Injustice 2 Review – If Only The Movies Were This Good

A great game with some financial caveats.

Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Format: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: May 16, 2017
Copy provided by publisher to freelancer 

Fighting Game story modes usually feel like an afterthought in their design, or at least like they were bolted on to add value rather than being a design priority. Injustice 2 not only manages to make it’s impressively lengthy story mode feel like an important part of the game, but also handles telling a superhero crossover story centred around infighting factions in a super hero universe better than the MCU’s Age of Ultron and Civil War movies did.

Injustice 2 isn’t perfect, but it builds on its precursor to be an all round superior sequel to an already solid fighting game.

Injustice 2 takes place five years after the original game’s super hero civil war. Superman, who attempted to instill world peace through dictatorship, is still trapped in a red sun prison and Batman is slowly trying to rebuild the world to some form of normalcy. Many of the heroes who were serving Superman are seeking redemption. Others are focused on breaking Superman out to return to the plan he started prior.

The story mode in Injustice 2 is pretty lengthy for a one on one 2D perspective fighting game at seven hours long. The game is split across 12 chapters, each focusing on a couple of different playable super heroes, and it does a really good job of presenting an engaging playable comic book crossover event. It’s not needlessly convoluted, it gives each hero a narrative chance to shine, and it provides a nice tour of the playable cast that serves as a suitable tutorial for playing these characters competitively.

While much of the plot is predictable, I guessed the overall end point of the narrative within a couple of short cutscenes, this is ultimately made up for by the visual spectacle and superb voice performances on show across the board.

The only real problem with the story mode in Injustice 2 is its annoyingly common run ins with the uncanny valley. Subtle facial movements in Injustice look fantastic, honestly some of the best subtle facial movements I’ve ever seen in a video game. Acts like Harley Quinn chewing bubble gum mid conversation then pursing her lips to blow a bubble look truly stunning on a technical level.

The problem is that larger facial movements like talking often look deliberate, calculated and strained in a way that’s slightly unnerving. It’s so close to perfect, but not quite, and it creeps me out to watch.

Body movements and facial details are incredibly good when walking, smiling, and emoting to scenes happening around them, but lingering facial expressions on characters look significantly more natural than ones actively in motion. This is a common issue for games that fly too close to the graphical realism sun, but one I was willing to live with considering how otherwise stunning and highly polished the Injustice 2 story mode is.

Also of note, the contextual setups for fights in story mode, as well as the transitions from cutscene into combat scene, are beautifully handled. The smooth transitions between these two elements made it feel a lot more like a continuous and non fragmented experience than most fighting game stories which was really nice as a fan of linear narrative gaming experiences. I struggle to name another single player fighter with this high a level of presentation at launch in its story mode.

In terms of the actual combat system in Injustice 2, the only real changes introduced are a couple of new uses for your super meter. It’s still a combo heavy 2D perspective fighter, and the clash system where players can bet super meter against each other to heath small amounts or cause minor damage is still present, but you can now also expend super meter to use additional special moves, activate rolls or perform air recoveries.

Developer NetherRealm Studios have taken a very “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the overall combat system, making minor additions in regards to a couple of meter uses players asked for following the first Injustice, and relying on the addition of a bunch of new characters to keep the game fresh.

Rather than changing the core mechanics at play, Injustice 2 gives returning playable characters slightly altered movesets which iron out a few balance issues from the first game, and throw in an additional 15 new characters at launch. The new cast all feel unique in their gameplay styles, the alterations to returning characters improve overall gameplay flow, and the new character pool alone considerably switches up the way the game is played. Even without drastically new mechanics at work, there’s gameplay justification for picking up Injustice 2 if you already played the first.

Injustice 2 features a new mode called Multiverse which cycles through battles with special modifiers placed on character choice, health drops, types of damage dealt and other similar alterations cycles out after hours or days. While at launch this seems a promising way to keep providing players with new content, looking at the mechanics being modified I’m not sure how long NetherRealm can continue to offer fresh challenges without recycling content.

When it comes to playing Injustice 2 online post launch, I put around 8 hours into the online mode and had zero issues with lag. Whatever they’re doing in terms of matchmaking and online infrastructure, it’s working very nicely.

In spite of my overall high praise for Injustice 2, I do have a couple of consumer facing complaints about the way the game’s launch is being handled. Everything you do in Injustice 2 is rewarded by either loot boxes, or in game currency with which you can purchase loot boxes. These loot boxes allow character customization, from colours to outfits, which on paper is a really awesome addition to the game.

Unfortunately, the loot box customisation is convoluted and luck driven.

Loot drops are totally random, with no way to tailor them towards characters you might want outfits for. There’s nothing to stop you receiving multiple of the same piece of gear, and the same piece of gear may have different stats each time you receive it, with no easy way to tell at a glance which version is the best.

There’s also systems in place for levelling up underleveled gear (in place of just rewarding you with level appropriate gear), systems for swapping the stats of one piece of equipment with another so you get your best stats on your favourite looking gear, and customisation options that affect your core moves and character strength which feels like a totally unnecessary addition for such a mechanically polished and well balanced fighter.

It took me a while to come to terms with the idea I should just claim my free loot boxes, take the cool looking gear, ignore the numerical stats entirely and just be glad for the cool things I got rather than worrying about full outfit sets. It’s not a great system, and seems purpose designed to try and push purchasing extra loot boxes to get that one missing piece of an outfit.

I’m also concerned that, at launch, there’s already 10 planned DLC characters for the game. Considering how vital having a full up to date roster is for competitive fighting game play, having this many additional fighters introduced as paid DLC pretty much necessitates a season pass purchase for the game, and I’m never a fan of season passes that are necessary to keep your game up to date rather than just offering optional extras. There’s a big difference between 2-3 DLC fighters over time and 10 planned at launch that need purchasing separately.

Overall, Injustice 2 takes a strong fighting game, delivers an incredibly rewarding and lengthy single player that feels like a priority rather than a tacked on afterthought, and considerably increases the scope of the game by adding in a vast number of well made additional characters to the mix. Sure it hits the uncanny valley a bit, and I’m not keen on the loot boxes or their DLc plans, but it’s hard to deny how much fun I had with the game at launch.

8.5/10
Great

UncoloredPage
Member

The part about the lootboxes is inaccurate, you can’t buy lootboxes or even the currency that buys lootboxes, you can only buy the source crystals, which goes towards shaders and transforming gear. So the pressure to buy lootboxes that aren’t even an option is wrong.

Morgan Carter
Guest
Morgan Carter

Jim, when are we going to see the website upgraded to the higher standard which the quality of its content deserves?

Chris Topher
Member

The DLC kills.it for me as im not willing to ever buy season passes after being burned by batman and starwars. It’s a shame that you can’t give 2 review scores which take into account this very scurvy DLC plan on day one.

Is give it an 8 without and a 6 .5 with but already that’s messy lol bloody DLC and greedy companies why can’t they just be free!? Seriously it’s a fighting game at 60 ! Which will sell well! Just five us the characters you scum bags!!!

ThEternalGMR
Member

Loving your reviews. Great detail and very little to no spoilers. Happy to hear the story is still strong in this game. Might pick it up when it goes down in price.

Augus_SA
Member

The gear has stats applied to it? How does that work? Does the Multiverse mode have RPG elements or something?

Ben Rogencamp
Member
The gear does have stats tied to them and the higher level gear obviously give you better stats. And the multiverse does rely pretty heavily on fighter level but I would say if you’re are good enough, you could beat a level 20 AI with a level 1 fighter. It’s going to take a while though. I would say it feels well done because there are ton of planets in the multiverse at any given time and there will be at least two that will be for each level range. I would say it defiantly gives me a compelling reason… Read more »
videocrime
Member

Another great example of a fighting game doing story mode well is Persona 4 Arena. It packs tons of lore, lots of great voice acting and some sick animations

Sam Leheny
Member
Jim, can you please make it clearer when somebody else is doing the review? I’m perfectly happy to read Laura’s reviews, but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read a review in Jim’s voice, with Jim’s tastes in mind, only to listen to podcast that week and think “Wait. That was Laura?!” because her name is included in such a tiny, easy to miss place on the site. I get that maybe we shouldn’t always assume it’s Jim writing, but I feel like Laura’s reviews are enough of an irregularity that it’s worth pointing it out as something… Read more »
Lyle Rosen
Member

There’s a factual error here. You can’t buy loot boxes with real money. Your points about the complexity of the system are completely understandable, but that doesn’t exist to push microtransactions.

Marius Myhre
Member

So microtransactions/loot boxes/DLC are ok as long as you like the game? Or is the implementation more “user friendly” in this game compared to others?

Ben Rogencamp
Member

I played this game for close to 30 hours before I even realized that you can buy currency with real money. I don’t know why you would, 10 minutes in the multiverse with net you a munch of gear boxes.

RagAndBoneMan
Member

Also, Jim Sterling didn’t write this.

Snowskeeper
Member

I don’t think he disliked Overwatch. The video he did on their loot box system wasn’t a condemnation of Overwatch; it was a condemnation of their loot boxes. ‘Sides, at least to me, it didn’t look like he was saying the lootboxes were okay; it looked like he was saying the fact that they were there–and that, moreover, they were being pushed–was a point against the game.

Martina Veselá
Member

Microtransactions are never user friendly. They’re always working in favor of the developer, and getting more money out of the customers’ pockets is their only goal. This review just proves microtransactions can be tolerated if the game is good. You be the judge whether it’s a good thing or not.

Amanuel Demeke
Guest
Amanuel Demeke

Glad to see the game is good, however I’m slightly disappointed you didn’t embellish on the fact that this a 60 dollar game with microtransactions as well. They may be cosmetic but they are designed to psychologically manipulate players into giving even more money on top of an entry fee. I’m merely pointing this out as I do not wish for this to be the norm with AAA video games or any other game pricing itself at 60 dollars.

UncoloredPage
Member

While they are there, they don’t exactly manipulate you as you earn them regularly enough to not even care, I didn’t even notice you could buy them with real money for a while

a passing hobo
Guest
a passing hobo

Even worse they’re not purely cosmetic since they seem to give bonuses which is intolerable in a competitive multiplayer game.

Greene Scott
Member
Greene Scott

Great review Kate (:

Loving the game so far, mains are Catwoman, Powergirl, Ivy, Scarecrow and Blue Beetle.

Stelios Markios
Member

This one screams “wait for the ultimate edition!!!”. A little patience can get you a long way.

Chris
Guest
Chris

“but also handles telling a superhero crossover story centred around infighting factions in a super hero universe better than the MCU’s Age of Ultron and Civil War movies did.”

I’ve experienced the entire main game’s storyline, and I cannot disagree with that sentiment more strongly.

Snowskeeper
Member

Could you explain why?

Because, I mean, Civil War was pretty terrible…

Terry Osaurusies XI
Member

I always enjoyed the recent NetherRealms committment to a story mode in their fighters. About the only fighting games other than Smash Bros and Soul Caliber that don’t bore me to death while playing alone. But Warner Bros are cheeky bastards and I refuse to buy any of those games on release as they’re slicing and dicing the content so gleefully.

Hau_Ruck
Guest
Hau_Ruck

Member when fighting games included all their characters without DLC? Member when Tekken tag had all the characters from the previous games at no extra cost? I member 🙁

Lyle Rosen
Member

In fairness to the devs, one of the dlc characters is a pre order bonus, and the rest are yet to be made. It’s not on disc dlc except for the pre order.

Nobody
Guest
Nobody

Pepperidge Farm Remembers.

GuyBoyMans
Guest
GuyBoyMans

fighting games cost so much more than they used to not even including inflation, this comment is stupid

Martina Veselá
Member

Games cost more nowadays, we know. That’s also not what the OP was complaining about. He said that games should come as a complete package and you shouldn’t have to pay more for additional characters. Your comment is stupid.

UncoloredPage
Member

Games having dlc doesn’t mean it’s an incomplete package if it already offers plenty without it

Captiosus
Member
I agree with this review entirely yet I find myself having a hard time getting into the game, moreso than the first one. It just feels absolutely unforgiving when it comes to the special move, combo, and counter timing. I joked with my friends over the weekend that the combo system feels like it’s been tuned for the Flash rather than us mere mortals. Whether it’s because it doesn’t register a combo after having it work just fine a few moves prior, or because I feel like I’m losing control of my character too often, or because matchmaking doesn’t seem… Read more »
Snowskeeper
Member

Yeah, this is also why I couldn’t get into the first game. Had to spend almost an hour just mashing the same set of buttons in the Tutorial until the combo I was inputting correctly worked.

I get that games like these require some degree of precision, but there’s a point at which you’re just being silly.

Daemoroth
Member

Hey Jim, potential black mark on a great game: Maybe clarify that the loot boxes can’t be bought for real money? Seems like a lot of readers are making that mistake.

They still annoy me, and I don’t think their ‘bias system’ (Which is supposed to reward gear for your most played fighters more often) is working (I mean why the hell couldn’t they be specifically for the character that earned the loot box? At LEAST.).

Anyway, tangent, maybe clear up that potential misunderstanding?

Jack Johnston
Guest
Jack Johnston

I think, tho I might be wrong, that the bias system only affects the multiverse and online rather than the lootboxes. So, if you’re playing as batman and you get a random drop in arcade mode, it’s more likely to be for batman than say superman.

Terry Osaurusies XI
Member

Just a heads up, it’s Laura Kate, not Jim who wrote the review. *nods subtly towards tags*

Daemoroth
Member

Hehe, whoops! Thanks for pointing that out.

BAH!
Member
BAH!

An important clarification for now, but it’s also worth noting that according to NetherRealms, there *will* be microtransactions soon; and those MT’s *will* involve cosmetic items.

They say it won’t be “pay to win” in any respect, but does that mean the items on sale (for Source Crystals) will have no stat boosts attached to them, or that said boosts won’t apply in multiplayer? Also, what are the chances the loot boxes won’t also be included?

Daemoroth
Member

That’s a fair suspicion to hold, but should we start reviewing/criticizing games based on suspicions? I imagine that since you can apply the look of an item to another, they’d sell the cosmetic (No stats) item and keep the loot system as is for the rest.

But until they do what it is they’re planning we don’t really know what’s going to happen.

It’s a great game and by far the best value of all the recent fighting games, especially for solo players, and I’d hate to see it tarnished on suspicions.

GuyBoyMans
Guest
GuyBoyMans

The stat boosts don’t apply in ranked matches, they’re also optional in casual matches and koth

Moax
Guest
Moax

I don’t know about the uncanny valley criticism.
The human brain is hard wired to notice non human things replicating humans. This is more a criticism of the human brain than with the game.
Any game that tries to replicate real living people and doing it this well the games IS going to run into the “uncanny valley” problem. It’s just how our brains work.

The only way around the uncanny valley is too change the art style completely.

Calamity2007
Guest
Calamity2007

I suppose that is why games with more stylized art-styles tend to age better. In Injustice 2’s defense though it is the best in facial animations of any Neatherealm fighter. I do wonder if with more realistic art styles we will ever truly get past the uncanny valley our brains our hardwired to believe.

Moax
Guest
Moax

I completely agree. Overwatch is the best looking game so far this generation for me. They went cartoony so completely avoided the uncanny valley.

The faces in injustice look amazing. And that’s where our problem lies, the more realistic a game looks the harder our brains will tell us “that isn’t real.”

Gnome de Plume
Member

Why does Supergirl need chin armour.

Terry Osaurusies XI
Member

Because only a man’s chin can withstand the power of a hero’s punch! The laayydees must be protected, even if they are essentially still as invincible. 😉

BAH!
Member
BAH!

In fairness, Superman also has it. So I’m guessing it’s secondary weakness due to their Kryptonian heritage?

Artemiy
Guest
Artemiy

Maybe it’s just Kryptonian fashion.

squid spitt
Member

I shall do what I did with all the Nether Realm games! (MK9/10 – Injustice 1) Wait for the All-in-1 complete edition release! Thank you (No! Thank you)LOL

Jiryn
Guest
Jiryn

So, how long is just the campaign?

Lyle Rosen
Member

It took me about 5 to do the main story, and then another 2 to do the stuff I won’t spoil.

Jessy Diamond Exum
Guest
Jessy Diamond Exum

The review said about 7 houes

Chris
Guest
Chris

I believe the review said approx. 7 hours. Oh wait.. I can just copy paste:
“The story mode in Injustice 2 is pretty lengthy for a one on one 2D perspective fighting game at seven hours long.”

El Chica Incognitus
Member

Really enjoyed the first Injustice, kind of hoping it gets ported to the PC eventually.

Maybe this time they won’t fuck it up and I’ll even be able to play with my friends online!

daasbuffy
Guest
daasbuffy

Jim you may need to re-work the part detailing loot boxes. As it gives the impression that you need to spend real money to buy them. You cannot buy them with real money and this review made me wonder did I miss the ” buy X amount of boxes for $X” button.

batmabel
Member

The review was written by Laura, not Jim.

Lazyaza
Member

Great as this game is I’m never one to get in depth with fighters mechanically so I always wait for discounts. Especially considering Netherrealm always does “complete” editions eventually with all the bonus content. Much better to wait for that.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Even that is getting ruined though, isn’t it? I feel like I heard Mortal Kombat XL doesn’t actually include all the characters? I could be wrong though….

Jeremy O'Dwyer
Member

I bought the xl edition (fun game). As far as I know all the released dlc characters are included.
Some skins aren’t included though (about 5) and some skins are only obtainable by playing the mobile game.

Saygah
Member

irk – fool me once…. I waited for the last Injustice, I’m sure I can wait for this one. Especially with 10+ DLC characters on the way!

Buttboi
Guest
Buttboi

Unexpected, but that’s nice to see. Probably a good thing for those who enjoy the western super hero shite.
It is also damn good to hear that atleast one goddamn fighting game has a focus on the story mode stuff. I always had an issue with fighting games in the sense that I don’t enjoy playing them online and all the singleplayer content is usually fucking worthless shit which makes me want to avoid them.

Chris
Guest
Chris

I recommend Mortal Kombat (also known as mortal kombat 9) as the best example on the market. Injustice 1 wasn’t bad at all, I certainly liked it. Mortal Kombat X has a story mode though I read it’s not as good as 9’s

drownedsummer
Guest
drownedsummer

NetherRealm tend to feature a decently focused story mode. The first Injustice did as did the last MK game I played.

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