INJUSTICE FOR ALL
Game: Injustice 2
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review copy provided)
The content kings are back in town and they want their throne back. Yes, in the interim between Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2 no fighting game has managed to topple NetherRealm, the content giants in this arena. And it’s not for a lack of trying. Instead they stand proudly, undefeated atop a pile of bodies, ready to give you more as they shout “Are you not entertained!?”.
I guess we should start with the rather impressive story mode, which will take you anywhere between 4-8 hours to complete depending on skill and difficulty level. The story picks up after the events of Gods Among Us with Superman having been incarcerated, and like any good Justice League story, results in a coming together of sorts when a bigger, meaner bad guy enters the fray. It’s hard not to feel the influence of Mortal Kombat, as you switch between concurrent events, controlling almost all of the cast throughout its duration. This enables NetherRealm to tell a story with wide scope that encompasses a large portion of the DC universe, and forces you to learn 28 characters on the fly to a basic level. Depending on your mechanical competency and disposition this could be seen as a negative, but I found it a great way to get reacquainted with a large roster of super heroes and villains.
On a technical level, everything regarding story mode seems to have been beefed up. From the animations and voice acting, to the graphical fidelity that has allowed NetherRealm to fully realise this gritty alternative reality with stunningly detailed character models, environments, and facial animations. The hideous female countenances that hamstrung the story mode of the original are all but gone thanks to the step up to current generation hardware.
Once the story has been conquered, most who prefer to shy away from competitive combat against their fellow man (or woman) will have a chance to lose themselves in the Multi-verse; NetherRealms answer to daily/weekly quests, while staying within the theme of the license being used (which I must admit is a nice touch). Here, missions of varying difficulty can be undertaken, and these usually include taking out an AI opponent under special circumstances. This can be direct buffs to character statistics, move sets or environmental changes and I can only imagine that NetherRealm will get more inventive as time goes on. However, fair warning; some of these can be incredibly difficult without the right gear and level. Criminally so. You’ll be rewarded with Mother Boxes (a.k.a loot crates) for completing most tasks, but the Multi-verse mode is probably your best bet for big consistent rewards in the long run.
Speaking of which, someone over at NetherRealm has clearly spent too much time in Azeroth, because clothing with statistical advantages that buff your character are definitely a thing here. It’s weird to be talking about loot in a fighting game, especially loot that is not solely cosmetic, but here we are. From my own personal perspective, it can be one of the most fun aspects of the game, while simultaneously being one of the most annoying. The freedom to customise and make your favourite character your own can not be underestimated here. The options are definitely satisfying, and if you are lucky or able to grind enough, there are even cool sets that modify your move set and shaders for you to indulge in. And therein lies the problem; the grind can be quite troublesome for those without luck on their side, as you can always get trash, even in the top tier of loot boxes. The hardcore player need not worry too much about the addition of the loot system, though. A Competitive mode enables you to remove the buffs and statistics any loot might bestow, allowing you to experience a more balanced version of the game. Or at the very least, what NetherRealm perceives as balance on release.
However, despite excelling in the content it provides, NetherRealm still fall short when it comes to their tutorial system. While a little more in-depth than Mortal Kombat X, in that it provides some specific direction for individual characters, it is still a far cry from Guilty Gear Xrd and pales even in comparison to Street Fighter V (which does a terrible job itself) when attempting to bridge the gap between single player and online play. I understand that these games are so complex, and that it is never completely possible to shorten such a gap, but the current standard overall for this in the genre is lacklustre. You will however be introduced to the new mechanics of the game. While meter burning and special traits are still a thing, there are now additional uses for that nifty right trigger including bounce cancels for extending combos, air recovery for escaping juggles and a push block. All of which eat two/two/one bar(s) of your resources respectively.
Sadly if you wish to not get destroyed online, you will still need to invest in a hefty dose of personal research, but those familiar with the original, will find that the mainstay cast are largely similar to their older iterations.
That brings us onto the mainstay of any decent fighting game in modern times, the online play. If you haven’t already taken the plunge, the good news is that net play for Injustice 2 is good! Great even, and miles ahead of where Mortal Kombat X was at release thanks to the GGPO guys, and I have no doubt things will continue to improve. The bad side of this is that game balance seems quite skewed towards zoning characters at the moment. We are not speaking throw one wrong projectile out of place and get heavily punished, zoning that you commonly see newbies complain about because they don’t understand the fireball game. This is the ‘turn off your brain and autopilot’ kind that some characters do too well. On the plus side, NetherRealm are well known for pushing out balance updates regularly, so expect some readjustment in the near future.
It would seem that NetherRealm Studios have delivered the complete package this time. It is by no means perfect, but does most things with enough competency that there is literally something for everyone here. Proof that the more hardcore aspects of the genre (online) and the casual side (offline) can coexist if developers choose to spend time addressing both audiences. Here we have the simple understanding that it is possible to have different modes that cater to specific audiences. Bravo!