The question of who would win in a fight between Aquaman and the Green Lantern was typically left to fan forums until Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm allowed players to figure it out for themselves in 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us. The superhero fighting game ended up being quite the success, and now four years later, the developer has teamed up with DC Comics again for Injustice 2. Does the sequel raise the bar, or should players just stick with the original?
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Injustice 2 is how little has changed in terms of combat. This isn’t a bad thing, as the original took MK-style fighting and added character specific skills and environmental attacks to the mix. There’s some small tweaks (most environmental attacks can now be blocked), but don’t expect anything huge like Street Fighter V‘s “V Trigger” system. NetherRealm stuck with what worked, and that’s perfectly fine.
Since the gameplay is nearly identical, the big draw ends up being the revamped roster. On-disc, there are 14 new characters, many of which are more niche like Captain Cold and Firestorm. All of the huge stars like Batman and Superman are there, but it’s really nice to see the smaller characters get some love, too. While I do enjoy the roster of Injustice 2 overall, it’s worth noting that players should probably hang onto their copy of the original game. Many characters, including several of my favorites (Ares, Shazam and Sinestro) do not return here. That’s definitely a bit of a bummer at first, but it does allow a bunch of newbies the chance to shine.
All of these characters can be seen in the cinematic story mode, which has become a staple of NetherRealm’s fighting games. This one ends up living up to the hype, and it features the studio’s slickest production values yet. The storyline picks up several years after the events of the first game, where Superman is now incarcerated due to reckless behavior. It’s not only the Man of Steel that’s disgraced, as several former heroes, such as the Flash, have also agreed to hang up their skintight costumes for good. Things change in a hurry after Brainiac begins to invade Earth, though, and a redemption story is set in motion.
In terms of gameplay, the story mode follows its predecessor very closely. Players only intervene during fight sequences, but thankfully, NetherRealm have mastered being able to go from a cutscene to a fight without any interruption. This creates a seamless experience not unlike watching a film, although the success of the heroes depend on the player’s skills. New to the game is the ability to impact the story through making choices, although these essentially boil down to choosing which superhero will battle an enemy. The plot eventually splits down the middle to two separate routes (which are both worth playing), and thankfully, there’s a chapter select so you won’t have to go through the story two separate times just to see the other ending.
While there are a lot of great moments included in this mode, especially with new characters such as Swamp Thing and Atrocitus, it did feel a bit too familiar at times. The core plot with Brainiac mirrors the storyline of Geoff Johns’ Brainiac comic arc pretty closely, which has already been adapted into an animated film in the past. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of fun twists on the idea, as the game’s two endings offer some very interesting directions for a future title, but it did make the main antagonist the least interesting part of the story.
The biggest area where Injustice 2 has improved upon the original is in how it gets its claws into the players, and makes them want to come back for more. A new loot system has been added, which rewards you with various pieces of equipment for playing the game. Every item has various stat boosts that’ll make fighters more powerful, which gives you more excuses to keep coming back. There’s always something to earn here, and that sort of instant gratification can be downright addicting. While that random element may scare away competitive players, it’s very easy to turn it off. You don’t have to engage with it, but it did help give me extra motivation to go online and test my skills.
Fleshing out the game’s content is a Multiverse mode, which replaces both the Arcade and Challenge modes that past NetherRealm titles have had. These are a series of permanent and constantly rotating challenges that offer up plenty of loot, and opponents to face off against. Paired with daily challenges, this ensures that there’s always something to do when booting up the game. Unlike Street Fighter V, players won’t have to look hard for ways to sink time into the title at launch.
Injustice 2 doesn’t feature any sweeping improvements from the original, but it really didn’t need to. The combat is still top-notch, the story mode is practically an interactive DC animated film, and there’s plenty of hooks to keep you playing for weeks if not months. NetherRealm Studios has been on a roll for quite some time, and this is another fantastic game from Ed Boon and company.
This review is based on the PS4 Pro version, which was provided to us by the publisher.
Featuring a diverse cast of characters, Injustice 2 manages to provide a great time for both fighting game fans and those who love comic books. Its feature set is among the best in the genre, and there's plenty of reasons to keep playing even after the story ends.