Screen Critics Misael Duran reviews the anticipated Injustice 2, NetherRealm’s DC superhero fighter. Does it live up to expectations?
You know what I love? Superheroes. Do you know what else I love? Fighting video games. When you combine the two, you get the Injustice series. Spinning out of 2008’s Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe, the developers of the Mortal Kombat series decided to exclude the Mortal Kombat side and just focus on the DC universe. That is how the first Injustice game was made, and it was definitely a great game. With that said, Injustice 2 is a very big improvement. With a wonderful cast of characters to choose from and exciting gameplay, Injustice 2 maybe the best superhero video game so far.
The gameplay of Injustice 2 is not that much different than what was establish in the first Injustice game. Players are able to choose from a wide variety of DC characters, all of which have their own unique special moves and combos. All of the twenty-five plus characters are unique in their own way, with every combo being dissimilar from one another. It is worth checking out every character, and learning the ins and outs of each one. Super moves return from the first game; super moves are the characters most powerful attack. At times the supers last too long; Brainiac’s move almost always feels as if it takes longer than most. They are always enjoyable to watch nonetheless, from Batman’s batplane assault to Brainiac’s super laser.
All the fighters can level up, increasing certain stats. They increase in things like strength, defense and health and can all reach up to level twenty. The more times you play a specific character, the more experience you can gain. This RPG element really benefits from gamers who take the time to play their favorite characters, rewarding the time they spend by giving them better stats.
Gear, another RPG-like addition to the series, also enhances characters stats. There are three levels of gears: common, rare, and epic. Gears are sometimes gained at random at the end of every match, though characters you play more have the likelier chance to receive their character-specific gear. Gears are also found in Mother Boxes – prizes you gain throughout the Multiverse part of the game; some Mother Boxes can also be bought. The gear is also level specific, meaning gears can only be equipped on the character if they reach a designated level.
Finding the right gear becomes an addicting aspect of the game. It also becomes the most frustratingly part of the game. You can never choose what gear to get, as it is always random. I discovered myself always getting gear for characters that I never played as. I desperately pray for gear for a small selection of characters, yet I always end up with stuff for Bane or Cheetah. To be fair you will constantly gain gear throughout. You will end up with a surplus of gear for all the characters – it is just difficult to get epic gears for the characters you want. Getting the right gear, having the right combination, and making that perfect character, is what makes the endeavor worth it. Having the character that matches your preferred play style is such a gratifying feeling. It makes the grinding feel worth it just to have the best equipment to play against your friends.
Multiverse is the main mode for single players outside the story. Multiverse is updated hourly; the Multiverse is a selection of different universes for players to play on. Universes are constantly disappearing, with new ones taking their place. Each universe has their own selection of events, which are where you fight through a series of characters. A lot of these events have their own special gimmick in them. Sometimes the fighters are given benefits, and sometimes they are given disadvantages. There is one universe that will always be around – that is where the classic arcade towers will be found, along with survival and endless events. Survival and endless are essentially both about surviving in a never ending string of fights for as long as you can. Survival forces you to beat as many opponents with the same health throughout the entire event.
Multiverse is where most of gamers times will be spent, and it is always a blast. Some events are better than others, and it is upsetting to find some events be exclusive to characters at a specific level. Despite that it doesn’t matter if the gimmicks benefit you or not, it is just fun to not play a normal match and gives players a nice challenge. Gear and Mother Boxes are often rewarded, and something new is always being included. This will give the game a long life span after it’s initial release, as many gamers will check in daily to see the new universes being incorporated.
Your enjoyment of the story mode of the game will depend on your stance on the evil Superman concept. It is definitely upsetting to see one of the most altruistic superheroes in existence in such a negative state of mind. In spite of that, the story is still a very fascinating look at a Superman who has completely gone too far. He is now a person more than willing to kill and use fear to protect the world. He has completely deluded himself into believing he is still the hero, despite the contrary of what is being shown in the game.
The other interesting thing about the story is showing how far Batman has gone as well. Joining forces with criminals like Harley Quinn and Catwoman, while condemning some his old Justice League friends, and forgoing his own son. Batman is hardly innocent in the game; as Damien says to him in the beginning of the story mode, he was too busy trying to fight his own friends that he forgets who the real criminals are.
Regardless of when the story touches on the more grey areas of the Superman versus Batman conflict, the narrative always counters it by showing Superman’s team doing something that is obviously evil. From his malicious stare during his conversation with Batman about the Justice League table, to Wonder Woman stabbing Harley Quinn. Superman’s group is evidently on the wrong, which makes choosing between the two at the end feel nonsensical. Despite the compromises Batman makes throughout the story, he is still evidently the hero of the game. It is one of the stories failing; the moral conflict ends up feeling too one-sided.
There is still an abundance of great narrative stuff in the campaign. Brainiac’s assault on the Earth, which forces Batman and Superman to form an alliance, is all riveting. All the main characters get their moment in the plot; the Flash and Green Arrow shine as the comic relief. Green Lantern’s desire for redemption, after initially siding with Superman in the first game, gives him a nice and fulfilling character arc.
The minor characters are given less time in the spotlight – some of them have perplexingly short appearances in the story. Atrocitus and Joker (or the illusion of the Joker) only appears for one fight, and then they are never seen again. It is kind of jarring especially when some of the enemy-only fighters can be fought up to three times in the campaign. Another big negative of the story is the portrayal of Wonder Woman. While evil Superman is presented more interestingly in the game, Wonder Woman comes off as too malicious and coldhearted.
The story is broken up into twelve chapters, each chapter focusing on either one or two characters. Every chapter has only four matches, except chapter eleven which has five. Generally the chapters would have you play as only one character in all four matches; in the chapters that centers on two characters, you are forced to choose between the two before each match. It inspires players to learn how to play with most of the characters in the roster, giving gamers the chance to test out and discover the basics for more than half of the playable cast.
Each character in the roster is fun to play; however the actual selection of characters is personally a mixed bag. This is comparable to the first game, which had my perfect roster. It had Doomsday, Deathstroke, Raven, Batgirl, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, and many more of my favorite DC characters. It is nice to have more obscure characters in Injustice 2, nevertheless it is sad to see someone like Doctor Fate in the game and not Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch-nemesis. The roster is also over saturated with Batman characters; in general the game heavily focuses on Batman. It makes the game feel as if it is really a Batman fighting game with the other DC characters just guess staring.
Among the additional characters, there have been several new standouts. Scarecrow somehow ended up being one of my most favorite new characters, with his grotesque appearance and his specials making him a visually cool character to look at. Even though he is super slow, I thought Swamp Thing was awesome in the game. Almost all his moves have a far reach, and his model is also very well detailed. Overall, the game is graphically very impressive. The facial expressions on all the characters not only look real, they also subtly convey emotions really well. From Superman’s malevolent attitude to Green Lantern’s guilt-ridden face, every expression on the cast is clear and beautifully showcased. The characters almost look as if they jumped straight out of the comics and into the real world.
The biggest downside in the entire game is the low stage selection. There are only twelve stages available at launch, with four of them being Batman related (to be fair, three are Superman related). It is really disappointing, especially if you play the game long enough. You will come across the same stages over and over. It gets very tiring and a little tedious. Notwithstanding the low stage count, all the stages look fantastic and are filled with great design. The attention to detail is remarkable; the Ace Bar in Metropolis City has many DC Universe Easter Eggs for fans to mull over. Each stage has objects that players can grab and throw at their opponents. Finding and throwing these objects is always amusing.
Online, if you have a good enough Wi-Fi, runs with no issue. There are no lags when facing against opponents via online matches, and the response time between when you press the button to your character reacting is in perfect sync. There are a nice variety of online options to play with, offering another way to gain experience for your characters and receiving more prizes. Most of the online features that appeared in the first game are back – if you enjoy online gaming and have a good enough Wi-Fi, then you’ll love the online options for Injustice 2. Unless you have my skill set, then you may find yourself never winning any online matches and vowing to never play again after every loss.
Verdict: Injustice 2 exceeds all expectations, offering a large amount of content for both offline and online gamers. The gameplay is solid and fun, while the graphics are breathtaking. The story is great and all the characters in the roster are a joy to test out. The gear system will take up most of your time, but it is always worth it to get that perfect gear combination for your favorite characters. Some characters are not represented as well as others in the game’s narrative, with others characters being showered with more favoritism than the rest – and when I say others characters, I mean Batman. Despite that, Injustice 2 has raised the bar for all superhero video games. It’s the new fighting game that others should strive for, and it could be a new game changer. Now excuse me while I play more Injustice 2, and look forward to Injustice 3: The Batman Fighting Game.