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

Rcc
Guest
Rcc

Loot boxes in games should be banned. They’re GAMBLING and they’re the bane of the industry. They were either severely restricted or straightforward banned in games in Asia and those swindlers moved them to western developed games. They’re exploiting flaws in the human brain to nickel and dime money out of gamers and, most sadly, many times they’re UNDERAGE gamers. They should be outright BANNED.

HisDivineOrder
Member

Looks good, but I’m waiting for the PC version that MAY come. If it doesn’t, well, I’ll have waited for the FULL version that comes with all the DLC.

TheFantasticPau
Member

Great review. Could do with a bit more explaining about exactly how the game is built to take your money. You got people thinking Loot Boxes can be bought with Real Money.

DragonMageDrake
Member

I really like the first Injustice, and MK9 & MKX were two of my favourite fighting games ever, but WB’s business models have really put me off buying their games early. I’m waiting for the inevitable £40 GOTY edition.

CoolyCass
Member

I’ve been loving the game so far (even if I’ve only just been able to play because England). I really, really like the animations. My sibling person said they thought it was a bit uncanny, too, but me? I just loved the look of everything. It was wonderful to see, erm… Acting? Yes. Acting. And while I am the kind of scumbag that bought the great big ULTIMATE MEGA SUPER EDITION so I’m not really gonna be missing out on the characters (woo, Starfire!), I do still have troubles about it. Because, yeah, it’s a lot of characters. Nine in… Read more »

Weasel Biggs
Member

The first game was great, but I don’t really get the sense that this warrants a day-one purchase.

Chalk one up for the “Will wait for the Hyper-Mega-Game-of-the-Year-Eleventy-Billion-Deluxe” crowd.

That said, I wasn’t worried. This is NetherRealm, it’s not just a dinky throwaway Capcom brawler. Ed Boon’s new-ish studio is the only joint in the fighting circuit that even seems to care about delivering a decent story mode. MK9, the first Injustice, MKX… All good stuff.

Uldihaa
Member

Just how does the stat boosting gear work in on-line play? It sounds a bit too much like “For Honor” to me.

Also, there are loot drops from matches too. Those you can set to be for the character your playing in the Options. At least, I think so. Was watching a streamer and he set his loot to be character specific. I don’t think it affected the loot boxes though.

InfamousDS
Guest
InfamousDS

I guess WB has finally won the war of attrition started by EA, as Fee-to-Play elements are briefly mentioned as an inconvenience but otherwise didn’t affect Laura’s opinion. Shame, really, but inevitable. You can only go so long dealing with something before it becomes the “normal” and I’m more sad to see that AAA’s plan worked than I am about it not being a big deal for Laura. Combined with Jim deciding he would probably do a World of Tanks episode over the recent studio hiatus nonsense pulled by 2 major companies, I just don’t know how I feel. Maybe… Read more »

Rifleavenger Sashiro
Member

All the videos I had watched made the game seem pretty good, but if it’s going to use some screwy customization system laced with fee-to-pay elements as the default for online play I’m passing. Thanks for the warning. I’ll enjoy this vicariously via Youtube instead.

Sperium3000
Member

Eh, the uncanny valley stuff really doesn’t bother me. I’ve been following this game since the reveal trailer, so some characters when the game was first announced and on the final product might as well be completely different species. Also, if anyone wants the inane opinion of someone who’s into fighting games at a competitive level, Injustice 2 is a great fighting game with a huge problem with overzoning. This is something Injustice 1 also had a problem with, but despite the adition of some tools like the meterburn roll, Netherrealm didn’t really do much to change. It’s fine when… Read more »

Anton
Guest
Anton

Hey Laura, any chance that Jim’s going to commission you for Tekken 7?

Great review, by the way.

Yusblind
Guest
Yusblind

I’ll pick it up in a year when the inevitable complete edition comes out.

Joe Keckley
Member

I feel like i should wait for the obvious to come

‘Komplete edition” 6 months down the line

Polishfury5000
Member

Cool, I liked the first one enough. Though as a casual fighting game fan, I just don’t see a reason for me to buy this until whenever NR releases an “ultimate/complete/GOTY” edition with all the characters.

LamontRaymond
Guest
LamontRaymond

Why not review it on Let’s Play Videogames?

Nobodyimportant
Guest
Nobodyimportant

The only thing that i find sad is the whole “we are going to wait until the sequel to bother with doing what we said we were doing in the first place” mentality that has come out as of late =/

Camio
Guest
Camio

Well, as one of those weirdos who plays fighting games for the plot, I absolutely appreciate this review.

Fuck WB though. Greedy bastards. I’ll buy it when it’s on a MASSIVE discount.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Did anyone else think Superman looked like Steve Martin? No? Well excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me

muskman
Guest
muskman

this comment system sucSKELETON WARRIORS

Simon Cui
Member

Can’t wait to get this game on pc in a few years with all the dlc bundled together

Artemiy
Guest
Artemiy

Also, isn’t a DLC “character” Reverse Flash present in the storyline? “Yay” for the on-disk DLC!

Bitt_Player
Guest
Bitt_Player

Wasn’t there also a pre-order exclusive character? I flatly refuse to buy games that have those.

Potato Sack
Guest
Potato Sack

Glad to hear it’s good. I’ll wait until they release it as a complete game for $60 or lower in a year or so instead of dropping $100 to get everything now.

Chip Self
Guest
Chip Self

Solid review. I do disagree on the comment that this single player story mode tells a better crossover story than Civil War though (Ultron, yes, because it was shite). There are so many pointless “oh that person just landed in the room and really has no business being in this scene, but oh fuck it let’s have em fight anyway” fights that don’t serve plot or character development. They’d probably cut several hours from the story mode without them. The whole story just feels like a clusterfuck, but I felt the same way about Injustice 1, so maybe it’s just… Read more »

TheIntern
Guest
TheIntern

Too bad I really don’t care for this whole SuperHitler storyline. As an Elseworlds it was a chilling enough tale but they keep dragging it out to keep that “dark and edgy” tone.

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