For the first time in recorded history, the story of Injustice 2 follows a rivalry between Batman and Superman. Following directly from the first game, the heroes of the DC universe are fractured between a group dedicated to maintaining order and justice led by Batman and a group led by Wonder Woman that wishes to free Superman to deal with a looming alien threat. The story mode is split into around 13 chapters each containing between 3 and 5 fights. In each chapter, you will control a hero in each battle, although some chapters allow for choice between multiple characters, such as a chapter in which you control Green Arrow and Black Canary. This is a small choice, but it’s a nice change of pace from the straightforward chapters. There is also varying dialogue depending on which character you chose in these situations so it yields a small amount of replay value. The story itself is interesting if slightly unremarkable. It feels long in its closing stages, but it remains cohesive and makes some interesting narrative choices regarding how some old characters appear. Speaking of characters the voice performances are strong throughout. Kevin Conroy continues to define the role of Batman with another fantastic performance and although he isn’t joined by long time dance partner Mark Hamill, old favourites like Tara Strong’s Harley Quinn and Phil LaMarr’s multiple roles are strong throughout.
Injustice 2 is a 1vs1 fighter that feels a lot like NetherRealms recent Mortal Kombat X. Fights are fast and combos and special moves are easy to perform, with a lot of room left to hone your skills to devastating effect. Injustice 2 is incredibly fun. The animations are smooth and interesting and the way moves flow into each other looks great. It's possible to pull off impressive looking and devastating moves without having to be hugely proficient at the game which makes it very approachable for a game in such a walled-garden of a genre. Replacing the viscera and fatalities, Injustice 2 returns with a new suite of Super Moves. These moves are performed by holding both triggers with a full meter and if they connect, trigger a prolonged character specific cutscene in which your opponent may be punched round the sun or perhaps teleported to the Green Lantern planet of OA only to be beaten senseless by a mech suit made of will power. These are very creative and fun to watch, but when repeatedly using a single character, the effect does wear off after a while. An option to turn them off completely or turn the animation off for specific characters would help avoid this fatigue.
Aside from the previously discussed story mode, Injustice 2 offers a wide vary of options. In the “multiverse”, time-based missions will appear which tasks players with a set number of opponents to defeat under specific conditions. These include environmental hazards, restrictions on moves or a level based restriction. These are updated regularly and provide a varied and interesting single player mode that incentivises the use of different characters and encourages players to use dangerous or interesting fighting styles as opposed to focusing on one combo string or move. There is also an arcade style mode in which fighters play through a set number of fights which conclude in a battle with an overpowered Brainiac. These are fine and the character endings they unlock are interesting, but the Brainiac fight is cheap and frustrating. I found myself regularly checking back into the multiverse to complete the task and see myself playing a lot more of it in the future. The towers of enemies are varied in length enough that if you just want a few fights, you can or if you want to literally fight endlessly until you die, that's also available.
Injustice 2 offers wide multiplayer suite featuring ranked, player and king of the hill style fights, among others. In my time with the online, the net code seemed smooth and I had little trouble finding matches. I was occasionally being mismatched heavily in ranked, causing either complete stomps on my part or the opponent bouncing me about the screen for the whole match. I assume they'll improve this over time and plenty of the matches I was entered into were close affairs.
The most controversial addition to Injustice 2 and a feature that I'm personally unsure of even as I write this is the inclusion of loot boxes and gear. This is practically unheard of in a fighting game and would seem on the surface to be game breaking, but I think the way it’s implemented works well. You’ll earn plenty of loot boxes through general play. These are broken up into five tiers and each contains between 2 and 6 pieces of loot of varying rarities. These pieces of loot are all for specific characters and each character has around 5 slots. The best thing about this loot is that it shows cosmetically on the character, giving each character a unique look and a lot of variety. This is also used as a venue to add pieces of fan service such as the hammer and sickle chest plate for Superman from the Red Sun series or the Jokers iconic look from The Killing Joke. Strangely, this loot is also used as a venue to add alternate characters, such as Power Girl and Reverse Flash, who serve as alternate costumes for Supergirl and The Flash respectively. For a game with a relatively small roster I'd have preferred these have their own separate character in the game, but if that wasn't possible it's a novel way to include them at least.
Where things get complicated is that these pieces of loot all have stats that can affect things such as health and ability meters. Each character also has an individual level that is increased through prolonged use and as such, gear is also tied to level, so you’ll often find yourself with high-level gear for a character you haven't played and therefore no use for it. You can sell unwanted goods but the coin yields are small. You can transform the stats and appearance of items as well, but doing this cost one of the games 4, yes 4, currencies. Some of these currencies can be earned through regular play, but you guessed it, certain ones can only be gained in large amounts via paying for them with microtransactions. I’ve yet to see any need to spend any money on additional currency due to the glut of loot boxes I have been receiving, but the complication in the currency system is incredibly unnecessary and clunky. However, unfortunately, the game also offers the ability pay to level up characters without having to play as them, which defeats the entire point of the progression with a specific character.
Also, Injustice 2 simply has some of the best facial animations I've ever seen in a video game. That sounds like hyperbole but honestly, during the cut-scenes in the story mode, I was completely dumbfounded with just how well animated and realistic the movements and nuances of the face were captured. NetherRealm have reached Naughty Dog levels of facial animation with Injustice 2, it's a real achievement. The default costume design for most of the characters in interesting and they all fit together well to form a cohesive visual style. Influences for the costumes and iterations of the characters come from several sources such as the Arkham series or 2016's Suicide Squad, but all have tweaks and motifs that gives the characters a unique look while still staying true to the most iconic portrayals.
Injustice 2 is a fantastic fighting game. It's hugely accessible while leaving plenty of room to hone your skills and dominate. It's possible to play as basically any character and be able to pull off impressive moves without having to learn huge strings of combos or master timing. The story mode is consistently fun and surprising and the game's visuals at times are truly first class. It manages to make a loot system that could have potentially been a disaster balanced and a reason to invest in characters other than your favourite while also adding a huge amount of variety in aesthetics. While the micro-transactions are puzzling and off-putting, they at no point felt necessary or forced upon me. After the stumble that was Street Fighter V, I believe this generation has its defining fighting game and I look forward to playing even more of it.
|+ Accessible, tight controls.||– Puzzling microtransactions.|
|+ Superb visuals.||– Somewhat shallow roster.|
|+ NetherRealm story modes continue to impress.|
|+ Unique, deep loot system.|
|+ A wealth of content.|