I am going to be honest with you, I was not excited when Injustice 2 was first announced. I felt that Injustice: Gods Among Us (2009) ended perfectly and that it did not need a follow-up. Fast forward to the first couple of videos that released for the game, and my excitement increased tenfold. I did have some initial reservations about the weird facial animations in the first few teaser videos, but that quickly changed as the game neared release.
Injustice 2 (2017) is officially the direct sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us (2009). It is made by NetherRealm Studios, the same people who birthed Mortal Kombat into the world, and is based on characters and locations from the DC Comics universe. As such, you have a strong and well known comic brand, along with a studio that has a world renowned fighting game pedigree, coming together to create what I think is one of the very best fighting games I have ever played.
When Heroes Fall (The Story so Far)
Injustice 2 follows directly on the events of the first game. In Injustice: Gods Among Us, a string of events caused Superman to lose his mind and to become a tyrant, hell-bent on bringing order to the world. As you might imagine when one of the most powerful superheroes goes to the ‘dark side’, a lot of death engulfed the characters and superheroes who refused to kneel before the Man of Steel.
In Gods Among Us, the story begins with a race toward disarming a bomb that threatens all of civilization. The force buildup of all the superheroes racing towards it creates a flashpoint – a hiccup in time. This causes some of the superheroes to get transported to an alternate Earth known as ‘Elseworld’ – a place where things are not as they should be.
Superman is a villain in Elseworld, and a gosh damned scary one at that. Thankfully Batman, who always has contingencies for everything, prepared for this and collected a rag-tag team of survivors from the Justice League days. Together, they stand with survivors of Elseworld, against Superman’s Regime.
Alien Invasion (The Story Now)
The overall story of Injustice 2 is fairly similar to Gods Among Us. This time, however, instead of showing us how our Earth heroes beat up an alternate Superman, the story instead only follows the Elseworld heroes. At first, this was confusing — I kept expecting to be introduced to a story where the Batman we saw on-screen was actually the Earth Batman from the first game, but that was not the case. Instead, the story is more straightforward than that.
It starts off with a quick flashback to Krypton that serves as an introduction to both Supergirl and the game’s villain, Brainiac. The cutscene explains how Brainiac was actually the one behind the fall of Krypton in the Elseworld universe. Now Brianiac is after Earth, or more specifically, Superman and Supergirl of Earth – the last remaining survivors of Krypton.
Naturally, Batman and his allies team up to defeat this new threat. The problem is that this new villain is far more powerful than they anticipated. Basically, Batman realises (a little late) that they do need Superman for this fight. The same Superman that he has locked away in a red sun prison.
With this in mind, about half of the game is spent finding out who the real villain is, and the other half is an epic fight for the greater good. Both halves serve perfectly to showcase the outstanding visual cinematography and quality that NetherRealm has imbued into Injustice 2’s campaign.
Shiny new Digs
Remember what I told you about my being a tad reserved about the weird facial animations in the first few videos? Yeah about that… Injustice 2 features some of the best facial animations, textures, and models I have ever seen in just about any genre of video game.
Not only does every single character look stunning (complete with full facial motion captures), but every sequence feels like an action-packed episode that would translate almost perfectly into an animated series.
At first it caught me off guard, and I could not tell whether I was watching one of those pseudo-3D-animated and live action movies, or actually seeing a cut scene. In fact, the game looks so good that I could not tell whether the cut scenes were in-game or pre-rendered. There are even times when the in-game rendered cutscenes border on photorealism. A supremely impressive feat, given that this is simply a fighting game.
Now when you take the incredible visuals and you couple them with some fantastic customisation options via the new Gear System; you end up with a truly immersive and extraordinary fighting game.
Customisation for Days
In Injustice 2, every match won or lost results in unlocking brand new gear for all of the available characters in the game. This “item pot luck” quickly became an obsession of mine. All I wanted to do is continue to fight in order to either collect the best gear or the best looking gear. With every match fought, there is hope for another good-looking piece for your favourite character. At least, that is how it continues to play out for me.
Fighting in Injustice 2 is really such a pleasure. Animations are smooth and button presses are input without any noticeable lag (except for online multiplayer).
For the most part, the fighting mechanics are very similar to the first game – so anyone who has played the original will feel right at home here. In short, it follows pretty much the exact same gameplay that you can expect form any modern fighting game. With this in mind, the game features a few easy-to-learn move combinations that will do some damage, but it also features a myraid of advanced special moves that dedicated players can use to eradicate their foes with ease. It is a great balance, once that is able to satisfy both newbies and pro-gamers.
Injustice 2 also features far better animations than the first game, with almost seamless transitions between effects and moves. All animations are more refined, much faster, and feature a lot more “pizazz” than before. They flow perfectly, even when they look like they should not, and connect with ease against the faces of opposing players. The improvements are all good and make for a fast, fluid and fun game.
In addition to the faster gameplay and great level of customisation available for all characters, I must say that Injustice 2’s newer take on all of the familiar characters is excellent. Many characters have gone through extensive changes since the first teasers were released, and many others were great surprises as the game neared release. The visuals are also superb with phenomenal use of motion capture for facial animations (take note EA, this is how you do it).
Needless to say, not a single character feels overlooked or rushed. Not even Joker, who died in the previous game – but let’s be real: this is a DC Game, so Joker has to be in it. On that note, I must mention that Joker literally only gets one match in the single player story. Just enough to remind you that he exists as an entity in the DC universe. Then again, the DC comics and flashpoint narrative of the first game opened up an entire multiverse of possibilities.
Brother Eye and the Multiverse Paradigm
Yes, Joker may be dead in Elseworld, but he is totally still alive on Earth. This brings me to one of the most unique and fun aspects of Injustice 2. Sure, the game has the usual multiplayer and the absolutely amazing singleplayer mode, but it also has another game mode: Multiverse.
Multiverse is a singleplayer online game mode in which Batman’s Brother Eye (his supercomputer) can monitor other Earths and their events. Here players can use Brother Eye to play through events from other worlds, all in an effort to unlock even more sweet gear, Motherloot Boxes (these have gear items and a chance for characters skins and abilities to drop), in-game currency, join guilds, and change costumes.
In Multiverse, anything can go. At any given time, multiple Earths are being monitored. Each of these worlds has its own timer, after which it will fade away and its scenarios never to be playable again. There are very difficult worlds that only fade away after weeks, and then there are worlds where players will only get an hour to complete all available events. Needless to say, Multiverse is highly addictive! In short, the multiverse plays out a little bit like raids in Destiny, just far more accessible and a heck of a lot more fun and rewarding.
Accessibility is Key (Multiplayer)
I may not be one for ranked play, but I have had my fair share of online brawls in fighting games. None of those brawls felt as good as it did in Injustice 2. I had my first taste of the game’s online multiplayer with Hans, right after I installed it (if you are interested, he beat me the entire time we played). It was good fun, except for one thing: the persistent evil that is lag.
Fortunately for everyone, NetherRealm‘s netcode is absolutely stellar this time around. Not only was lag a minimal issue, but I also had zero dropped games in the few matches that I played online. Once a game commenced, that was it. As minimal as the lag was, it was still there and this can really hurt a fighting game, and NetherRealm knows this .
As I said before, the sweet animations and zippier combat are very good things. In multiplayer, however, there is a noticeable difference in the speeds when I input a command, and it was played out on-screen. Fortunately the good folks at NetherRealm baked a nice little feature into the game. In the options menu for single player battles, you can activate lag compensation that lets you play offline, with around 100ms of input lag. This helps to prepare you for what to expect during online play. The game allows you to do this, with any one of the characters available to you, and it makes the difficulty harder than you would expect. You know, just in case you think the game is too easy to begin with (also so I can train and plot sweet revenge against Hans).
A Character A Day Keeps The Dull Days Away
Injustice 2 ships with 29 playable characters right out of the box. This includes DC favourites such as Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Cyborg, and Joker. There are also a stellar amount of supporting characters including the likes of Firestorm, Black Canary, Robin, and Doctor Fate. The 29th character, Brainiac, is unlockable after your first run through the campaign. Believe me when I say you will want to do the campaign at least twice (no spoilers, but those who reach the end will understand); and Darkseid is a pre-order bonus for anyone who pre-ordered the game digitally.
When I first caught wind of what I thought was the character roster in Injustice 2, I felt that something was missing. As if there were too few available characters. I felt this way coming from the Ultimate Edition of Injustice: Gods Among Us. In a way, I felt a little bit cheated in terms of character choice. I could not have been more wrong.
Not only are each of the characters amazing in their own right, but all of them also have a countless number of customisation options. Given the development time of the game, there is simply no way that NetherRealm could fit the full character roster from Gods Among Us into Injustice 2. Not without the company rushing the characters and possibly creating inferior versions. I am glad they chose not to rush development. Having said that, this choice also shines a light on the elephant in the room.
Downloadable Content and its Plight Against Humanity
Look, downloadable Content is pretty much just a way of life by now. On the surface, this is not an issue. Buying additional content for a game after release is a nice way of keeping a game relevant. What is an issue, however, is if a game includes content behind a paywall – content that is already in the game code. It is interesting then, that Injustice 2 treads this line very finely.
Every single character in the game can be unlocked by playing the game’s singleplayer or multiverse modes, all without spending any additional money. For this, the game is fantastic. I honestly think that the game goes out of its way to tell you that you need not spend a dime more than you already did on it when you bought it. There are microtransactions for things like more gear and experience boosters, but these things can also be purchased via in-game currency. Currency that is easily obtainable after a few rounds in Multiverse mode.
What about the extra $20 USD for the ‘other’ versions of the game? Well, NetherRealm has promised nine additional characters to anyone who bought the more expensive versions of the game. In a way, spending extra was a bit like purchasing a ‘character pass’. Considering how these characters are not yet in the game code (at least not appearing in the campaign or multiverse) it is safe to assume that the additional money spent may have been worth it. Only time will tell.
A Multiverse of Endings (Conclusion)
At the end of the day, NetherRealm has released an excellent fighting game. You have your characters, your levels, and of course, your DLC. You also have your multiple game modes, and online multiplayer, and all that jazz… but this time, all that jazz is simply outstanding in every sense of the word.
With the above in mind, Injustice 2 has it all: an amazing roster of characters, incredibly interactive levels, and nine DLC characters coming at a later date. It also has multiple game modes like Singleplayer, Multiverse, and Ranked and unranked Multiplayer.
Injustice 2 also looks gorgeous. Characters are borderline photorealistic. Action sequences look like they come straight out of what would have been an amazing DC Cinematic Universe had the last few films been a bit better, and it plays like an absolute dream.
If you like fighting games, the Dark Comics, or anything made by NetherRealm, this game is well worth the $60 USD / R900 ZAR. As the sequel to one of my favourite fighting games of all time, I had high hopes. All of which, I am glad to say, have been met with ease.
|Time Played||10 Hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Ster-Kinekor Entertainment|