One day, I thought, I’d write a book about all the amazing games I’ve played. And in my Holy Book of Amazing Games I’ve Played, the ones that focus solely on fisticuffs wouldn’t even get their own page, never mind a chapter. I just don’t find them that compelling. Yeah, beating up your mates once in a while when they come over to sear meats is fun and all, but once they leave, the game ends up on the shelf, and all thoughts about taking it down and dusting it off vanish into the ether after a couple of weeks.
My book’s table of contents might, if anything, list them under “Miscellaneous” or ‘You know what? You tried, and that’s all that counts”. For years, this has been my plan, and it was fine… until I played Injustice 2. It does such a good job at addressing the issues I have with the genre that it gets its own chapter now, for several good reasons.
Platform/s: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Reviewed on: PS4
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
With two critically acclaimed Mortal Kombat games and Injustice: Gods Among Us already under its glitzy championship belt, NetherRealm has earned a genre pedigree second to almost none in the industry’s fight club (Capcom who?). That said, the studio’s attempts at a story-driven single-player campaign were never exactly what I’d have considered heavyweight. With Injustice 2, however, those clumsy feints have become real punches, and its plot had me hooked on every cutscene.
The story picks up five years after the events of the first game, with the world in a mess because Superman is, you know, Superman. Now Batman, with the indubitable authority of his sanctimonious ego, has imprisoned his old colleague in a cell that keeps Kal-El feeling rather more human on the superpower scale. And to be quite honest, I’d have been okay with keeping him there the entire game, because NetherRealm has done an outstanding job in reinventing the Man of Steel as the Man of Assholes. But he isn’t our bad guy.
Sometime into the game, our antagonist arrives in all his campy glory. Enter Brainiac, who I would describe as intelligent, a collector of sorts, and a destroyer of things, and he’s here to finish off what he started on Superman’s home world – to kill the last surviving Kryptonian. He wins the bonus prize too, because not only does he find Kal-El, but Supergirl too. The story unravels to reveal a roster of characters to fight with or against, with some… surprising allegiances thrown in the mix. Like, Harley is amazing, but I don’t know how I feel about her being even a bit virtuous. You don’t get to play with or against everyone in the story though – only about half the roster actually – probably because a bunch of them are already (spoilers) dead (see Injustice: Gods Among Us for more about that).
Along with the campaign mode, there are several other modes to keep you busy. First up is the Multiverse, an infinite number of Earths where each has its own unique twist. Here you’ll find daily, weekly, and sometimes hourly challenges to keep you coming back for more gratuitous violence. There’s also your standard online multiplayer versus mode where you can beat up complete strangers on the internet or (as I did) get beaten up by complete strangers on the internet because 200ms pings in fighting games are the worst. Versus also includes ranked modes for the hardcore, unranked modes for the not so hardcore, and good old fashioned local modes to make guests feel unwelcome in your living room. I played with almost anyone that came to visit, and found that experience immensely fun.
From a mechanics perspective, not much has changed from the first game. Rage bars/battle meters, twin trigger super moves and character specific combos are still pretty much where you would expect to find them, and the clash mode – where you can wager some of your battle meter after interrupting an attack – is also back in. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Loot boxes are new, however, and all the other cool kids are doing it, so why not? Levelling up a character will get you a loot box with some random pieces of armour and other cosmetic items. These items are all tiered, and are level-dependent, which kind of sucks when you finish the story and are presented with some level 20 loot that’s unusable until you have brought your character up to spec. You can sell off stuff you’re not using so that you can get cash to buy more loot boxes, though, so that’s okay. Depending on the tier, your armour will have bonuses to give you a bit of an edge in combat, and the whole loot system accomplishes what it obviously sets out to do – to get you to sink more time into the game.
Oh, and it looks gorgeous. Playing on PS4, I never, ever had a frame drop at any point during the campaign or any of my many versus sessions. So that’s impressive too.
Long legs for fighting game fans and completionists
Loot boxes were mostly disappointing
Campaign felt a bit short
91Injustice 2 is a testament to good writing and solid game design. It’s an enjoyable game from start to finish at a pace that will leave you breathing heavily for more.