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Game Review: Injustice 2 (Xbox One)

Game Review: Injustice 2 (Xbox One)
4.5
Game Name: Injustice 2
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s): NetherRealm Studios
Genre(s): Fighting game
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
ESRB Rating: T - Teen: Alcohol Reference, Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence

 

While NetherRealm Studios is mostly known for its Mortal Kombat franchise, It has dabbled in the realm of DC Comics with Mortal Kombat vs DC and 2013’s Injustice: God’s Among Us. While the DC flavored entries don’t quite get as violent or brutal as Mortal Kombat, they do feature a great cast of characters, solid gameplay, fun special moves and one hell of a story. Injustice 2 is a huge upgrade from the first entry and a feature-stuffed fighting game like nothing before it. In a world where Superman would kill, what chance does a mere mortal like Batman have? Well, quite a bit actually, and he is not alone.

Injustice 2 is as polished as games get with its slick interface, wonderful animations, and a giant heaping of cosmetic goods to kit out your hero or villain with some fancy gauntlets or a flashy new cape. It’s fairly forgiving to button mashing newcomers and has deep mechanics to satisfy the genre faithful. I’ve never been one to deep dive into the complexities of analyzing frames of a certain move to determine the best and fastest way to win, I tend to button mash my way to victory, and I think I am fairly good at it.

As far as sequels go, Injustice 2 is a continuation of the story told in the prior game; Superman has been captured and Batman attempts to track down the remaining members of Kal El’s Regime. This follow-up is a story about how Brainiac attempts to conquer the Earth, and whether or not Batman will require the help of Superman to stop him. The story is told through a 5-8 hour campaign that has you body swapping through the majority of the 29 characters with only a few of them not being playable here, but you will still encounter nearly all of them at various points in the narrative. There were some moments where I was partially confused as to why certain characters were on a particular side, given how the first game ended, but as it may include events from the comic series of the same name, which I am a few volumes behind, it may be somewhat essential reading to fully know what has transpired in the gap between games.

The events of the first Injustice game painted a much darker tone than what Injustice 2 aims to do this time around, instead opting to follow a more cliched route of warring factions having to unite to take down a common foe. If you’ve played through the previous Injustice or even just Mortal Kombat X, then you at least have an idea on how the story mode plays out. One of the differences here is the choose your own adventure style approach when you are paired with another character. There are a few moments when you’ll need to choose your fighter and after some custom dialogue for that choice, you’ll then battle as that fighter and continue. This opens up variations on the fight that you’ll need to replay the story mode to see the alternative ways that battle could have gone down, and this same choice is given to you near the end to select one last fighter from the other.  The game also alerts you after the credits roll that if you complete all variations to the story that a bonus chapter will be unlocked.

To compliment the story mode is your typical Arcade mode, which Injustice 2 has labeled as the Battle Simulator, this can be found in the bottom right corner of the Multiverse menu. The Battle Simulator contains a variety of fights with varying difficulties that will give you a character ending and several rewards upon completion. The Multiverse itself is a battle mode with unique gameplay objectives across a variety of different planets in the Multiverse. These objectives will vary on the fight as will the degree of difficulty in their challenge. This mode will also reward players with equipment items that are exclusive to this mode. Each planet that is displayed on the select screen will have a timer that counts down to when another planet, complete with its own unique challenges, will take its place. The Multiverse is very similar to that of Mortal Kombat’s Living Towers and should keep players invested for as long as NetherRealms can make it fresh and original.

While the game still maintains a lot of what made the first Injustice such a blast to play, the game feels faster, tighter and more confident than ever before. There is even a noticeable upgrade in its gameplay from even the previous Mortal Kombat X. I found characters to be more responsive, animations more fluid, and even returning favorites feel like entirely new characters. The Clash system has also returned where you can wager chunks of your special meter in order to regain some health back to your character, should you win that wager, that is. The special meter can also be used to boost your special moves, perform mid-air recoveries, and activate rolls. The flashy super moves that look to be this game’s fatalities are quite enjoyable and feature some pretty interesting feats; flying around the sun to heat vision your opponent back down to earth or racing through time to slam someone into the side of a dinosaur are just a small sample of what the game offers. While a few of the supers are lacking, the large majority of them are well thought out.

The biggest change in Injustice 2 to that of its first entry, is the addition of equipment for your characters. You can unlock and equip new capes, body armor, gauntlets, and more. These items will have individual stats that will look to make your fighter more formidable. Your custom creation can then be taken online to see who simply has the better Batman, Supergirl, or whoever you main as. The stats of said items won’t be included when you take your character to the Ranked Matches but the new looks the items bring you will still be present.

Unlocking items, however; is the biggest failing of the game and looks to make it as hard as possible to unlock items for the characters you actually want to outfit. As you battle and win your matches, you will be granted loot caches called Mother Boxes. These luck driven rewards are completely random in what you get; varying rarities of gear, new moves for your characters, or color shaders and alternative outfits. The main problem with this method of rewards is that you are never guaranteed rewards for characters you favor, meaning you could open 15 boxes and never once see a reward for Supergirl, who is my favorite of the cast. There are also Source Crystals which can be bought with real money and can be used to unlock new skins and shaders.

The number of modes for online play is fairly disappointing as Versus and King of the Hill are the only offerings so far, with a variation on King of the Hill called Hot Seat, that while available, is too similar a mode to say there are three distinct game modes available at launch. I’ve played a few hours of the game online in each of the modes present and there were noticeable lag spikes present in about half the matches played. While this could have been first-week growing pains, it’s still present in the rounds I played today. Apart from combat with friends and random players online are a few other modes that may or not get much play depending on your use for them. These are the practice and tutorial modes, but these are nothing in the way of actually training you to be a better fighter. I found the tutorial mode rather dense and not really that helpful.

Injustice 2 is a gorgeous fighter with some of the most impressive facial animations I’ve seen in something not already pre-rendered. The real-time efforts made by NetherRealm Studios sometimes creeps into the uncanny valley, but the subtle glances and smirks offered up by the majority of the roster are absolutely stunning. Seeing Harley mouth “Cheeky Monkey” or chewing gum is a work of art. I was especially impressed with the slanted jaw sarcasm of Poison Ivy and the visual wit of Black Canary, both of which are beautifully animated.

About the only elements of the game that fail to live to up to the overall high-quality bar are some of the background elements to locations that are quickly skipped by during the game’s many cutscenes. The actual locations you battle in are packed full of tiny details, bursts of fan service, and interactive elements like throwing drunk bar patrons or tossing a pan filled with hot coals. The variety in the interactive function that each level has is only enhanced by the fact that you can also strike enemies so hard that you’ll transition to other environments and then back again, making each battlefield that much bigger and more varied.

Injustice 2 brings as much quality to its visuals as it does to its audio with a wonderful host of talent to breath life into some of DC’s most iconic characters. The legendary Kevin Conroy is back as the Dark Knight and is the undisputed voice of the Caped Crusader. Tara Strong delivers yet another amazing performance as Harley Quinn and has in many ways become the most well-known voice for the character. I also found it rather amusing that the Scarecrow, a villain who thrives on fear is voiced by another man who is well known for the same feat; Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself. There are several other actors that have some great moments, but there was one is particular that failed to impress me at all; Steve Blum as Hal Jordan. I just didn’t see him as a good fit at all and stands out as one of the worst performances of that character I’ve seen in some time.

NetherRealm has produced its finest fighting game with Injustice 2, surpassing any of its Mortal Kombat games by leaps and bounds. With its well told and enjoyable campaign and a fun, if a bit too random of a loot system, there is much to like here and with the upcoming 10 DLC characters like Starfire, Red Hood and even an appearance by Subzero himself, Injustice 2 should keep players busy for quite some time. To miss this title is an injustice upon itself.

Injustice 2 was reviewed and played via a purchased retail copy for Xbox One.

 

 

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