fighting game players will likely not want to turn the game any higher than medium. Higher difficulty levels are reserved for those who want a test of skill in preparation for fighting other actual players. The campaign also lets you pick one of two different characters at various branching checkpoints in the story. This includes a final showdown which dramatically changes the ending of the game. Due to the fact that you only end up playing half the potential battles the first time around, multiple playthroughs of the campaign are a must for those who want to see all that the story has to offer.

Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke

In terms of fighting mechanics, not a whole lot has changed since the last game. The love-it-or-hate-it Clash system is back, where an opponent who is losing badly can claw back as much as 33% of their health bar if they wait until you have them in defense of a combo. The AI tends to use this as a crutch if you are dominating them, though it doesn’t help so much as to feel unfair. Every character has a unique trait mapped to the circle button, such as Batman summoning robotic bats or Supergirl using a heat vision blast across the map. Stage transitions and environmental damage also make returns, the former of which can now be blocked if the object being thrown isn’t especially large. You can now also perform air recoveries and a forward dodge out of harm’s way, at the cost of one of your super bars. These mechanical tweaks are welcome changes, and help to make the game ever-so-slightly more balanced.

There is online fighting as well, and naturally your internet connection can make or break a lot of those matches. You can also join a guild, which can help you to unlock some more of the game’s loot. There are a couple of forms of in-game currency to keep track of, including Mother Boxes. These are tiered reward boxes, available in Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond, the first three tiers of which can be purchased using Source Crystals; Platinum and Diamond Mother Boxes must be earned by playing through the campaign or a Multiverse event.

The Multiverse introduces challenges on a rotating basis. You have a set amount of real-world time in which to complete an event, earning rewards in the process. It’s a way to ensure players keep coming back for more, since you never know what new challenges await you on any given day. There’s also a Battle Simulator mode, which is essentially Arcade mode. You can unlock endings for each character much like in any other NetherRealm game, as well as the aforementioned Source Crystals and Mother Boxes.

NetherRealm's sequel is ready to pummel its way onto PS4, Xbox One and PC and to ensure you're right up to speed, we've compiled everything you need to know about Injustice 2

It is NetherRealm’s star-studded brawler and the sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us. Four years have passed since Ed Boon and the team took a deep dive into DC’s iconic rogues gallery, and in that time, Warner’s cinematic universe has ballooned to encompass titanic crossovers (Batman V Superman) and wacky, villain-centric spinoffs (Suicide Squad). This, coupled with the promise of a massive character roster, has meant that excitement for Injustice 2 is palpable. 

Picking up soon after Gods Among Us, Injustice 2 takes place at a time when the DC alliance lies in tatters. There's also the small matter of an invading megalomaniac in Brainiac.

"After the defeat of High Councilor Superman, Batman and his insurgency attempt to piece society back together while struggling against the remnants of Superman's regime who seek to restore his rule. Meanwhile, a new group of villains led by Gorilla Grodd known as "The Society" emerges and makes plans for world domination, eliminating any heroes that stand in their way. With several of his allies either victims of or collaborators with Superman's failed regime, Batman is forced to form a new team of superheroes to combat the Society, and later Brainiac, whose arrival puts Earth's entire existence at risk."

Superman's failed regime has created a huge rift in the DC universe, and it's only after the advent of Brainiac that our scattered heroes begin to pull together. 

"Injustice 2 is the super-powered sequel to the hit game Injustice: Gods Among Us that allows players to build and power up the ultimate version of their favorite DC characters.

"Featuring a massive selection of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains, players can personalize iconic DC characters with unique and powerful gear earned throughout the game. Additionally, for the first time, gamers can take control of how their characters look, fight and develop across a variety of game modes."

That Herculean battle will underpin much of Injustice 2's story mode, which is described as so: 

"Injustice 2 continues the story set in motion in Injustice: Gods Among Us as Batman and his allies work towards putting the pieces of society back together, but struggle against those who would restore Superman’s Regime. In the midst of this chaos, a new threat appears that will put Earth’s very existence at risk."

Touting the biggest character roster of any game in NetherRealm's history, Injustice 2 has assembled a who's who of superhero talent

Here's a rundown

  • Batman
  • Superman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Supergirl
  • Aquaman
  • Atrocitus
  • Gorilla Grodd
  • Deadshot
  • Harley Quinn
  • The Flash
  • Blue Beetle
  • Bane
  • Poison Ivy
  • Brainiac
  • Robin
  • Black Canary
  • Swamp Thing
  • Catwoman
  • Cheetah
  • Cyborg
  • Dr. Fate
  • Green Lantern
  • Firestorm
  • Green Arrow
  • Black Adam
  • Captain Cold
  • Scarecrow
  • Joker

A five-part video series known as Shattered Alliances is designed to offer up some context to the Injustice 2 story. The final entry, for instance, is all about the invading Brainiac: 

"Brainiac is a megalomaniacal genius who roams the universe, collecting knowledge to increase his intellectual and scientific prowess. Obsessed with establishing his superiority, Brainiac captured Krypton’s greatest cities, then eradicated what remained…or so he thought. Tales of the “Last Son of Krypton” have reached far into the stars. Now, the Collector of Worlds comes to Earth to finish his accumulation of Krypton – and discovers a new world worthy of his collection."

That's the name of Injustice 2's premium currency. Those who have kept track of the sequel's development will know that those Crystals will "allow you to purchase cosmetic features for characters, including cosmetic adjustments, Premiere character skins with no gameplay advantage, and various Shaders for character costumes. You can also unlock Transform Gear with Source Crystals, and you can use Source Crystals to bring a character to the max level of 20, but only after you’ve leveled another character up to level 20."

"Source Crystals can be purchased using real money but aren’t required to progress or advance in the game and can’t be used to purchase Gear or an advantage in gameplay. We value our community and want to be clear – you cannot 'pay to win' with Injustice 2."

Granted, not everyone has taken to the gear system ahead of Injustice 2's launch. NetherRealm's Brian Goodman has stressed that the studio is "developing intelligently to deliver something which will hopefully appeal to all of our fans."

"There’s been a lot of discussion on how best to communicate this because we are, obviously, throwing a bit of a monkey wrench in the works as far as some fighting game purists might find. We’re doing things to make sure people who want a pure fighting game can get that."

The fact that the game's gear system actively encourages players to tweak and modify their characters means that unbalanced matches are inevitable. Thankfully, Injustice 2 includes modes designed specifically to level the playing field. 

"We’re creating modes where it’s an even playing field and you can gear up for aesthetic reasons but your character stats are on an even plane. We also have modes where gear actually impacts your strength, which is a whole new level of strategy.

"Online we’re going to look at matchmaking so players are matched like-for-like, but it will be fundamentally unbalanced at that point.

"For the hyper competitive tournaments, we want those to still be places people can show off the customization they have earned throughout the game but they have to be level playing fields. That’s essential for true fighting game aficionados."

Curious to take a peek at some Multiverse gameplay from Injustice 2? IGN has you covered. 

The Clown Prince of Crime returns in Injustice 2, and he's brought Darkseid along for the ride. 

Here's the official rundown on Mr. J: 

"Though killed by Superman, the Joker continues to haunt the lives of all those touched by his madness. By destroying Metropolis, he set the events in motion which made enemies of Superman and Batman. If he were alive to see the chaos he’d created, he would surely be smiling."

NetherRealm recently hosted a closed beta for Injustice 2 in anticipation of release, which staged a total of 1.76 million matches. Moreover, 1.68 million pieces of gear were dropped, one player played more than 3,000 matches, and there were 404 round ties.

Buoyed by the success of Gods Among Us, NetherRealms hopes to foster a thriving community around Injustice 2

And so, if you're looking to delve a little deeper into the action, you can explore the various options through here. 

Though Warner Bros. is yet to lock down a specific release date, it's been confirmed that the first Injustice 2 DLC pack will herald the arrival of Red Hood, Starfire, and Sub-Zero. 

"The first three DLC characters for Injustice 2 revealed! Batman’s second protégé, Red Hood, royal exile from Tamaran, Starfire, and the leader of the Lin Kuei, Sub-Zero join the fight." 

Teaming up with PlayStation, ESL, GameStop and Twitch, Warner Bros. has nailed down plans for the Injustice 2 Championship Series.

Further details will be shared closer to the time, but we understand the Grand Finals will take place in the fall. A $600,000 (USD) prize pool has been confirmed for "several eSports programs in territories across the globe."

Injustice 2 Pro Series
The Injustice™ 2 Pro Series kicks off on the 26th of May broadcast live on Twitch (twitch.tv/netherrealm), with a four-month online and offline season drilling down to the top 16 players from around the world. The 16 finalists from across North America, Europe and Latin America will advance to the Injustice™ 2 Pro Series Finals for a throw-down. The Injustice™ 2 Pro Series Finals will take place on the 17th of September in Los Angeles.

Injustice 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes
The Injustice™ 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes tournament offers an all-new way for gamers in the United States who are not competing in the Injustice™ 2 Pro Series to participate in a program and battle for cash prizes. Operated by ESL, open online qualifier tournaments will begin on 4th June. Eight Regional Finals tournaments will take place in local GameStop retail locations on the 12th of August, leading up to the Injustice™ 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes Finals at the 2017 GameStop Consumer Expo in Las Vegas, 27th August.

Injustice 2 Path to Pro Tournament
European fans will have a chance to participate in the Injustice™ 2 Championship Series with the Injustice™ 2 Path to Pro Tournament. Operated by ESL on PlayStation®4, the competition will open on the 20th of May for players in the Benelux Union, France, Germany, Nordic territories, Italy, Spain and U.K. who are not participating in the Injustice™ 2 Pro Series. The Injustice™ 2 Path to Pro Finals will be held online on 19th of August with 12 finalists from the participating territories.

Injustice 2 Liga Latina
Players from Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Peru get their chance to battle it out in Injustice™ 2 Liga Latina. Operated by Gamelta esports Professional League, online and offline qualifier tournaments will be held for each region beginning in May. The best players from each of the countries in which the program is offered will face off in the Injustice™ 2 Liga Latina finals on the 13th of August.
In addition, fans in Brazil will have a chance to compete in a regional tournament. More details for Brazil will be coming soon.

Privy to moving pictures over words? Don’t worry, PS Blog recently rolled out an Injustice 2 promo specifically designed to present everything you need to know:

"The video gives players a closer look at the game’s Story Mode and the variety of Super Hero and Super-Villain alliances at play, including factions led by the Dark Knight, Gorilla Grodd, and others, along with wild card characters like Supergirl and Swamp Thing.

"Players will also get an introduction to the brand new social experience that Injustice 2 is bringing to the fighting game scene. In the game, players will be able to form a guild with up to 50 other players to share gear and build their own team of Super Heroes. They’ll also earn gear and other rewards that are exclusive to guild gameplay in daily and weekly cooperative objectives as they collaborate with friends to climb the worldwide leaderboards."

Players will find three versions of Injustice 2 available at launch: the standard edition, Digital Deluxe Edition ($79.99 USD), and Ultimate Edition ($99.99 USD).

Here’s what you get in the two special editions (pre-ordering any version also gets you Darkseid).

Digital Deluxe Edition
- 3 DLC fighters
- Premier Skin for Supergirl
- Defender Shader Pack

Ultimate Edition
- 9 DLC fighters
- Premier Skins for Supergirl, The Flash, and Green Lantern
- Destroyer and Defender Shader Packs

Injustice 2 has officially been rated T for Teen, with the ESRB description reasoning that: 

"This is a fighting game in which players engage in one-on-one battles with popular heroes and villains from the DC Comics universe. Players punch, kick, and use a variety of weapons (e.g., knives, swords, machine guns, laser blasters) to drain opponents’ health meters in melee-style combat. Matches are highlighted by impact sounds, splashes of blood, and colorful light effects as fighters are hurled across the screen or to the ground. As players engage in fantasy combat, they can trigger super attacks and transitional attacks that propel opponents from different levels of fighting arenas. Some super attacks depict blood-splatter effects as characters are injured by creatures and/or impaled with swords. Cutscenes depict additional instances of violence and blood: a character impaled with a sword; a prisoner lying in a small pool of blood; a character stabbed with a trident; a villain’s throat slashed off-screen.

"The game’s dialogue contains brief sexual references (e.g., “They’re thieves. Rapists. Murderers.”), and some female characters wear revealing outfits (e.g., deep cleavage, tight-fitting clothing) and/or perform suggestive poses. One fight setting takes place in a bar with several alcohol references: signs that read “Beer”‘; drunk patrons in the background; kegs of beer that can be thrown at opponents. The word “sh*t” is heard in dialogue."

Comprised of 63 digital accolades in total, the official Trophy list for Injustice 2 can be found here

Designed as a means of bridging the gap between Injustice 2 and its predecessor, NetherRealm's prequel comic is penned by original Injustice scribe Tom Taylor, and the official description reads as so: 

"Injustice fans can dive into the earth-shattering universe before the game launch via the prequel comic, which will debut new chapters every week. DC also announced that fan favorite artist Bruno Redondo will join series writer Tom Taylor as the book’s lead artist.

"Redondo previously worked with Taylor on the hugely successful Injustice: Gods Among Us comic book series in 2013 and has recently reached an agreement with DC to create comic book content solely for the company’s DC and Vertigo imprints. The prequel comic book storyline will look to bridge the gap between the first Injustice videogame and the upcoming Injustice 2 game that debuts in May 2017."

While on the show floor at E3 2016, our own Chandler Wood took Injustice 2 out for a spin, and walked away overly impressed:

"Based on everything I saw at E3, NetherRealm is going to have another knockout on their hands. They’re experimenting with adding RPG-like elements to a fighting game to break the monotonous cliches of the genre. Like I said, I’m a big fan of Injustice, and the fact that NetherRealm spilled the mechanics from some of my favorite loot based games into a sequel that looks and plays like classic Injustice means that I’ll likely find myself with a massive new obsession in 2017 when the game finally releases."

With Chandler busy mowing down alien bugs in Impulse Gear's Farpoint, we've elected seasoned reviewer Paulmichael Contreras to handle the Injustice 2 review for PSLS.

 

Unlock All the Things

Unlocks from these Mother Boxes include different shaders for each characters’ outfits, which change the general color scheme, along with items of varying rarity from common to epic, which increase a character’s stats such as strength or health; rarer items also add Augments, which add some sort of secondary effect to the character, such as extra stage transition damage or resistance to other types of damage. Other items are purely cosmetic, and allow you to customize your favorite characters however you see fit. Some of these items also have level requirements, since all playable characters level up in addition to you as a player having an overall level.

While the sheer amount of unlockable items is impressive, the execution left a bit to be desired. If your favorite character of the bunch is The Flash, for instance, you cannot simply buy Mother Boxes which contain only items made for him; you have to purchase or open an earned box which will contain a completely random assortment of items. So expect to open a metric ton of these things before you get your character exactly how you want them. You can sell items that you don’t want/need for Source Crystals, but perhaps an online marketplace could’ve been more helpful here.

Injustice 2 may have the best single-player campaign of any fighting game. NetherRealm has hit a solid groove with their fighting games. A few new blocking mechanics help to add a touch more balance to the game’s environmental damage options, and the loot system is second to none. Microtransactions are always a tricky issue with any game, but by sticking to cosmetic items, purchases using additional cash aren’t necessary in order to get full enjoyment out of the game. Fighting game and DC fans alike should add this game to their collection as soon as possible.


Review code for Injustice 2 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.