Fighting games are and have always been a strange branch of gaming. A great fighting game walks an incredibly thin tightrope of balanced systems and fun factor, and not all make it across. It’s always refreshing then, when a new fighting game demonstrates the ability to be both effortlessly fun and fair, dynamic yet deep enough to sustain an impassioned audience. Injustice, while being new on the scene, is quickly carving out its own place in this crowded genre, attracting casual fans and pros alike, all the while keeping the core tenants of why we play games in the first place, fun.
Injustice 2 is the sequel to the well received 2013 game Injustice: Gods Among Us. When the first game arrived on the scene, courtesy of Mortal Kombat devs NetherRealm, it took us all by surprise by not only being a fun fighter but also offering a complex and impactful comic-book storyline. The Injustice plot revolves around the idea of Superman gone bad. After a tragic accident leaves him hell-bent on eliminating all crime, a rift is caused in the DC Universe, with our favourite heroes duking it out over moral quandaries and dilemmas. This sequel ups the stakes from the get go. Braniac is invading and Batman needs the help of his laser-eyed friend to stop him. What unfolds is a funny, well written and genuinely engaging story of friends reuniting against a greater foe.
The campaign, which lasts around 4 hours, puts you into the shoes of a diverse roster of the DC cannon. Each segment is allocated to a particular hero or villain which keeps things moving at an intriguing pace. The reason to play is to collect loot which can be used to upgrade and outfit different characters. This RPG inspired mechanic is Injustice 2’s biggest pull and takes the game from being a fun party experienced into a fully fleshed out product. It’s also what differentiates the game from its many peers, offering a palpable reason to play.
Accessibility is one of the hardest obstacles for a fighting game to overcome so it’s a pleasure to report that Injustice 2 has it in droves. I recently spent time organising tournaments for the game with the general public at a convention. What I observed that was while having knowledge of the game beforehand certainly gave a player some edge, new players were just as likely to pick up the controller and give their opponent a run for their money. This likely lies in Injustice 2’s fighting systems.
Complex evasion and dodging is there if you want to get cute, but there’s also a core set of mechanics which even the most lapsed of gamers can master. The management of the special meter will no doubt be the main factor in winning a pro game but building it up to unleash a devastating and entertaining special move is always an option, and a fun one at that. Acting as superhero versions of fatalities, these special moves give the game a grand sense of scale and along with arena transitions, make Injustice 2’s stages feel truly open and alive.
Character animations are wonderfully dynamic. The Flash in particular, with his tendency to dart around the screen, pops with electric charm. There are a few framerate drops in the cinematics though, which do take you out of the experience somewhat. Regardless, there’s just a noticeable attention to detail and clear love for the source material which shines through across the whole game.
Injustice 2 features the most content of any fighting game I have ever played. As well as the usual campaign and online modes expected of a game like this, there’s also a new multiverse section which allows players to earn loot. This loot varies between cosmetic upgrades, though this might be selling them short somewhat, and rare pieces which alter the way projectiles behave and are triggered. The result of this is that players can build their own fighters which perfectly represent their own playstyle.
For those worried that loot may make the game unbalanced need not as they can only be used in unranked matches in which both parties agree to the use of upgrades. When compared to the state in which a lot of other fighting games launch, Injustice 2 is unrivalled.
One area in which the game falters is in its currency system, specifically the source crystals. These items are traded in for upgrades and gear but are earned so sparingly that the game seems almost designed to make you spend real world money in order to proceed. The whole thing left me with a bad mobile game taste in my mouth and had me rolling my eyes more than once.
Despite this though Injustice 2 should be rewarded for taking a genre with such an established legacy and looking into the future with it. Fighting games of old, while fun, were somewhat one dimensional offerings, leaning on coach co-op to tell its stories. Injustice 2 keeps all of the things that make fighting games great and drags them kicking and screaming into the age of games like Destiny and Overwatch. T
he addition of a dedicated and complex upgrades system along with the near endless what-if playground that is the multiverse makes Injustice 2 a cut above the rest and is the new yardstick by which all future fighters should be measured.