The Video Gamer’s Experience – Injustice 2 Review

I’ve always been a Marvel comics guy. The characters, stories, and even the action figures appealed to me more growing up than anything DC comics had to offer outside of Batman (probably because “Batman The Animated Series” was so awesome). The Marvel video games, especially in the fighting genre, left something to be desired compared to their DC counterparts (though neither Marvel or DC offerings would be considered classic or genre-defining like so many 2D brawlers from the mid-1990s). While Marvel produced memorable fighting games based on crossover events such as “Marvel vs. Capcom”, DC Comics would eventually find its fighting games being handled NetherRealm Studios – the minds behind the “Mortal Kombat” franchise. NetherRealm’s first real attempt at creating a fantastic DC fighting game found great success both critically & financially with “Injustice: Gods Among Us” (not counting “MK vs. DC”). It would take almost four years after the series’ first iteration that a sequel would arrive with a focus on improving what worked, get rid of the redundant, and innovate where other developers have failed when implementing loot drops. I enjoyed my time with “Injustice”, but something always felt off about the game especially coming back to it following the release of “Mortal Kombat X”. My hope wasn’t to just experience a fantastic fighting game, but one that would also give me the unbridled joy of “Mortal Kombat X” and even some of the fighting games I thought were excellent as a kid.



Did I Complete “Injustice 2”?


Unlike the days of its forefathers in the genre and more in line with its recent predecessors like “Injustice” and “Mortal Kombat X”, “Injustice 2” features a variety of modes; but only one has a true completion rating: Story Mode. Picking up where “Injustice: Gods Among Us” left off, the player is given the opportunity to test out a variety of characters in this alternate universe in the DC world featuring a story that has become synonymous with NetherRealm games over the last two generations. The mode lasts about a third less than the previous game’s version, but features two endings and multiple moments where the player must choose to pick one of two characters (allowing the player to go back courtesy of “Chapter Select” to play with the character not chosen). Story Mode is a perfect starting point for players looking to test the depths of their potential skills with a variety of the fighters available while unlocking one character made to believe initially is stuck behind an actual pay wall.



For offline players, “Injustice 2” features “The Multiverse” which is a more profound version of the “Living Towers” from “MK X” where the player can take on AI opponents in a variety of fights that can range from anything such as a normal one-on-one battles to a fight where poisonous missiles intermediately shoot from the sky. These “Multiverses” change on an hourly, daily and weekly basis; giving the player something different almost every time they play. For those who are up to the task, “Injustice 2” gives a player the option of fighting against others online. Instead of just having simple one-on-one battles, “Injustice 2” allows players to start their own rooms/lobbies, participate in “King of the Hill” mode fights where the player must defeat the reigning champion and defend his/her throne as long as the player can, and even join a “Guild” to battle tough-as-nails AI competition alongside players from around the world.

Thanks to the various achievement/trophies attached to “Injustice 2”, completing the game becomes a lot easier thanks to a checklist that asks the player to try out everything and everyone – though the time to complete everything including leveling up every character to their max level of twenty is time consuming. With a majority of the trophies completed in under twenty hours, my main focus became and still is leveling up the characters – something that’ll probably take another fifteen to twenty hours while completing “Multiverse” events, collecting gear & abilities (including the rare “Cat Call” Catwoman maneuver) and continuously playing online.


Did “Injustice 2” Live Up to the Hype?


As expected, “Injustice 2” takes the foundation set in place by its predecessor and improves upon the gameplay and control scheme. The base attacks are centered around light, medium, heavy and special strikes with the latter usually being one-hit attacks that need to recharge after usage such as Supergirl’s eye laser or Scarecrow’s ability to produce acidic, health-draining smoke from his body. With the directional pad/analog stick, players can pull off special maneuvers as expected from any fighting game that can be the beginning or end of combo strings that will juggle opponents when the strikes are mixed with the maneuvers like Bane’s simple opponent-lifting stomp turning into a pro wrestling-influenced series of moves including a super elbow drop. Gameplay elements that really helped “Injustice” stand out are back again including environmental interactives that can range from anything like a throw-able crocodile or a springboard to move out of corner depending on the size of the character (the bigger the character the more probable each interactive will be used as a weapon rather than a defensive mechanism). The environmental weapons can be blocked to stop spammers who loved going crazy with them unlike in “Injustice”. There are arena transitions again where opponents can knock each other through walls to deliver massive damage while laughing at the ridiculous journey from one area to another to continue the battle (or witness the winner screen).

Of course, the super-powered special maneuvers return courtesy of the “Super Meter” where the player can tap the right trigger to use one segment of a four-bar meter that grows with each attack & hit to fire off a powered-up version of a regular special attack. Going back to Bane – a player can “Meter Burn” his running attack into that aforementioned elbow drop, or pop-up an enemy into his Zangief-style spinning piledriver. The Super Moves (“Injustice’s” answer to the “X-Ray” attacks from the previous two “Mortal Kombat” games) are back in their ridiculous glory. A Super Move is rather easily blocked, but can deal massive damage if it connects. The “Clash System” is also improved from the original “Injustice”. By hitting the right trigger/R2 and pressing forward when being hit with a combo, the player can create a breaker moment where the opponents must bet a bar or bars of their Super Meter to regain health (if the Clash initiator wins the bet) or deal more damage (if the opponent wagers more bars). Though every character has the same base from a control scheme perspective, all the twenty-eight initial fighters (a lot of them are fresh faces who might be completely unknown to non-hardcore DC Comics fans) feel completely different even if they are easily, initially categorized by strength, speed, & reach. The mini-tutorials can give the player a glimpse into how each character plays, but it isn’t until the player puts in the effort (be it against computer opponents or online) that one will potentially discover the depths of greatness each character possesses (though some are definitely harder to get the hang of than others and are more rewarding than their counterparts).



The biggest addition to “Injustice 2” is the “Gear System”. When initially announced, the Gear System appeared to be a “pay-to-win”/microtransaction addition to a game that didn’t need it. Thankfully, the implementation of Gears (character specific cosmetic accessories) are done incredibly well as the player gains “Mother Boxes” that can hold anything from “Common”, “Rare” or “Epic” equipment that boosts a character’s health, defense, strength or abilities, to “Shaders” (different color schemes for a character). Mother Boxes can only be bought with in-game “credits” that are earned by actually playing the game. The only true microtransactions are for aesthetic purposes solely – which is just wonderful. The Gear System is actually addictive once an inventory starts building up and thanks to the level limits on each piece (a character must be at a certain level to wear certain gear) it convinces the player to spend more time with some of the characters the player doesn’t focus on improving if the player wants better gear. Gear can also be physically modified by using “Source Crystals” (the currency mainly used for costume & shader purchases) to mix the looks of gear while retaining the stats, or even “regenerated” with “Regen” coins to potentially get better attributes. Regen coins are also only earned through gameplay and Mother Boxes. The only real flaw about the Gear System is its implementation online in “Player” matches. “Ranked” matches online have no Gear buffs, though the look of equipped Gear is still allowed. In Player matches, anything goes and it’s up to the players to decide whether or not Gear is allowed. There will be many instances when a player encounters another rocking level twenty, max gear with exceptional defense & strength who refuses to turn off the stat buffs when facing a level two Harley Quinn – no matter the skill level, the weaker character will lose nine times out of ten because of how much it takes to whittle down the opponent’s health and how much damage the opponent will produce. It’s disappointing the Gear System is automatically set “on” in online play instead of the other way around.

Mode offerings are plentiful to say the least in “Injustice 2”. Offline there is the aforementioned Story Mode that will take up at least five to six hours to complete, the obvious local one-on-one option, and tutorials for each character. There are pseudo-offline modes that the player can fight solely AI characters including the Multiverse mode (and its sub-mode “Battle Simulator” – the game’s answer to “Arcade Mode” where players can attain character specific endings not associated with the Story Mode) and “AI Battle Simulator” where the player can create a three-person team bomb squad controlled by the AI to face three other characters put together by online players so they can fight in matches that will earn the players everything you’d expect from a regular fight including Mother Boxes if the player wins or loses (the Mother Box quality varies depending on the outcome). Interestingly enough, players can use their AI settings to send characters into the Multiverse to fight and level up while the gamer goes and does something else (though the player must hit the “X”/“A” to move that character onto the next fight). When it comes to the offline offerings in all the recent NetherRealm games, nothing comes close to the insanity of Multiverse and could almost be a game by itself.



From an online perspective, “Injustice 2” has been a much smoother ride than “Mortal Kombat X” when trying to find fights and actually stay connected in a mostly lag-free environment. Connection & netcode qualities are definitely more improved in comparison to how online play was following “MK X’s” release. Even two-bar/yellow quality Ping rating connections were mostly smooth and lag-free. Player quality will definitely vary, but most players, no matter the skill level, will do well as long as they know the basics and some of the more forgotten techniques like “Meter Roll” to avoid being juggled in a corner. If there’s one disappointment when it comes to online mode it’s the lack of “Team Battle”. Instead of taking a page from “MK X” and this game’s own AI Battle Simulator by allowing six players to team up in trios battles with the winning team pulling off the best of three it isn’t even offered here. While Team Battle wasn’t the most popular mode online in “MK X”, the fact “Injustice 2” put in an offline variation, but couldn’t provide an online version is somewhat disappointing. There are also Guilds that allow players to come together, gain group trophies, Mother Boxes, level up characters, and fight AI boss battles that make Shao Kahn look like a baby holding candy ready to steal.



“Injustice ” had a great foundation, but it’s just incredible how much better this entry is compared to not only its predecessor, but also all of the NetherRealm games from the past two generations thanks to a fantastic battle system, character options, the Gear System not being built on the act of microtransactions, and modes aplenty. There is so much fun to be had with “Injustice 2” for fighting game aficionados and novices alike.


Should You Play “Injustice 2”?


Since 2011, NetherRealm Studios has been working incredibly hard to perfect its form of what a fighting game could be with each offering following “Mortal Kombat (2011)”. “Injustice 2” might be the closest NetherRealm has come to accomplishing its goal of creating a game that’s perfectly crafted with casual & hardcore, offline & online gamers alike in mind. The combat is improved compared to both “Injustice” and “MK X”. The mode offerings are incredibly robust (though online is a littler bearer compared to “Mortal Kombat X”). And the gear system that intentionally had me worried is implemented in a way that it mostly doesn’t hinder the entire experience. “Injustice 2” definitely set the mark high for NetherRealm Studios whenever the inevitable “Injustice 3” & even the next “Mortal Kombat” are released. If you’ve enjoyed any of the recent NetherRealm Studios games, “Injustice 2” is perfect for you. For you non-fighting gamers who just want to see how cool it would be to see Batman wear out Superman then you’ll probably enjoy this, too. It’s really hard not to recommend “Injustice 2” unless you want to wait and get the inevitable “Ultimate/Complete” version featuring the DLC characters that is sure to drop by early next year just like its predecessors.


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