Format: PS4 (Version Tested), XboxOne
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release Date: 11th May 2017
Story modes in fighting games typically feel like an afterthought, particularly in its design as it feels like it’s been bolted on in a limp attempt to add minor value to the game’s overall experience. Injustice 2 however, is a title that has broken the fighting game trope with one of the most spectacular story modes for any recent fighting games.
The game takes place five years after the predecessor’s conclusive events, after Superman tried to enforce a tranquil world unorthodoxly through dictatorship. Whilst he’s still being held captive in the red sun prison, Batman is trying to revive the world to some sense of normality. Many of Superman’s heroes who saw a flaw in his plan are now seeking redemption, and some, who still support his ideals, are intent on freeing the Kryptonian prisoner.Spanning across twelve chapters, Injustice 2 is quite a lengthy experience for a 2D fighting game with around ten hours of play on the standard difficulty. Many of the characters are featured throughout the narrative and you’ll be often presented with a choice between two of them before a battle commences, giving you the freedom to choose a character that you’ve become more accustomed to instead of lumping a character onto you that you’re less familiar with, and it also gives you a healthy introduction to each of the character’s large variety of fighting styles. Each character is given a generous amount of screen time too, allowing for the heroes and villains to developer their character, and it’s here, in the cinematics that the game really shows its narrative brilliance. Each scene is excellently directed with superbly choregraphed fighting scenes and really is an improvement on how fighting game’s stories are perceived. A lot of its direction is rather predictable, but its stunning visual display and impressive voice acting somewhat makes up for it. This game has HDR support too which makes for a spectacular display for those that have a PS4 Pro and a 4K TV. The one element that does let the visuals down though is its facial animation. While the subtle animations are excellently created, it’s the more obvious animations, particularly in dialogue specific scenes and when characters portray a neutral expression, that the animations feel jarring and unnatural.As good as the game’s story mode is, in typical NetherRealm Studios fashion, they struggle to find a way to wrap it up at the game’s finale. Just like Shao Kahn at the end of Mortal Kombat IX, Injustice 2’s conclusive battle is equally as unfair and uninspiring as the foe hits for almost double the damage and possesses attacks that are un-blockable and infuriatingly come from all directions on the screen.
Injustice 2’s loading times between battles is quick, and most of its loading times after a battle has been successfully concluded is hidden behind the cutscenes, and the transition between cinematics is so seamless that you’ll be gripping firmly onto the controller in fear of the game initiating a fight without your readiness.
NetherRealm Studios haven’t changed much to the actual combat mechanics for this iteration. The emphasis is still heavily reliant on combo and juggling chains where you attempt to land as many attacks in as possible before your foe hits the ground. The only significant differences are a few new faces to the roster and some tweaking to the mechanical issues for returning characters. Each fighter is well-balanced and no single character seams to hold a significant advantage over the rest, and with the fifteen new characters introduced to this game changes the tactics enough to give an adequate reason for fans of the first game to play this one. The super meter, which is gradually filled after taking and inflicting damage, has undergone subtle changes too, with a few new moves implemented into the mix. After filling the meter to full capacity, you receive the ability to expend it all in exchange for the character’s unique super move after hitting L2 and R2 simultaneously. These moves have a long charge time and the opponent has plenty of time to block, but if timed right, it causes some devastating damage.
Almost everything you can do in Injustice 2 rewards you with currency and items to customise your characters. The vast variety of cosmetic pieces that you acquire not only change the appearance of the heroes and villains, but they also increase statistics such as defence and attack rates to use in the Multiverse and select online matches. As varied as the gear is and as tactical it can make the fighting game seem, it is also the weakest component in this game. The gear is presented to you via loot boxes, and opening them up in the tens is a gruesome and dull process as you can only open them individually. Rewards are completely randomised, meaning it’s possible that you’ll get a number of items for characters that you rarely use and little for the ones you do. Item drops can duplicate too, so having multiple items of the same statistics is quite common. There is a mechanic that allows you to fuse two pieces of gear together so that you can choose to have a piece that you aesthetically find more pleasing but with statistics that improve your characters in the areas that you desire. Furthermore, certain rare pieces of gear grant extra move sets that feel unnecessary in a game that already has a well-balanced structure across all the characters.A new game mode is introduced in this iteration called the multiverse. In the multiverse, battles are systematically fought with various modifiers, such as various environmental dangers and damage modifiers. These events are available for a limited amount of time, before disappearing and being replaced with a new set of challenges, but each event, particularly the more difficult ones, offer rare aesthetics that you will be able to personalise your characters with. For example, in one of the opening weeks after the game’s release, an event was available for Wonder Woman that if completed, would unlock an outfit that’s inspired by the new film. It’s a great way of providing fresh content on a regular occurrence, but ultimately the variety of challenges will inevitably start to repeat itself and the cycles will start to become stale.
Injustice 2 is well designed, with each character in their vanilla forms possessing strengths and weaknesses that doesn’t give any characters any significant advantages over the other heroes and villains. A fair balance across all the characters on the roster is a crucial and key component for any fighting game. However, with there already being ten new characters announced via DLC already, and a very questionable loot system, it’s difficult to tell how long the game can maintain it to be mechanically just. It’s refreshing to see a story mode that feels a part of the fighting game, and until that dreaded conclusive act, stays engaging and equally rewarding.
Final Verdict – 7.6