The Golden Age
The first Injustice game asked an age old question. If Superman turned away from the light, would that make a good fighting game? This sequel asks something different. If the world were at stake, could these two bitter rivals put their differences aside for the greater good, and would that also make a good fighting game? Unfortunately the answer to that question is no, because Injustice 2 goes beyond a “good” fighting game. Injustice 2 is a new genre standard, robust with content and character that will be able to hook even the most casual brawlers. All this wrapped around a fighting game story that actually manages to not suck.
The story picks up several years after the first game, Superman is behind bars and the world is rebuilding with Bruce Wayne acting as more of a political figure as opposed to Batman. All this prosperity gets thrown out the window when Brainiac attacks. In this universe, Brainiac destroyed Krypton, and he views Superman and Supergirl’s survival as an oversight that must be corrected. The story is cinematic to the point that if the cutscenes were spliced together you could have another hit DC Animated movie for your shelves. This is due in part to the game looking absolutely GORGEOUS. Netherrealm pulled no punches in the animation department, providing animations that rival any AAA game on the market. The story creates a few bizarre reasons for two heroes to punch each other, some character fights are downright ridiculous (Harley Quinn vs Swamp Thing isn’t a fight). But the story plays with your expectations and provides some truly memorable team ups, like Black Adam and Aquaman. Also, fans of Deadshot or Bane may be disappointed that their character is reduced to whipping boy status.
Besides the aforementioned whipping boys there are several standout characters to be found. The Flash is a man seeking redemption, and Green Arrow adds some much needed levity. Supergirl is perhaps the best new character, as she presents us with a better Superman than Superman himself. Standing for truth, justice and all that jazz. Brainiac, as the antagonist of the story, is less compelling than a Superman who has turned villain. He does manage to present a believable reason for everyone to stop punching each other and instead punch him. As far as video game stories go, Injustice doesn’t particularly stand out, for fighting game stories, it might as well be Citizen Kane. Not to mention all the things to do once its completed.
Injustice 2 offers a staggering amount of content outside of the story mode. Most of this content is featured in the Multitverse. Fans of Mortal Kombat will recognize the Multiverse as the Injustice version of Living Towers. These are combat ladders with various rules or modifications that change hourly, daily, and weekly. Also included is a Battle Simulator. Essentially a “What If” where you can see alternate endings to Injustice if your selected character had defeated Brainiac. There is also practice mode, offline versus and tournament mode as well as a simple and advanced tutorial. For online there is player matches, ranked matches, King of the Hill and Hot Seat. Hot Seat is a new Twitch-friendly game mode where a certain number of people can join a lobby and battle whomever is in the “hot seat”. So a streamer could invite his viewers to his lobby and win or lose everyone will play against him. Essentially, Injustice 2 abhors having a player with nothing to do, as a result there is always another way to play. Want to practice a new character? Take them online. Don’t feel ready for online? That’s okay, take them to Endless Battle, or maybe do their Battle Simulator, or complete some Multiverse Objectives. The added bonus is that as you are getting better with your character, your character is getting better with you.
Injustice 2 introduces a brand new wrinkle to the Netherrealm formula. The gear system. as a character levels up, new gear will be unlocked, gear is also found in loot boxes gained form leveling up or completing Multiverse challenges. The gear comes with a visual and statistical change to a specific character. I was at first apprehensive about this feature. After all, fighting games are built on balance. So having a system affect that balance sounds inherently wrong. My fears were calmed when I realized that gear bonuses are turned off for Ranked Match, and in any player match mode the gear bonuses have the option to be removed. Gear bonuses do affect the Multiverse in some interesting ways. For instance, say there is a level 20 Superman giving you trouble in a Multiverse challenge, well maybe you have some gear you can equip that gives you bonus damage versus Kryptonians. Or you could focus on defense so you aren’t getting dusted so quickly. Editing your characters appearance and attributes is a rewarding and addicting process, one that adds another reason to keep playing and try new characters.
All this is great, but what about the real reason everyone plays fighting games, to beat up strangers online. Injustice 2 presents an online connection experience that rivals Netherrealms’ last game, Mortal Kombat X. For those unaware, this is a positive. Injustice 2, like MKX, presents a smooth online experience that rarely has any serious lag or connection issues. In the 50+ matches I’ve played online, I haven’t had a single match that was unplayable due to lag. For those concerned, practice mode even has an option to simulate lag so that you can practice combos in an “online” environment. For the more competitively minded, Injustice 2 delivers. For those looking to master the game, be ready to practice. As a fighting game, Injustice 2 is surprisingly complex. A large cast and a staggering amount of ways to play might seem overwhelming to some, but those who stick with, Injustice 2 has something for all competitors.
Injustice 2 is a pinnacle of fighting games. Netherrealm pulled no punches in providing not just a competitive fighting experience but a fantastic video game. One that fans of video games and superheroes alike would be foolish to pass up.