Injustice 2, as the name suggests, is the sequel to NetherRealm Studios’ 2013 beat ‘em up Injustice: Gods Among Us. As with its predecessor, Injustice 2 roster consists of some of DC Comics’ greatest heroes and villains coming together to batter the living daylights out of each other, with over the top, comic book violence in place of Mortal Kombat’s blood and gore.
The cast of characters is wide and varied, with well-known faces such as Batman, Harley Quinn and Superman returning, along with a whole host of new faces, including Black Canary, Firestorm and one of my all-time personal favourite DC characters Swamp Thing. Characters could be designated into two classes – faster, more nimble characters and slower, lumbering brutes.
Once booted, Injustice 2’ main menu offers a whole host of single and multiplayer options. The game gives players the option to reacquaint themselves with the basic and more advanced moves and techniques. Although I’d played Injustice: Gods Among Us and its bloodier stablemate MKX within the last year, I felt it was worth learning these more advanced techniques again, as some are specific to the Injustice franchise; such as how to use interactive objects within the battlegrounds background scenery and how to trigger scene transitions. For anyone who missed out on the original game, hitting an opponent close to the corner of a stage will launch them through the wall, dealing massive damage, ending in a different stage, whereupon battle duly recommences.
Each combatant has a dual health gauge, rather than two separate rounds. Once both are depleted the bout ends. The action is fast and fluid, with character-specific special moves, combos and juggling your opponent in mid-air with a variety of attacks needed to defeat them. Combos build up a Super Move, which when executed triggers a cut-scene, which like the scene transitions sap huge amounts of health from an opponent.
Once familiar with the controls you can choose to dive directly into the single player story mode, engage in a single fight, practice against a passive opponent or take on daily challenges. Multiplayer offers a 1v1 option, the option to create an AI controlled team to challenge other players or compete in tournaments. There’s also an online function allowing players to pit their skills against others across the globe. Other options from the main menu include character customisation (which I’ll touch on later), a collectables gallery, the option to join guilds (similar to factions in MKX), plus a whole host of extras since as being able to link to the Injustice 2 mobile app. As you can see, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Injustice 2’s story mode begins with a prologue, showing the destruction of Krypton and the evacuation of the infant Kal-El and his cousin Kara Zor-El. Following the introductory scene, the story picks up five years after the events of God Among Us with the Justice League fractured, only to have to swallow their pride, put aside their differences and reunite when the same intergalactic foe that decimated Krypton threatens mankind’s existence. The story plays out across multiple chapters, with the player taking control of a different character.
Cut scenes fill out the story in between fighting stages, although this time it’s a more passive experience, with no QTEs apart from selecting which character to control during chapters featuring more than one playable character. I was disappointed to learn this as I progressed through the story, as I held by controller primed ready for a button to appear on screen to no avail. Although the story is intriguing and beautifully executed, the cut scenes do tend to last for several minutes before handing control back to the player.
The scenes can be skipped, but then where’s the fun in playing story mode if you skip through the plot? On a more positive note, the cut-scenes are gorgeous, with no slow down or noticeable issues. NetherRealm has assembled a talented cast to breathe life into their characters, with many well-known voices from the DC Universe, including Kevin Conroy as Batman, and the brilliant Tara Strong as Harley Quinn. A Nightmare On Elm Street’s Robert Englund lends his sinister, rasping Freddy Krueger vocals to Dr Johnathan Crane/The Scarecrow, which fits the character to a tee.
The daily challenges, themed around protecting the Multiverse, are similar to MKX’s tower challenges – progressing through multiple fights in order to level up in experience. For every battle you win, irrespective of which option you play, there’s the opportunity to earn gear, which in turn can be used to upgrade a character. Premium skins can also be obtained, which replace what would normally be unlockable characters; for instance, you can unlock Power Girl, the premium skin for Supergirl or Grid, the skin for Cyborg. Customisation plays a huge part in the game, so it’s worthwhile checking into the gallery on a regular basis to keep track of what you’ve picked up as you progress.
Jumping online for a bit of Injustice 2 is where the game falters as the action lags frequently, but this may just be my potato broadband connection. Finding an online match seems to take forever, and I seemed to be perennially paired with someone who’d continually spam a mid or long range attack, who in this reviewer’s humble opinion are the fighting game equivalent of FPS campers – players with very low skill level, or those who are content to troll players who genuinely want to test their skills against other players. Whilst I’m by no means a master, I do have a little variety in the way I play, pulling off the odd combo or two, but whilst the game is still new and everyone is at a relatively similar XP level these types of encounters are inevitable, that is until the savvy gamers rank up above these one-shot wonders. Injustice 2 is a far more enjoyable experience playing with a friend, who will likely be able to offer a more gentlemanly dual.
Luckily, Injustice 2’s online mode is the only chink in the game’s armour. With the story mode clocking in at around about ten hours, daily challenges, customisation for characters and local multiplayer, there’s plenty to keep any beat ‘em up fan happy, irrespective of being a fan of DC Universe. Bear in mind that NetherRealm will no doubt expand on the current roster by drip feeding DLC bundles, which is bound to extend the game’s longevity. If you’ve played/enjoyed the original, or the more recent Mortal Kombat games, Injustice 2 is bound to appeal.