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.
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.
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.