Breaking ties with Midway and signing with Warner seems to have been one of Netherrealm Studios' best decisions. Since then, the studio that created Mortal Kombat has definitely raised the bar with its games, delivering MK9, Injustice: Gods Among Us, MKX, and now Injustice 2. All quality fighting games, and with a clear evolution from title to title. Injustice 2 shows precisely that: an improvement in almost every area, and it stands as a superb fighting game, regardless of it being based on a third-party license.
Injustice 2 is inspired by DC Comics, and it includes characters such as Superman, Batman, Joker, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and many others that you might know from the comics and movies. It's also the direct continuation of Injustice: Gods Among Us, a game highly praised for the courageous and original way in which it approached the DC universe. Both the first game and this sequel feature a very elaborate narrative campaign, with several cinematic moments.
Before we can tell you about the story in this game, we need a bit of background with regards to its predecessor. As such we're issuing a spoiler alert. In the first game, Joker managed to deceive Superman into killing a pregnant Lois Lane. Mad for revenge, Superman killed the Joker, and proclaimed himself as the great dictator of Earth. Several members of the Justice League joined Kal'El, but Batman, with the help of some other characters, managed to overthrow his regime. This story eventually spawned its own comic book line, itself mostly praised by fans. Ok, it's safe to look again.
When Injustice 2 kicks in, Superman is trapped, and his supporters have changed their minds, died, or are in hiding. However, when Brainiac decides to invade Earth, everything changes. The rest is up to you to find out as you play the campaign, and there are some fantastic cinematic sequences to enjoy. There are also plenty of references and delightful details for DC fans, although the story has a few holes here and there, as well as forcing multiple clashes (it is, after all, a fighting game). Still, it's five hours that every DC fan should enjoy.
The campaign is only a part of the content available to the single player. There is a mode called Multiverse, which is the equivalent of Mortal Kombat X's Living Towers. Each multiverse includes its own enemies to knock down, as well as special challenges. For example, in one multiverse the game forced us to play as Darkseid against the Justice League heroes, but you can usually choose the character you control. In a multiverse ruled by Joker, we would get a bonus if playing as Harley Quinn, for example. In these multiverses you will also find extra challenges (such as performing specific actions or controlling a certain character), as well as modifiers. In one multiverse we had the help of Dr. Fate, who we could call at any moment.
There are multiverses of various levels and difficulties, and every day new ones are added. Some last for weeks, others only hours, but all have rewards for the player, which vary depending on the challenges you are able to overcome. There are also specific multiverses for Guilds. These allow players to communicate with each other and address challenges that are too hard to tackle alone. There are even bosses who require a succession of players to take turns whittling down his health before they are defeated.
Multiverse mode is a delight, and there are even incentives to continue playing that go beyond simple fun: character progression. One of the great innovations of Injustice 2 is the introduction of a gear system that lets you improve or specialise the characters. Each hero and villain has access to six item types, such as chest, legs, arms, cloaks, and badges. Their equipment is of varying quality, which not only changes the character's appearance, but also their attributes. You can equip a hero to become more powerful with direct attacks, or specialise in power attacks, for example.
There are lots of pieces to collect for each character, and the game even has options that are normally associated with games in other genres. If you want to equip a specific piece, but don't like that item's look, you can change it to resemble a piece you already have. You can also "evolve" them to match your current level if the character becomes much more powerful than the gear you're using. This has, however, an associated cost.
Some equipment is obtained when you meet certain goals, but the most common way to acquire new armour is through Mother Boxes. These loot boxes come in categories of bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond, and the rarity of the equipment changes according to the category of the box. You get boxes by fulfilling certain objectives, or you can buy them with the gold you acquire while playing. As you might have guessed, you can also buy them with real money. The same applies to the options for evolving gear or changing their look. Everything has an associated cost, and we're not completely convinced that this loot crate system favours the gameplay. It has a clear economic benefit for Netherrealm and Warner, but it might not be the best option for the player.
Still, collecting gear turned out to hold a lot of appeal, and visually you can create something very special. The most powerful armour sets clearly show the player's advanced level, and you can even change the colour of the armour using patterns that are also unlocked, like dressing Superman in black and silver. Note that this armour factor also comes into play in the online mode.
The Injustice 2's multiplayer follows the traditional formula, with tournaments, "friendly" clashes, and ranked fights. You can use the armour pieces in these online scraps, but if you prefer a purer gaming experience, you can choose to fight without the additional stats. There's also an esports side to Injustice 2, with several events already scheduled (more details on the official website). More important than all this; the online mode in Injustice 2 worked quite well for us. It didn't seem to suffer from MKX's matchmaking problems, the combat was fluid, and everything was beautifully done (except our fighting technique, that was terrible).
Injustice 2's overall offering is excellent, then, with a lot of single-player content, luxury graphics, good sound effects, and a great cast of superheroes and villains. However, this would be useless if the combat system wasn't solid. Fortunately, it's not just solid, it's really good.
The influence of Mortal Kombat is clear, but Injustice 2 is not exactly the same. For example, here you get four types of basic attack: light, medium, strong, and special. This "special" varies depending on the character, and is executed with O on PS4, or B on Xbox One. For Supergirl, the special lets her shoot laser beams in various directions. In the case of Green Arrow, the special allows him to equip different types of arrows, while Batman can summon three electronic bats. It's a great touch that helps distinguish MK from Injustice 2.
The fighting system is fairly fluid, considerably more so than Injustice: Gods Among Us, and will suit many types of players. Any beginner can pick up Injustice, learn two or three specials, and do some lucky combos, having fun all the while. However, this is a very deep system, with ample opportunity for the more experienced to stand out, either through major combos, or by playing thoughtfully. An important tactical factor to consider in Injustice 2 lies in the energy bar, divided here into four sections. When the bar is full, you can perform an ultra-move that causes a lot of damage, but there are other functions associated with the bar.
If you use a section of the bar while you're performing a special move, you will reinforce that move, not only in terms of damage, but even in terms of its effect. For example, Supergirl can execute a super-blow, which stuns her opponent, but if during the super-blow you spend a section of energy, the blow will freeze the enemy. Another example is Superman's laser beam. Usually, it's easy to block, but if you use the energy, Supes will increase the intensity of the laser and break the enemy's guard. This energy can still be used to evade combinations, which is very useful in advanced games.
Finally, there is the 'clash'. Each combatant can trigger a clash once per fight, where each fighter must bet a number of sections from their energy bar (limited, of course, by the number they have). The player who bets the most wins. In the case of the aggressor a win increases the amount of health that is restored, and in the case of the defender, the damage dealt. The amount of energy restored or damage done depends on the difference between the two fighters.
In other words, there is a whole tactical side associated with energy bars, which goes far beyond the ability to perform ultra-powerful attacks (if you fail you will be wasting four compartments of energy, which can be disastrous in an evenly balanced battle). Note also how Netherrealm Studios recreated the characters, each with skills that gel perfectly with their comic persona. There are delightful details here for DC fans, both in terms of visual touches and gameplay features.
Injustice 2 is an excellent fighting game, perhaps even better than Mortal Kombat X, and considerably better than Injustice: Gods Among Us. The cast of characters, around 30 fighters strong, includes a selection of quality characters to choose from. Even if it lacks names like Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Batgirl, Doomsday, and Zod, it's still a well-stocked cast. If you're a fan of DC, and have even a passing interest in fighting games, Injustice 2 is absolutely mandatory.