It’s kind of nuts to think about how far Netherrealm have come. How they bounced back from a string of questionable titles (including Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe) to create some of the best fighting games in the business. When they decided to spread their wings a little bit, and create Injustice: Gods Among Us, I was skeptical that it would just be Mortal Kombat with DC characters. I was wrong, of course, but the original Injustice has not aged well. Injustice 2, four years later, makes phenomenal leaps and bounds and improves on the original in many ways.
Injustice 2 follows on from the events in the original game, but tries to bring the storied history of each of its characters into its own Injustice universe. I’ll be blunt here and admit that I have very little insights to offer into the world of DC, having only watched the films and played some games. Despite this, what’s presented here is interesting – Injustice having its own universe means that the writers can play with some more abstract story threads than what would normally be allowed.The story only truly matters when you’re playing through Injustice 2’s dedicated story mode, which takes you through a story that seems fit for a DC movie (and perhaps even better than one). Characters are well acted, well presented while the scale and stakes feel high. Simply put, I don’t think there’s another fighting game that feels like it has such a budget behind it as Injustice 2 does. Everything feels refined and sophisticated. More uniquely, Injustice 2 treats solo players with as much respect as it does for those focused on multiplayer.
Injustice 2 is at its core a fighting game, like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter before it. In a bid to differentiate itself, Injustice 2 features only three attack buttons with a fourth button being reserved for a unique trait or ability each character has. It’s impossible to list them all here, but as an example Batman can summon bats to do his bidding, while Poison Ivy can summon a plant to pester enemies. In addition to this, each character also has a meter that builds up as the fight plays out, which can then be used to perform a devastating (yet cinematic) super move, or to augment abilities during the fight.What set Injustice apart from its predecessors is the use of the environment in battles. During a match, there’ll be all kind of props that players can use to gain the edge in a battle. Stronger characters can throw a parked car at their opponent, others might rig the car to explode. While they felt unbalanced in the original Injustice, they feel better thought out in Injustice 2 which leads to less balancing issues that plagued the first. Being able to pick up objects near you in a bind gives a sense that you’re in a battle rather than a less dynamic choreographed exchange.
Gunning for longevity rather than creativity, Injustice 2 also removes the STAR Labs missions from the original game in favour for the new Multiverse mode. Like the Living Towers of Mortal Kombat X, Multiverse lets you take on a string of enemies usually with a modifier turned on. They refresh periodically – some last an hour or two while others last for a week – and give players opportunity to level up their characters and unlock gear to customise them with.While the STAR Labs were a fun distraction, Multiverse feels like something you can commit to. Something you can get better at. From a design perspective, they’re a great way to indefinitely extend the solo player options for players, who will always have something relatively new or interesting to hone their skills against. Even better, friends can get together and tackle challenges together as a guild to unlock sweet, sweet Mother Boxes.
Mother Boxes are the main way you’ll earn gear in Injustice 2. Essentially, each one contains equipment or “gear” for your character that changes appearance and changes stats or abilities. Bridging the customisation aspects of most first-person shooters with the fighting genre, Injustice 2 does a great job at providing heaps of stuff to unlock for your fighters without ruining the balance of the game. If it really irks you, you can just turn off any special effects and keep the gear purely cosmetic instead, especially when playing online.Real money can be paid to unlock currency, which can then be used to either level up a piece of gear you might particularly like but not want to leave behind or transform another piece of gear to have the same look. It’s a purely cosmetic way to implement microtransactions and while it’s a practice that is looked upon with much scorn in the industry, if it’s going to happen this is probably the best way to do it – even if it’s frustratingly annoying to continually receive pieces of gear for characters you’ll never play.
Much like Netherrealm’s other fighting games, Injustice 2 is a game that’s easy to pick up but has considerable depth for players who want to crack open the game’s systems and become truly great. Injustice differs from Mortal Kombat ever so slightly, however, as it’s clearly geared to be more accessible than previous games from the developer.There’s a lot of cooler stuff that can be done with minimal button presses in Injustice 2. This might sound bad but it does give weight to the idea that Injustice 2 is meant to be playable for more people, which is really a good thing. Despite this, the game doesn’t feel like it has sacrificed its depth – the skill ceiling is just under what it was in Mortal Kombat X or even greater than the original Injustice.
There is a simple offering of online modes here too – none too ground breaking. With extensive testing of the game over the course of a week or two I’m ecstatic to report that Injustice 2 works well online. There’s little to no delays in finding a match and joining up with friends is similarly quite effortless. Given that Mortal Kombat X had issues literally last week for me and my friends, it’s so encouraging to see Injustice 2 work so well at launch. It puts its contemporaries to shame.
In its continuing concerted effort to improve itself, Injustice 2 pays incredible attention to its presentation and visuals. The game looks fantastic. Characters, their faces, look life like and less harsh than they appeared in the previous game. Environments are incredibly detailed and riddled with little references that fans of the DC Comics universe are bound to appreciate. While the style of the art direction is subject to personal taste, the visuals for Injustice 2 feel incredibly polished and well put together.
Injustice 2 is a fighting game that’s accessible to anyone, but also deep enough for veteran fighting fans. An incredible step up from Gods Among Us in practically every way possible, it successfully leverages heaps of content and a strong roster with tight and fast fighting mechanics. Gear pushes customization without sacrificing balance, and both Multiverse and Online modes keep Injustice 2 interesting no matter how you play.
The Playstation 4 version of this game was played on a Playstation Pro for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.