The wait is over… Injustice 2 was finally released last week for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One! After building a lot of anticipation with episodic story trailers, weekly gameplay videos and numerous character reveals, we can happily report that NetherRealm Studios has (once again) delivered a heck of a fighting game.
After spending a full week with this game, we’re ready to give a full review of both the story and the gameplay.
Just like Injustice: Gods Among Us, Injustice 2 offers a cinematic story mode built around the idea of how a tyrannical Superman would change the world. The story mode in this game is a must-play for fans of DC Comics lore, as it features characters from Blue Beetle and Black Canary to Supergirl and Brainiac.
The premise of the story mode centers on Brainiac’s invasion of Earth. With the Earth’s superheroes and supervillains all in a messy conflict of morals with one another, the Earth is easily invaded by Brainiac. In order to stop him, Batman and his team must decide whether to seek Superman’s help, or try to fend off Brainiac themselves and risk Earth’s destruction.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
Injustice 2 does tell a compelling story, but it’s not the story we assumed it would be from the story trailers. In the story trailers released by NetherRealm during their marketing campaign, it seemed like they were hinting at a “redemption” of Suprmeran, and possibly even a reunification of the Justice League. In one story trailer, we even saw Batman and Robin launch off-screen together with their grappling guns, leading us to assume there may be a chance for reconciliation between Bruce and Damian.
Alas, this was all just good trailer editing, and there is still a heavy amount of strife between DC’s greatest heroes. If you’re not a fan of the whole “hero vs. hero” thing, or you hate seeing an evil Superman, then you’re not going to like Injustice 2‘s story mode. Even so, it’s very obvious that the writer’s of this game really understand these iconic characters, as they are *almost* all very well written. Green Arrow is as sarcastic as ever, Blue Beetle and Firestorm bring an entertaining “Teen Titans” type vibe, and Harley Quinn’s devil-may-care attitude offers a nice dose of comic relief.
The story is split up into chapters: some of which you play as just one character, and others where you get to choose between one of two characters for each battle (for example: Green Arrow or Black Canary, Blue Beetle or Firestorm). After Chapter 11, you’ll have to decide which side to choose to finish the game with: Batman or Superman. This is really important because there are two different endings, and whichever side you choose in your first play through will determine what ending you see first. The second ending can be unlocked by completing all of the remaining battles. So basically, if you chose Green Arrow for all the Green Arrow/Black Canary fights, you’ll need to redo those fights as Black Canary.
Both endings are fairly open-ended, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it seems like NetherRealm is keeping story options open for an eventual Injustice 3. It’s bad because you don’t get the sense that you’ve truly solved any conflict in either ending.
The voice acting is pretty good throughout, save for a few awkward lines here and there. Most of the original Justice League: Animated Series voice actors reprise their roles here, just like they did in Injustice: Gods Among Us.
All things considered, Injustice 2’s story mode is enjoyable and interesting, but it doesn’t quite achieve the resolution and sense of achievement that you’d hope for.
The gameplay is really where Injustice 2 shines. Gameplay is what sustains the life of a game long after the story mode has been beaten, and you’ll find some of the best gameplay mechanics in any fighting game in Injustice 2.
Button-mashers beware – this is not your stereotypical fighting game where pressing a lot of random buttons really fast will get you wins. NetherRealm is always looking for ways to keep players away from button-mashing by implementing systems that require tactical combos and special moves to win. That makes Injustice 2 more of a challenge, but also more rewarding when you finally start nailing some intermediate combos. Moves are more responsive and slightly quicker than in Gods Among Us, which makes for a much smoother and more streamlined battle. There are also new defensive moves, such as rolls to escape those pesky long range characters, and mid-air escapes to interrupt a brutal combo.
The most unique mechanic added to this game is the gear system. NetherRealm took a gamble by introducing customizable gear to each character, allowing players to change both their look and their stats. Initially, this was cause for concern, as it seemed like players with the biggest wallets could simply buy the best gear and therefore be unstoppable online. Fortunately, that’s not the case, as you can enter online matches that aren’t affected by gear stats.
Surprisingly, gear has been one of the most entertaining pieces of this game. It really adds value to all of the time you spend playing as any given character. One of the main ways to earn gear is through Motherboxes, which can be earned through playing the story mode, AI mode, and Multiverse (more on that in a second), or can be bought with in-game currency. Another way to earn get is by completing battles in the games new mode, The Multiverse. In the Multiverse, new battle opportunities come each day, bringing new challenges and new reward opportunities. You can also find the traditional arcade-style “latter” mode here, where you can play through a series of battles as one character to unlock their unique story ending. Aside from online, the Multiverse mode is what gives Injustice 2 so much replayability.
Speaking of online gameplay, if you’re more of a competitive player, then you’ll find plenty of satisfaction fighting online. Many of the online modes from Gods Among Us have returned such as King of the Hill and Survivor, and of course Ranked Matches to fight someone near your ranking, and Player Matches to fight any random player. NetherRealm makes it easy to determine whether you want to engage in battle with someone by showing their ping and their win-lose ratio. There will be some fights with less-than-ideal connections, but for the most part the online fights are smooth and feel just like playing locally.
NetherRealm spent a good deal of time, energy, and resources to hype up Injustice 2, and now we know why. With a solid story mode, character customization, plenty of online and offline modes, and some of the best fighting game mechanics out there – it’s not hard to love Injustice 2.