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September 2018

Injustice 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Release Date: May 16, 2017


PS4 Review - 'Injustice 2'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 22, 2017 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

Injustice 2 allows gamers to choose from a massive roster of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains and build the ultimate version of their favorite DC characters.

Buy Injustice 2

For two characters who are supposedly friends, Batman and Superman sure punch each other a lot. If there's a superheroic conflict, you can bet that these two will end up on opposite sides. Injustice was a DC fighting game with alternate versions of the characters, so it gives Neatherrealm Studios a lot of leeway. Perhaps that is why Injustice 2's safety is a bit of a disappointment. It's a solid and fun game, but it'll feel very familiar to fans of the first.

Injustice 2 returns to the alternate Earth introduced in the first game. The tyrannical dictator Superman has been dethroned, and the world is starting to heal, but things quickly go south. Old supervillains have united and are want to overthrow the slowly recovering governments of the world. The former members of Superman's regime have discovered his cousin, Kara Zor-El, better known as Supergirl, in cryostasis, and they're waiting for the chance to break him out. Worst of all, Brainiac has set his sights on Earth and the last two survivors of his purge of Krypton. The members of the fractured Justice League must unite if they hope to fight the forces of evil.

Injustice 2 is a fun superhero team-up romp, but it feels less cohesive and focused than the previous game. It lacks the central idea of the first game and settles for being a traditional sequel in the same world, with the heroes and ex-heroes teaming up to fight a shared menace. There are fewer shocks and a lot of wasted characters, such as Atrocitus, who shows up in a cut scene and then never again. The events lose their impact because the meat of the Injustice concept (evil Superman) is sidelined.

In the sequel, the focus remains on the two characters who've already had their stories told in the first title. Supergirl feels oddly disappointing. While she's the emotional focus of the plot, she doesn't do much and is regulated to getting beaten up while Batman and Superman remain the stars of the show. The diverse cast also works against it because it's clear the writers didn't know what to do with some of the cast. There are also meaningless appearances from characters like Swamp Thing and the Joker, and the excuse of "this character is fighting things off-screen" is often used when there are small groups and one-on-one fights. It's a shame because some of the characters are cool and don't get the time to shine.

Injustice 2 goes for a slightly more obscure cast than the first game. While most of the big names return, some characters like Lex Luthor and Captain Marvel are replaced by lesser-known characters. Introducing characters like Blue Beetle, Dr. Fate and Swamp Thing gives the developers more room to experiment with moves and abilities. The new characters feel distinctive, and shining the light on lesser-known characters feels better than seeing the same heroes again. There are some disappointments, but that's unavoidable in a cast the size of Injustice 2.

Like Mortal Kombat, Injustice 2 is an accessible fighting game that is easy to pick up for a player of any skill level. The game includes a comprehensive tutorial that provides instructions on fighting game terms like cross-ups and meter burn, so you have a comfortable starting point even if Injustice 2 is your very first fighting game. It's a lot of fun to play even if it doesn't change much from the previous title. Returning characters can even depend on some of the same bread-and-butter combos.

The actual gameplay in Injustice 2 hasn't changed much from the first game, but every character has been adjusted or rebalanced. If you haven't played Injustice, there's an emphasis on positioning and meter management, and getting the most out of fighting means knowing when and where to burn the meter. Your special super bar is built up through fighting and can be spent to power up moves or avoid enemy attacks. Each stage is also filled with objects that you can use to damage enemies or give your character mobility options, so where you fight is more important in this title than in most fighting games.

In addition to their own moves, every character has a specific trait that can be activated in combat. For example, Batman can summon a swarm of robot drones to add extra hits to combos. Supergirl has eye vision blasts that run off a slowly charging meter. Poison Ivy can summon a tiny plant ally who can help her. While these powers are small, they have a huge impact on how each character plays. Most of the returning cast from Injustice retains its powers, which have also been tweaked like the regular move sets.

Probably the most advertised addition to Injustice 2 is the gear system. By playing the game, you unlock gear that can be equipped to the character and can change their appearance and grant new abilities. Sometimes, this can just be a simple statistical difference, and other times, it can alter a character's trait or give them access to new special attacks. You can spend quite some time customizing the gear and its coloring, so if it floats your boat, you can be an Adam West-colored Batman. There are also special premiere skins that change the character into another character with the same moves but different dialogue and appearance. Supergirl changes into Power Girl, and Hal Jordan turns into John Stewart.

I'm a little torn on the gear system, which is a neat concept but is optional. It offers variety in both look and combat styles, but since it's built around random loot drops and statistical differences, it's going to be largely ignored beyond a casual gameplay level. Nobody who really gets into Injustice 2 on a competitive level is going to keep gear that limits you to playing "fun" matches. This runs into the problem of gear having stats, so it's possible to feel like you were outclassed by gear drops instead of skill.

Part of this is due to Injustice 2 using the loot box system. You get random drops for your characters from the generous loot system, but even with the game weighting toward the character you play, it doesn't mean you're going to get pieces for a character you like. Getting a rare epic drop for Swamp Thing doesn't do much for you if you hate how Swamp Thing plays. The game is restrained on its real-money transactions. The RMT resource (source crystals) can only be used on cosmetic features, such as premiere skins and alternate colors, so you'll never feel like someone paid money to outclass you. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about time and luck.

The gear system doesn't add much to the game's competitive depth, and the casual fun that it does add is tainted by randomness. In terms of adding flexibility and choice to characters, Mortal Kombat X's system of having multiple variations on the same character worked a lot better.

Netherrealms is the king of single-player content in fighting games, and that hasn't changed in Injustice 2. The story is particularly meaty and worth the price of admission. In addition, there's also the multiverse, which is a series of themed challenges where you can use your gear and equipment to take on enemies with modifiers that range from stat changes to one-hit kills. There are also daily challenges, which is a great way to keep you coming back. The single-player arcade mode is hidden and has its own endings. The multiverse is unbalanced (likely to compensate for the gear system), but it's still a lot of fun to play and adds extra replay value. Even if you never touch the online multiplayer, there's a lot of gameplay available in Injustice 2.

Injustice 2 looks awesome, and in particular, the new facial animation system deserves recognition. These are some of the best-looking facial expressions I've ever seen in a game, and the story mode's cut scenes look phenomenal. The actual fighting looks solid, though it still has some of the trademark Neatherrealm stiffness, and some animations look awkward. Fortunately, there's so much detail and love in the visuals that any awkwardness can be easily overlooked. The voice actors also do a fantastic job. There are hundreds of lines outside of the story mode, and the actors and actresses own their roles. Hearing old favorites from the various cartoons adds some impact to the plot beats. A special shout-out has to go to Robert "Freddy Kruger" Englund as the Scarecrow, who is easily the standout of the new characters and a pitch-perfect combination of actor and character.

All in all, Injustice 2 is a solid follow-up to the original. It has a few flaws and stumbles on the story, but they don't add up to more than a slight blemish. The gameplay is fun, it looks awesome, and there's more than enough content to justify a purchase even for casual fighting game fans. If you're looking for an excuse to have Batman and Superman punch each other in the face, Injustice 2 fits the bill.

Score: 8.0/10

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