Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
WB and NeatherRealm Studios have been on a roll of late, with Mortal Kombat raking in critical acclaim, and the original Injustice being well-received by fighter and comic fans alike. It was so popular, it even spawned an actual DC comic.
It’s been a while since the first game introduced us to a bad guy Superman, and a fractured Justice League, and now we have the next installment, Injustice 2, which follows on from the events of the first game. This time, the big bad is Brainiac, and The Man of Steel and Dark Knight once again clash in their differing opinions of how to protect the world.
As expected, Injustice 2 is heavily influenced by MKX in terms of game engine and the overall fighting. The game feels much smoother than the first Injustice, as it benefits from the tweaked and refined gameplay born by MKX, and the visual overhaul is impressive, with some truly great character designed that create a unique spin on popular DC stars.
It features an easier to learn control system than previous MK installments, doing away with the block button in favour of Street Fighter-style holding back to block, and all special and super moves are easy to execute, not bogged down by the archaic and endlessly pointless secret button fatality combinations MK sticks to for some reason.
Environmental interactions return on each of the game’s impeccably designed stages, including over the top, and brilliantly cool transitions if you smack your enemy hard enough to send them flying through buildings into new areas. In a nod to MKX, there’s even a bar scene where you can grab an unlucky bar fly and throw him into your opponent. Nice, and certainly not very heroic, but there you go.
Alongside the familiar NeatherRealm fighting comes an RPG-like element in the form of loot drop rewards. As you complete the story, challenges and other modes, you earn ‘Mother boxes.’ These come in varying classes, from bronze through to diamond, and each grants randomly selected pieces of amour and other aesthetic items for the game’s various heroes and villains. These armour pieces not only change the look of a character, but often contain stat boosts, meaning you can increase a fighter’s base abilities by earning and equipping loot. Some loot is ultra rare, and has great stat boosts, making you a much greater threat, especially online.
Sadly, as interesting and unique as this system is, it’s also flawed. The best equipment often requires high character levels to equip, which means you’ll be doing a lot of grinding before you can even use such gear. Of course, for fighting fans who easily plough through hundreds of matches a week, this isn’t a problem, but for the more casual player, or those with, you know, jobs and things, it may be a more daunting prospect.
Luckily, there’s a new mode that makes all of this grinding a lot more fun, and that’s the Multiverse. Functioning like the MK towers mode, only on steroids, this mode features randomly generated alternate universe versions of Earth that feature differing numbers of fighters and modifiers. Fighters are also donned in different costumes and armour pieces, furthering the whole Multiverse feel, and there are a range of difficulty levels.
The different Earth versions can stay around for days, hours, or even mere minutes before new ones appear, and the varied challenges and difficulties keep you coming back for more. Add to this the whole loot farming element and the desire to make your ultimate, stat-buffed Batman, and you’ve got a game mode that’ll undoubtedly be the feature that keeps many coming back for more.
This is a modern NeatherRealm fighter, though, and it obviously boasts a decent story mode that’s packed with cut-scenes. Brainiac’s invasion and more inter-faction squabbling are the drive here, with even more of a lean towards the conflict between Bruce and Clark. We’re also introduced to a few new faces, including Supergirl, Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Scarecrow, Deadshot, and others. There’s a definite focus on putting more attention on some of DC’s lesser known heroes and villains, and it’s good to see some new fighters, and not just the usual roster of DC big hitters (Batman’s still the best, though. Just saying).
The story is decent, and thankfully, does away with the out of place QTE sections. Instead, occasionally you’re given the choice of two difference heroes. This has little effect on the outcome (aside from one specific moment), but is nonetheless a nice addition, and means you’re less likely to be stuck with a character you hate to play.
Other than the Multiverse and Story, the game has various training modes, and the staple offline and online multiplayer modes. MKX’s faction system returns, this time in the form as user creatable clans. You can name your own clan and create your own banner. From here, you can try to become a dominant clan, and go up against others.
Only time will tell how popular this becomes, and how well it’ll work out, but I’m willing to bet it’ll only appeal from hardcore online fighters, with most players opting not to bother. Still, it’s good that Neatherrealm caters for all players, and the options are there if you want them.
One option I’m certain no one wants, however, is the ugly trend of stripping out content to sell at a later date. Developers can argue as much as they like about giving fans more of what they want, and the extra dev time, but there was a time where fighting games had secret, extra characters you’d unlock with skill, not with your wallet, and I miss those days. Now, the only way you can extend your roster is to shell out more money, and I find the practice repugnant. Neatherrealm and WB are one of the worst offenders for this, sticking the market place ads on the title screen like cheap pop-ups asking for money, and if you haven’t pre-ordered the game, you’ll also be taunted with Darkseid on the character select, and clicking him opens up the PS Store. All it needs is an image of WB, Oliver Twist style, asking for more money. Ugh.
DLC is nothing new, though, and Injustice is far from the worst offender, but in a genre where it’s all about the characters, I can’t help but feel ripped-off when a good deal of them aren’t even included in the base game.
Money-grabbing aside, there’s really not a great deal to find fault with here, especially if you’re a fan of Neatherrealm’s particular breed of combat. Injustice 2 has the looks (even of some character stray far to close to the bottom of the uncanny valley – Harley, I’m looking at you!), and the Multiverse mode is a solid offering that should ensure you get your money’s worth. The story is short, but has a satisfying conclusion, and the online action will probably keep fighting veterans going until the next MK arrives.