Injustice 2 is the best DC Comics movie we’ve had the chance to experience. It also happens to be an amazing fighting game too.
Developed by Mortal Kombat‘s NetherRealm and continuing on from the original Injustice (alongside the popular series of comics written by Aussie Tom Taylor), this sequel rightfully ditches the vanilla heroes we know and love. Instead, it focuses on the chaotic multiverse where Superman doesn’t mind torturing and assassinating anyone who stands in the way of his idea of world harmony. In it, ends justify means — after he is tricked into murdering a pregnant Lois Lane, destroying Metropolis in the process, Superman murders The Joker and then moves onto similar criminals. The House of El no longer is represented by hope, but by fear — it’s that, he believes, that creates order. Batman has other ideas.
With a story set before and after the events of the original Injustice, the sequel is centred on Batman rebuilding the world. He walks the line that Superman has fallen from, withdrawing to himself and developing technology that may be more authoritarian than he cares to admit. His need to form an expanded circle of trust is first and foremost on his mind; Green Arrow, Black Canary and a reformed Harleen Quinn are among the heroes in his small group of allies, though reformed Regime members Flash and Green Lantern are desperate to rejoin the fight. Wonder Woman and Black Adam are hellbent on restoring Superman to power, while the likes of Aquaman believe in Superman’s sensibilities but do not share his motivations. In Gorilla City, Grodd has allied villains from around the world; his new Society seeks to take advantage of the world’s instabilities.
The 5-6 hour story experience is epic, presenting a number of DC heroes and villains against each other. The ways in which NetherRealm weaves its story is magical, infinitely more satisfying than anything Warner Bros. has presented on film. I found myself yelling at the screen during cutscenes, infuriated with certain characters and their motivations; I then took immense satisfaction in handing them their asses. This time around, quicktime events have been dropped in favour of incredibly detailed cutscenes with amazing facial animations — some of the best I’ve ever seen in a video game. Rather than offering up one character per chapter, players are now able to select between one of two characters in a number of chapters. It’s perfect if you’re the worst with a lumbering, inept character like Cyborg. Seriously DC: stop trying to make Cyborg a thing.
Character design is greatly improved over the original Injustice, with characters looking both life-like and as if ripped from the pages of a comic book. Animations, either in-fight or in cutscenes, are true-to-life, fluid and oozing polish. In fact, every single thing in Injustice 2 is meticulously planned, with introductions to the Multiverse as compelling as character select and customisation screens. Players will work through two different sets of levelling: one for their gamercard and one for each of Injustice‘s fighters. Levelling a character up will allow you to play with their appearance, swapping out gear that will provide boosts to health, defense or a number of other attributes. If you find a look you like, you can spend in-game cash (sadly also available through microtransactions) to level up the gear or make it look like another piece of gear. It’s a system that players can wholly avoid, but those that go down that path will find satisfaction in making Injustice 2 their own. It’s a shame that additional victory poses aren’t available, though.
S.T.A.R. Labs missions have been replaced with the Multiverse, a Mortal Kombat Ladder-esque experience where you take on a series of matches with random modifiers. In some, an offscreen Joker will throw health packs onto the battlefield; in others, random bombs will drop from the sky. These Multiverse experiences are timed — some are open for minutes, others for hours. Completing them will provide in-game currency alongside all-too important Mother Boxes which provide new gear sets. Players can compete in these challenges as a single combatant (I almost wrote “kombatant” there) or join up with a Guild of players for further rewards. The Multiverse is infinitely better than S.T.A.R. Labs in that there’s a constant focus on actual combat and refining technique rather than an assortment of hilarious mini-games.
There are plenty of additional opportunities to level up your person and heroes — online fights are available (and already dominated by superstars), and new AI battle simulations will let you pit a team of three against those of others in simulated fights. The latter fighters can be watch in real-time, or sped up to 2X or 4X speed; regardless of how you watch, it’s great fun to do so. I’ve actually picked up several techniques doing so.
Fighting mechanics are wholly NetherRealm, balanced and fine-tuned for hardcore types, yet easy enough to pick up for those of us with hands made entirely of thumbs (read: me). With AI difficulty able to be set between multiple levels, DC fans should find a setting that will make the experience enjoyable.
As with Injustice, this sequel is far more than a fighter. It’s a love letter to DC’s heroes and villains, with each easily identifiable… yet not as you’re used to. With a variety of gear sets to earn and apply, alongside the ability to play with a host of colour schemes, Injustice 2 is also a creative playground. With fights. Good fights. If you’ve any interest in DC, or love fighters, this one’s for you.
Injustice 2was reviewed using a retail code on Xbox One, as purchased by the reviewer. A promotional code was later provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.