I have been a huge fan of comic books since I was a kid, so I am always happy to see the great strides DC has taken in video games over the past decade. We have gotten four great Batman: Arkham games, three simple (but fun) Lego: Batman/DC Super Heroes games, and in 2013 we even got a fighting game featuring exclusively DC comics characters — Injustice: Gods Among Us.
That game was very solid, and grew a decent community behind it who were eagerly awaiting a sequel delving into this world where Superman went rogue. Like many other comic book fans, I have been anticipating Injustice 2 since it was revealed a little less than a year ago. That anticipation paid off as Injustice 2 is an extremely fun fighting game that is packed with content, both online and offline, and has an easy to learn, but extremely deep, fighting system that will keep both genre and comic-books fans hooked.
Injustice 2’s mechanics are largely the same as in the original but have been refined in a few areas to make the game even better. Players have basic light, medium and heavy attacks that they can string together with directional inputs to form combos. One can also dash and block to avoid attacks.
It’s a system that is really easy to get the hang of, so comic book fans not familiar with this style of game shouldn’t have too hard of a time getting used to how it plays. For fighting game veterans though, there are a ton of more complicated combos, flashy special moves, throws, cancels, reversals, and juggles that they can learn and master.
Just like Injustice: Gods Among Us, the usual fighting game-standard round system has been dropped in favor of a dual health bar system, which keeps matches going at a faster pace. Each of the game’s 26 base characters has an unique character power; for example, Batman’s lets him summon three mechanical bats that he use to attack his opponent.
These powers can also enhance existing moves and provide attacking bonuses to the player. I found that the character powers, which can be activated by only the press of a button, help each fighter be even more distinct from the others, even outside of their basic attacks and combos.
Players also have a Super Meter that increase when you deals damage, takes damage, or use a special move. One of the neater new additions to Injustice 2‘s fighting system is that players can now use part of this meter during a fight to perform an enhanced special move. This special move typically comes with increased damage or open up more combo opportunities.
When these Super Meters are full, a Supermove can be pulled off along with the over-the-top cinematic ultimate moves that are a joy to watch. In future entries, I would like to see developer NeatheRealm possibly include more than one Supermove for each character, as these can get boring when one is watching it for the 100th time, even if they are well crafted and enjoyably over the top.
My only huge gripe with Injustice 2’s fighting mechanics is something that returns from the first game: the Clash System. A Clash can be used once during a match per character if they are blocking and are on their second health bar. It opens up small mini-game where players must wager a certain amount of their super meter. If the defender wagers more, they regain health; if the attacker wins, they will deal more damage.
While these can be cool the first time (the banter between the characters during these segments can be charming) they completely halt a match’s pacing and get boring after a while. They can also be unfair, as an opponent can use one right after the player pulls off a super move, making them incredibly vulnerable. I get that it is supposed to force players to play it safer with their Special Meter, but I would much rather use my meter on other things like the new enhanced special moves than save it so I don’t groan the next time the Clash system comes up.
Environmental interactions and attacks also return, and are just as fun to use as they were in the first game, though some of these can be blocked now. In other words, they aren’t as overpowered as they sometimes were in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Stage transitions also return, and are as flashy as ever, dealing massive amounts of damage to one’s foe.
These mechanics might seem like a lot to take in, but Injustice 2 has excellent tutorials that teach players the ins-and-outs of the combat system. Each character also has their own tutorial, which makes training easier on players who decide to main a single character and want to practice more with them. There is also a practice mode for more experienced players to refine their skills in.
The biggest addition Injustice 2 brings to the table for the fighting game genre as a whole is its Gear System. After a fight or series of fights, the player can receive loot boxes (called “Mother Boxes” in-game) that contain gear pieces. Some gear requires certain levels, as one can level up both their personal account and individual character in Injustice 2. Players can choose any character and customize them with gear for their the head, chest, arms, and legs, and an accessory. Each piece of gear comes with different stats that affect how the characters they are equipped to play.
This, coupled with the fact that players can add shaders and unlockable special abilities to whoever they are applying gear to, allows players further customize characters. This can even bring fighters who technically aren’t in the game as their own standalone character in, like being able to turn Cheetah into Vixen.
Each piece of gear upgrades the character it’s equipped to’s stats: Strength, Ability, Defense, and Health. A character whose upgrades focus on strength might have extra damaging punches and kicks; however, this strength buffing piece might have a low ability stat, making special abilities weaker than usual in battle. One can craft all sorts of characters, whether they be a high-health tank or a glass cannon.
Players have to be careful in battle, as other characters could equip a piece of gear that does something like increasing environmental damage, which could nullify defensive gear. The best part of this system is that it makes one’s character fully truly unique to them. I crafted what I thought was a very badass looking Harley Quinn through the gear that I personally unlocked, and while playing online, I never ran into another Harley that looked the same as me.
The additional special abilities players can find through Mother Boxes provide for even deeper customization. Abilities can be both offensive and defensive, matching the player’s style and altering how a character behaves in combat.
Additionally, coins are awarded to the player throughout the game, and can be used to purchase more Mother Boxes and skins. These can be purchased, so while this isn’t a pay-to-win system, you are more likely to get a character that looks exactly the way you want them to if you pay. Online play also allows players to get buffs or debuffs from gear, so this system doesn’t seem like it will have any negative effects on Injustice 2’s metagame overall.
This metagame is surely going to be an interesting one, as all of its fighters are diverse and memorable. Each character looks true to who they are in their respective comic books, but are still designed distinctively enough to stand out on their own. It also helps that the character models are extremely well detailed and animated, as are the environments. In general, Injustice 2 is a gorgeous looking game that runs smoothly during fights, even on a regular PS4. Many locations from the DC Universe have been fully realized well, and are memorable and a joy to fight on.
Injustice 2 has interesting offline single-player content that will keep players entertained for a long time, even if they never decide to touch the online mode. Of course, players can fight in basic one on one matches with their character, but there is also a surprisingly engaging story that lasts between five to seven hours, depending on the player’s skill level and the difficulty that they are playing on.
The game starts as Brainiac, a hyper-intelligent alien being, and his army of betas (robot soldiers) are destroying Krypton. A young Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) is desperately fleeing for her life. Her mother places her on a spaceship to go to Earth and protect her young cousin Kal-El (Superman). As she takes off, Kara see Krypton explode, and spots Kal for a second, giving her a bit of hope, before being knocked off course by some of her planets debris, which is why Kal-El landed on Earth first. She is eventually found by Black Adam and Wonder Woman after the events of the first Injustice, and that is where she starts the game.
The plot then flashes forward to a while after the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us. Batman has created an AI called Brother Eye that helps him stop track and prevent crimes, with a bit of help from his very limited “Circle of Trust,” which includes Firestrom, Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and a reformed Harley Quinn. During an investigation of Gorilla Grodd’s “Society,” Brainiac reappears, with his eye on Earth and the “last” Kryptonian Superman, who is jailed in a Red Sun prison along with most of the other former Regime members after the events of the first game.
This results in many of the Earth’s heroes, from both sides, having to resolve their differences and team up to save the Earth. There is also a sub-plot of Supergirl discovering her purpose and who she truly sides with, which leads to some interesting character drama. Injustice 2 is split between 12 chapters, and while in traditional NeatherRealm fashion you usually spend one whole chapter focused on a single character combating a number of other fighters that are in the game, there are a few times where you can choose who you want to fight with, giving the story some replayability.
For the most part, the game’s roster is used well, although Joker, Swamp Thing, and Atrocitus barely appear, and seem like they were included in the story just to justify their spot in the game. The cutscenes were also very nice looking; unfortunately, they suffered from noticeable frame drop on a regular PS4. Also, in a couple of the more emotional scenes with woman, the usually excellent facial animation could get a little uncanny on Supergirl and Black Canary. Still, these are just minor inconveniences, and the Injustice 2’s story is still largely enjoyable, albeit a bit predictable .
While I do still believe that Injustice: Gods Among Us squandered this world’s full story potential by opting to bring in characters from a different world to solve this one’s problems, Injustice 2 does the most with what it has to work with, delivering a very compelling and interesting story about on-par with what you might see in a superhero movie these days. NeatherRealm has proven once more that they are the best at crafting stories for fighting games, and may have made one of their best in Injustice 2.
Story mode is still just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to single player content. Most of it lies within one of the game’s most genius modes, the Multiverse, which cleverly uses something established in DC Comics to do something unique with the traditional arcade mode. The concept behind it is that Brother Eye, from the game’s story mode, monitors alternate realities to see where the player must intervene; this is where the typical fighting game ladder matches take place.
The Multiverse set up explains why character look different with their equipped gear on all of these earths, and also justifies the different modifiers that could be applied to players during matches, like setting the players fists on fire or having the Joker as a temporary sidekick that can get a few extra hits in on the player’s opponent.
As I mentioned before, each world in the Multiverse contains a series of ladder trials for the player where they must face a certain number of characters in a row. Each ladder’s difficulty is shown by its level, and also has a recommended character level. Players gain points during the events, which are used to unlock Mother Boxes. Most events even grant a completion reward if a player does everything on that world; these are unique to each world and randomly refresh upon one.
All of these worlds are timed, so one has to act fast in order to reap each world’s rewards (gear). This also gives this mode almost unlimited replayability, as there will always be a constant stream of new worlds for players to interfere with for the foreseeable future. This was my favorite mode in the game, and will definitely be what bring me back to Injustice 2 months down the line.
For those concerned with Online Play, Injustice 2 also has you covered. In my time with the game online, matchmaking was fast and every fight ran smoothly. Regardless of one’s skill at fighting games, any losses and wins online are your own, not cheap ones because of lag. The standard ranked and unranked matches all function like they are supposed to. King of the Hill is still a smooth experience, as it is fun to both try to dethrone the current champion and attempt to hold your spot on the top for as long as you can.
Injustice 2 also introduces Guilds. It is easy to both form and join one. These Guilds can bring friends together to complete weekly challenges, and even attack on set aside Multiverse planet for maximum exclusive Guild loot boxes. It is a neat addition to the series that fleshes out the online experience.
Injustice 2 improves upon Injustice: God Among Us in almost every way. It’s faster, smoother, better animated, and better written than its predecessor, and is definitely NeatherRealm’s best fighting game yet. While the Clash system sullies otherwise great fighting mechanics, and the game’s story has a few problems of its own, I’ve had tons of fun with Injustice 2. As both a comic book and video game fanatic, I’d recommend Injustice 2 to anyone who is even remotely interested in it, as it does its source material justice while delivering both a great single player and online experience, and looks just as awesome in the process.