Developed by NetherRealm Studios
Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Available on PS4 and Xbox One
Rated T for Teen
The Injustice series is one of those canonically ridiculous and utterly awesome titles that requires a significant amount of just going with it. How does Green Arrow realistically go up against Superman and not get his head ripped off? Er… special magic power pills. But wait, then how does Black Canary hold up? She didn’t get a super pill! Um… Brainiac powers? Okay, right, so how does Harley Quinn beat Swamp Thing? Just… just shut up and go with it. It’s awesome.
To be fair, the storyline of Injustice 2 is way less goofy than the first one. Injustice: Gods Among Us was a weird multiverse spinning tale of alternate realities that ends with Superman literally beating the shit out of himself to save an alternate earth from Superman. It’s one of those stories that comic book fans accept wholeheartedly and makes casual spectators raise their eyebrows and back slowly away. It’s goofy as fuck, but ultimately very fun.
This time around, Injustice 2 focuses entirely on the aftermath of the alternate world where Superman goes all Hitler and Batman ends up locking him in a red sun prison. Unfortunately, it turns out that destabilizing the world’s only universal military and exiling/imprisoning its most powerful heroes leaves you open to a Brainiac invasion, and he soon shows up to start abducting the cities and murdering the whole planet. Oops, better let Superman out and deal with the consequences later. This might sound like spoilers, but if you couldn’t see this coming a mile away then you’re probably the kind of person that tried sending money to a Nigerian prince and are still waiting for the sick investment returns.
No matter how predictable it all is, it’s still fucking awesome. This is the kind of badass shit we wish we saw in the DC Universe movies. I don’t care how stupid it is that Aquaman teams up with Black Adam to fight Gorilla Grodd. I want to see that, and Injustice 2 delivers. Playing through the campaign was just so much damn fun. The characterization was on point, voice acting incredible, and facial animations put most other AAA titles to shame. There were a few weird sidetracks that introduce characters like Atrocitus and Reverse Flash just for the sake of showing you that they exist on the roster, but whatever. I’ll take a few road bumps for the general greatness of a Batman/Evil Superman team-up to beat the shit out of Brainiac.
Now the story is great, but this is a fighting game. How is the actual fighting? Well, I’m what you would describe as a middling fighting game player. I’ll get good enough to figure out most of the characters, but nowhere near an EVO level player. I can win online, but as soon as a juggle combo that requires an air escape meter burn to get out of goes off my eyes glaze over and I put the controller down. From that perspective, this game is not a major improvement over the first. Now I’m sure that some expert can come along and tell me that the hit/dodge frames have been perfected/destroyed into absolute trash tier, but I have yet to do that research. Compared to the first, it basically does the same thing with (mostly) different characters. You still have the clashes, the super moves, combo moves, special meter burns, and no fatalities. It’s an excellent formula, but compared to the multiple styles and fatalities of Mortal Kombat X I find it a hard sell.
It’s also a hard sell compared to the complete Injustice: Gods Among Us package that you can get right now for just $30. Compared to the 28 base characters of Injustice 2, the present Injustice: Gods Among Us combines the base roster of 24 with the DLC roster of 6 for a total of 30. For half the price. You do the math.
Looking at the whole fighting game package as just characters to battle with friends on the couch, it’s clear that the better deal is the original Injustice: Gods Among Us. Where Injustice 2 turns the corner is surprisingly as an RPG. Injustice 2 has a robust Multiverse mode that serves to supplement the single player experience. Or more accurately, the single player campaign serves to supplement the Multiverse. The Injustice 2 equivalent of the MKX challenge towers, these challenging strings of specially modified fights reward you with loot that you can use to deck your favorite heroes out in custom gear and colors. The loot has statistical benefits, ranging from simple health/attack/special increases to set bonuses that give you an edge versus certain types of boss characters. Don’t worry, it’s irrelevant in the multiplayer, as any real competition will be done with all loot bonuses turned off.
It’s a solid way to add longevity to the single player grind, if not for how obvious of a cash grab it is. Most loot is acquired through boxes, the modern equivalent of throwing quarters in a machine to continue. As much as I enjoy the gear system and the infinite combinations of custom costumes, the actual process of grinding gear is tiresome. You can link to the mobile app to increase your yield, and even insanely enough set up the AI to do the fights for you, but it’s still an absurd amount of grind. Sure, it adds theoretically thousands of hours to a game that might only occupy me a dozen hours normally. But how much of that time is actually worthwhile?
Speaking of microtransactions, holy shit the character roster. Loading the game up at launch, I was prompted to buy not one, but two DLC characters. Brainiac can be unlocked by beating the main campaign, but the pre-order character Darkseid the good people over at WB decided I would have to buy. There are 9 further announced DLC characters, making this the biggest DLC NeatherRealm season to date. The Jason Todd Red Hood character has already had its first trailer, not even a month after launch. You can debate until you are blue in the face about the validity of DLC, but this is ridiculous. As stated before, the Injustice 2 roster is a scant 4 characters larger than the base Injustice roster. The asking price for the full set right now is $100, which will bring the final math up to 38 characters for Injustice 2 and 30 for Injustice: Gods Among Us. To reiterate, the first Injustice is also just $30 at full price.
My overall opinion of Injustice 2 is very positive, but mostly because the series has yet to wear out its welcome. It’s fundamentally satisfying for the meganerd in me to be able to duke it out between Gorilla Grodd and Swamp Thing. The inclusion of Captain Cold also tickled my “Legends of Tomorrow” bone, and I similarly enjoyed seeing Atrocitus in action. The excellent story, diverse play option, and stellar visuals all atop a polished fighting system means I’m glued to my couch for at least a weak. My hesitation comes from the general trend towards more microtransactions in these games. There was a point of extreme hesitations when Mortal Kombat X allowed you to unlock all of the Krypt for $20. Now, Injustice 2 is letting you unlock an almost limitless combination of stuff for however much money your fiscal irresponsibility lets you spend. If you want to know why people are getting turned off of buying AAA titles, here’s why. I don’t want to spend $60 for the opportunity to spend hundreds more.
If you liked Injustice: Gods Among Us, you’ll undoubtedly love Injustice 2. As a fighting game package, there’s loads to do. If you don’t have the time to spend grinding out the various modes and exploring the character customization, it’s harder to recommend. It’s nowhere near bad, as $60 for a 28 character roster is very impressive. The problem is that so much of Injustice 2 relies on you getting invested in the grind, or paying for it. As a casual fighting game player, I want more interesting modes, not more modes that just pad the runtime. Maybe you’ll find the limitless modes and infinite grind of the Multiverse to be the perfect outlet for your need to grind. I didn’t. I loved what I did play, but that was it.