|System: PS4, Xbox One|
|Dev: NetherRealm Studios|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive|
|Release: May 16, 2017|
|Players: Single-player, multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol Reference, Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Jason Messer
It’s not often a game comes along that appeals to every geek fetish I have simultaneously, but Injustice 2 does just that. I’m a fighting game fan, so that’s check one. I’m an even bigger Batman fan… double check there. And last, but not least, I love a narrative-driven story mode. We just hit the nerd trifecta, people!
Injustice 2 continues the tale of a corrupted Superman who, after the loss of Lois Lane, decides he needs to become the Kim Jong-un of the DC Universe. Actually, I should more accurately call it the DC multiverse because, as you’ll learn later, it allows these events to play out simultaneously with our world’s timeline. The sequel begins with Superman locked up and Batman recounting the events of the first game. This transitions into our first playable level, where Batman and Robin (portrayed by problem child Damian Wayne) confront Superman at Arkham Asylum. Some might consider it strange to start off a brand new story by retreading old ground, but most of these details were only privy to those who read the prequel comics. So it was nice to get a little more backstory before diving into the new stuff.
I’m going to avoid giving away any major spoilers, but most will already know going in that Brainiac, and not the Justice League, is this game’s big bad. Characters like Wonder Woman and Black Adam are now in hiding after their defeat, but are preparing a secret weapon they plan to unleash when the time is right. A weapon in the form of a powerful, overly-eager, young blonde by the name of Supergirl. The game’s opening cinematic flashes back to the destruction of Krypton (at the hands of Brainiac in this version of the multiverse). It illustrates how she was tasked with being the protector of baby Kal-El before her ship gets knocked off course, causing her to remain in hyper-sleep much longer (thus explaining the age gap between her and her cousin in present day).
The story quickly kicks into high gear as Brainiac begins his invasion of Earth. With the assistance of The Society, a group of super-villains led by Gorilla Grodd, the evil alien forces begin touching down all over the world. As the destruction quickly escalates, the former enemies soon realize they may need to join forces in order to survive. This opens the door for many of our evil heroes from the previous game to turn over a new leaf and redeem themselves. Flash and Green Lantern are two central examples; however Batman is not as quick to trust Lantern at first. Aquaman later joins the fray, once Atlantis is under siege, as well.
The remainder of the story mode plays out as you’d expect, with a trade-off between long cut scenes intertwined with stints of bone crushing action. You’ll run the gamut of virtually every character on the roster, giving you the opportunity to sample what each one has to offer in regards to combos, special abilities, and super moves. In fact, this is somewhat of a double-edged sword and what I see as the game’s biggest achilles’ heel. Even though I love an immersive story in my games, there is almost too much of it and not enough gameplay in Injustice 2 at times. At one point I went so long between matches (due to these long, drawn-out cut scenes), my console’s screensaver kicked on. I mean, that’s a LONG time to go without touching the controller.
But at the end of the day, a good fighting game’s mojo is dependent on its controls. If it’s intuitive and flows well, then that makes for a great experience. If it’s clunky, no amount of writing or features can save it. Fortunately for Injustice 2, they have the team behind one of the best fighting games ever to shepherd them along. Ed Boon and NetherRealm Studios (of Mortal Kombat fame) have essentially taken a DC shell and slipped it over their MK engine, which they’ve already spent years perfecting. The mechanics aren’t super hard to pick up and they’ve done well to lay things out in a tutorial menu that’ll walk you through the basics. After only a minimum amount of practice, I was pulling off multi-hit combos, super moves and chaining specials together for maximum damage. Nothing feels more solid than ending the match with a perfect KO, and Injustice 2 should satisfy even the most hardened fighting game fan.
Although I will admit, after having to sit through the long animation of my character’s super move for about the 20th time, I started wishing there was a way to skip it and just jump back to the match. The same can be said for the stage transitions, which are spectacular at first, but taxing after a while. However, the clash system is a neat addition, which is essentially like a mini version of Russian roulette. You’ll bet with your super meter on who you think will win the face-off, and the winner is rewarded with additional health (while the difference is taken away from the loser). I’d love to see this concept expanded more in future sequels.
After a while of battling it out against the CPU, you’ll no doubt find yourself venturing online to take the fight to a human opponent. There’s nothing too surprising here, as you’ll find the typical features you’d expect. There are private matches, ranked matches, or player matches that don’t count towards overall rankings (player matches are a great way to feel out the online component without killing your record at first). But if you’d like to keep things old school among a group of friends on the couch, you can set up tournaments for local play as well. I wasn’t able to try the local multiplayer, but I do know that any victories over the net will allow you to level up, something which is essential for customizing your characters.