A battle of beliefs
After the world was caught off guard by the excellent Injustice: Gods Among Us back in 2013, there was understandably a lot of buzz for a sequel. Now, after years of waiting, Injustice 2 has arrived. But what can this superhero showdown do to stand atop the fighting game pedestal?
Injustice 2 picks up five years after the end of the first game, and follows the Injustice universe of characters. Superman has been imprisoned, Batman has become more militant, and there is a massive divide between the members of the Justice League. The world is still recovering from the devastation left by Superman’s tyranny when suddenly a giant alien ship appears in the sky and Brainiac emerges, declares the world shall now be his. Now the team have to find a way to set aside their differences and save the world, but will it be that easy?
A big part of Injustice 2 is its story mode. Not only does the game have unlockables that can only be gained from the story mode, but it has a character you can only play as by finishing the story. While it won’t be a problem for some players, it does force at least one playthrough of the five-hour story before players even have access to the full rooster which is far from ideal.
It doesn’t help that the story mode is unapologetically poorly written. Characters appear and disappear whenever the story calls for it, and some of the heroes’ motivations randomly change and their logical thinking seems to vanish. While fighting game stories don’t always need to be the next Citizen Kane, it’s a shame that the story in Injustice 2 is a painfully bland outing that’s clear purpose is to give reason for one fight to move to the next.
Thankfully, the story mode is only one of many modes in Injustice 2. The game bolsters the now standard selection of playlists, such as VS mode, arcade mode, and an online battle mode. While that may sound plain, it’s one of the few fighting games that still releases with story and battle modes.
The gameplay of Injustice remains largely unchanged from the first game, playing like a modified version of the Mortal Kombat games. Characters attack each other with normal and special attacks, and can interact with the environment to damage opponents and put them into a good juggle combo.
Some characters have been slightly altered and remade for the sequel, an example being Harley Quinn, who now plays more like a trickster before and has the ability to pause or faint her abilities. This helps keep characters fresh and gives players who spent hours mastering their skills in the first game a reason to come back and learn the slight changes for their favourite characters.
One big change players will notice is the change in art and character design. Gone are the comic book inspired character designs that matched up with the comic book that ran alongside the games release, and in their place are designs that would fit in with the cinematic universe & CW tv shows. Some of the designs look fantastic, with Batman now looking more of a menacing threat than ever. However, some of the characters lost their charm during the transition, with Bane going from a jacked up psychopath to a generic looking goon.
But the biggest offence is the Joker. Somehow the game manages to portray the Joker as one of the most boring and edgy characters in the game, giving him a forward fridge and more than questionable dress attire. It’s a shame that the series has begun to wonder away from its origins, but hopefully some of these designs could be fixed up in future instalments.
But character designs aren’t the only big difference in Injustice 2. The real game changer is the game’s new armour system.
Injustice 2 now has loot boxes that can be bought with in-game currency or earned through the games online challenge modes. Each box unlocks armour for characters that can be equipped to give them stat buffs or special skins for their attacks.
This means saying goodbye to standard character costumes, and hello to random loot drops.
While this allows more customisation overall, with each individual part now being open to being changed and upgraded, it also creates a rather large imbalance between players who may have wildly different armour sets. One player might have 5% more block chip damage reduction, simply because they were lucky and opened a good loot box.
Thankfully, the system is currently well balanced and doesn’t feel too one sided, but that’s only the game in its current state, we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out further down the line.
Injustice 2 is a fantastic fighting game that comes with many questionable design choices. At its core, it’s a brilliantly crafted game where players can pit their favourite heroes against each other with frantic and fast-paced combat, however the poor story and worrying armour system keeps the game from being anything more.
For fans of the first game or DC comic books in general, Injustice 2 is a big improvement on the first game and will easily be worth the price of addition. But for those looking to sink their teeth into a fair and balanced fighting game with hopes of becoming the next Street Fighter may need to look elsewhere.