Injustice 2 review

This second entry in DC's superhero-laden fighting game series lands a solid hit.

Injustice 2 is easily one of the densest fighting games in recent memory. It’s a game that tries to suit every type of fighting game player, from the fiercest professional to the young folk playing a fighter for the first time. It doesn’t always succeed, but there’s certainly enough going right to make the game fun. NetherRealm Studios has done it again with Injustice 2, delivering a game worthy of the lofty DC Comics standard.

Injustice 2’s crowning achievement is its story mode, one rivaling any superhero movie from the last decade. It follows a similar format to the previous Injustice, carrying out the story by allowing the player to control certain heroes at a time, but some chapters throw choice into the mix. Chapter 3, for example, focuses on Green Arrow and Black Canary as they infiltrate the nefarious Society and the player is able to choose between the two before all four battles in the chapter. Unlike other fighting game stories however, the dialogue adapts to player choices, rather than remaining static. This makes the story feel more unique, as if it’s specifically tailored to the player’s preference, and that’s an impressive feat.

Multiverse Mode is Injustice 2’s massive single-player mode where most players not venturing online will spend their time. Mini-adventures set across five parallel universes are intended to keep the player challenged for long after the real story ended. Challenges will expire after some time is passed and be replaced with new ones. This is both a blessing and a curse in my view, as the player may really enjoy one particular challenge only to have it disappear into the ether forever, or they might miss one with rare rewards and have to wait for another challenge to offer the same thing. There are still plenty of other challenges that are active, of course, but the ability to choose maybe one expired challenge per session to retry would have been nice.

One notable issue is that Battle Simulator, the only unchanging world in Multiverse Mode, has been tucked away in the far right corner of the interface. This world is actually the classic Mortal Kombat ladder-style Arcade Mode that NetherRealm features in all of their games, complete with specific endings for each of the characters in the game. The endings are good too, which makes me even more confused as to why Battle Simulator was given so little prominence. To have a popular mode like this pushed out of the way for other features is baffling; I would have spent a lot more time with it had I known where it was from the beginning.

The only mode I would say leaves something to be desired is the online offerings, which consist of only Ranked Matches, unranked Player Matches, and Private Matches for friends. Players can join a Guild with other users, which opens up Guild-specific options like unique Multiverse missions, but if the player wants to go it alone all they can do is play the basics. I can appreciate the “less is more” idea for Injustice 2’s online modes, but I thought there’d be more options than the basics.

All of Injustice 2’s modes are buffered by its control scheme, an easy to use but hard to master format that anyone can pick up and play. Three attacks of varying strength on the face buttons, with the fourth being a character-specific power that triggers extra strength or different moves, is just enough variety to keep things easy while giving plenty of wiggle room to experiment. Special Moves require little more than a few directional inputs and an attack button, so learning each character’s movesets doesn’t take long at all. Combos came naturally at first too, but as I tried the Tutorials and attempted to dive deeper, the more difficult nuances of the game started to really show.

I’ve also noticed the smallest of delays between my button press and my character’s action, not a major one but enough that it messes with my timing. This may not be a problem to the casual player who may not notice it, but high level competitors will need to adjust to this quickly. Timing is everything in fighting games, with some matches determined by a mistake made in a single frame of action or 1/60 of a second, and a combo gets dropped it should be because the player messed up the button sequence, not because the delay affects the timing of the inputs.

One of Injustice 2’s biggest additions is the Gear inventory, items earned through in-game achievements that add a new customization spin on the game. We’ve seen custom costumes before in fighting games -- the Tekken franchise comes to mind as an example -- but the Gear here is on another level. Each piece of equippable Gear adds some sort of buff to the character, increasing that character’s health, power, and more. Each piece of Gear also changes the character’s appearance, making customization in Injustice 2 just as much about fashion as it is about fisticuffs. Players can even regenerate any Gear when they reach a higher level and scale its stats to that new level, proving that NetherRealm basically thought of everything. I love it.

Even with all of these super cool ways to play the game, Injustice 2’s single most effective element for bringing people around the television is its visuals. These character models are detailed to an absurd degree, including all of the different Gear they can wear, and the animations are sleek and crisp at a constant 60 frames per second. Particularly impressive are the facial animations, which are the most advanced I’ve seen since L.A. Noire. Expressions are super realistic, registering the subtlest changes during a character’s speech and making these heroes and villains even more lifelike. There’s one particular moment during Story Mode where Poison Ivy cracks a joke at Cyborg, and the look on her face is so realistic I thought she was talking directly to me. It’s uncanny (pun intended) how lifelike these characters look on the screen. At a glance, you might mistake them as part of a TV show rather than a videogame.

Injustice 2 has set an incredible bar for what’s shaping up to be a busy year in fighting games. It offers a ton of different ways to battle with these DC heroes and villains and it looks incredible while doing it. Customization is deep yet simple to implement, the story mode hooked me from beginning to end, and the visuals are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Injustice 2 is the kind of game longtime fighting fans have dreamed about, and it’s going to take a lot to knock this off the top of the mountain.

Verdict: Yes