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E3 2016 – Injustice 2 Hands-On Preview – The Gods Are Still Among Us (PS4)

I’m not a huge fan of fighting games in general, but I’m a sucker when it comes to anything by NetherRealm Studios. I’m not going to claim that I am actually good at them by any stretch of the term, but I find them immensely enjoyable regardless. When DC characters got a Mortal Kombat styled makeover with the original Injustice, I was happy to pit heroes and villains in matches against each other, and then do it all over again with the PS4 release.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to get my hands on Injustice 2 at E3 2016. It’s been a number of months since I last played Injustice, but the controls came flooding back the moment the controller was in my hand. I selected Supergirl to get a feel for one of the new characters, though they also had Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and newcomers Gorilla Grodd and the Red Lantern, Atrocitus.

Injustice 2 preview 1

NetherRealm has taken special care to keep the familiarity of the original going into Injustice 2. Even playing as a brand new character, I was able to get a handle on her fighting style and attacks fairly quickly. Clashes, environmental interactions, super moves, and stage transitions all make a grand return, with many of the animations being even more bombastic and over-the-top than they were before, like Superman punching his enemies into orbit or Batman running his opponents down by remote controlling the Batwing. I mean, if you’re going to make a sequel, why not go all out, right? And it seems like they did. I can’t wait to see all of the super moves, level transitions, and finishing moves for each character, though it’s going to be hard to beat Aquaman calling a toothy sea creature to chomp on his foes. 

More Than Injustice 1.5

So far this might seem like Injustice 1.5, with flashier moves and new characters, which itself wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. But of course there’s more. Let’s get to the gear system, which takes a cue from loot based games like Destiny, The Division, and Diablo III, giving players drops of varying rarities and experience at the end of each battle. The new gear has different looks and statistics that can increase various character attributes like strength, defense, and overall HP. Gear is dropped on a random roll system for numbered stats, so though you may get aesthetic duplicates, the stat changes could be different.

Perhaps you want to use higher defensive gear to avoid getting beaten down, or maybe you want to focus on doling out more damage. Customizing a gear loadout will allow players to look unique and tailor their character to their specific fighting style, and NetherRealm promises that a short time after launch, it will be unlikely to see another character with the exact same look and attributes as your own, especially because there are color palette swaps to unlock that not only alter the color, but sometimes also change the material of different pieces of gear. Your DC heroes and villains will be specially your own. 

Injustice 2 preview 2

Gear can also have extra modifiers like increasing the damage of environmental hazards, and character set bonuses will change some major visual feature about the character. The example I was given was Supergirl’s eye lasers changing color when she obtains her complete set of legendary armor, including during her super move. The big concern is how balancing will work. Traditionally fighting games prowess and community is based on knowledge of each fighter, and gear offering varying stats across characters will throw a wrench in this. I was assured that they are addressing this concern, and they have a number of solutions in mind. The good thing is that NetherRealm knows their playerbase very well and while they want to innovate, they also don’t want to alienate their core fans. 

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. I can’t say that NetherRealm is back, because NetherRealm never left. The gods are still among us.