The original Injustice took the Mortal Kombat reboot engine and gave it new life with DC Comics characters. Before, the MK vs. DC Universe game was plagued by censorship, but with free reign to craft a dark and compelling story, the game laid a solid foundation for an all-new fighting franchise. The game itself was well-received and led to an outstanding tie-in comic book series. It offered up a long, in-depth storyline that took the roots of what happened in the game and expanded upon it.
For those that missed it, Superman was driven mad with power by the Joker, who tricked him into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. He became a supreme dictator and led to a polarizing war between his side of justice and Batman’s. It split the Justice League in two, and led to long-time friendships coming to an end while bringing about new, uneasy alliances. Now, things pick up with Bruce Wayne picking up the pieces and Superman rallying forces against him.
This brings even more surprising team-ups and a full-length movie effectively comes out of it – only with a fantastic melding of what appears to be CG and in-engine character models. The facial animations in particular are incredible – with Harley Quinn especially having so much nuance that you would almost swear it’s a real person with how detailed everything is. It’s a remarkable achievement in facial animation, and it allows the story to be told far more effectively because of how realistic everyone looks.
The twists and turns in this game’s story are done well and telegraphed reasonably well beforehand too. Robin/Damian Wayne is set up as being bitter, setting up a violent attack later where he shocks Batman – but the viewer isn’t shocked because he’s been so passive-aggressive that it’s clear he’s bitter and Batman is just too stuck in his bubble to see trouble brewing. Some classic character dynamics are shown that in theory couldn’t be due to the canon of Injustice that Scarecrow’s fear toxin allows, which works nicely at giving you the dream match-type scenarios that fans crave without violating the lore of the game itself.
The story is fairly compelling, and blending in fights is done far better now than it was before. The flow of the first game was hurt a bit by QTEs popping up out of nowhere. They kept you on your toes, but you’re trained to go from gameplay to storyline, and now that flow is back. The storyline itself is fairly compelling and while it isn’t quite movie-level, some of the scenes do lend themselves very well to surprising comic book reveals and beautiful two page-wide art panels representing them – so a comic tie-in should look gorgeous.
Injustice 2’s gameplay is much the same as the original’s was – for better or worse. If you loved the Mortal Kombat reboot and how that played, then this is pretty much that with a newer coat of paint. The core engine is identical, as are the main attack buttons. The solid foundation remains solid, but with some adjustments made thanks to new gear that adds RPG-style buffs to certain attributes. The character classes still allow you to use different environmental attacks – with brutes using the objects around the world to smash into enemies, while faster characters spring off of things and use them to hit flying attacks.
Mode selection has been stripped down a bit with the sequel. The STAR Labs training has been replaced with another mix of training and iconic battles with the Brother Eye system. It blends in the ladders from Mortal Kombat with a bit of a training mode, and sets you up nicely for the story mode if you’re new to the series or the engine as a whole. The d-pad movements are right out of both the new and classic Mortal Kombat games, making the Dual Shock 4 controller a bit easier for it – but the Xbox One controller works fine as well. The controls are logically laid out and pretty responsive. Super moves are easier to pull off here than in other franchises, making it a very casual-friendly game for local multi-player. This does leave online matches a bit short and underwhelming at times though.
While online play is smooth and there are a fair amount of modes offered up, everything turns into a race to a super and then a victory – so there is a bit of a hangover effect from them. You’ll see every character’s super in due time, and with folks usually sticking to bigger names and fewer using characters like Grogg or Captain Cold, it can make things feel a bit stale. For local play though, it’s easy to keep things fresh by simply trying out new characters. The story mode does a great job of giving you a diverse roster to at least use for a couple of fights and you can at least get a handle on what kind of character you prefer to fight with.
Visually, Injustice 2 has some of the best-looking character models in a fighting game. The environments are reasonably detailed as well, but nothing too jaw-dropping. It is impressive to see the worlds go from one to another when you knock people around from one part of a stage to another though – so even though that’s been a staple of MK games for 22 years now, it’s still a great gimmick that makes a battle seem even more intense. Character animation is the same as the usual NetherRealm stuff – so it looks a bit jittery, but also fairly in-depth for things like flying and for capes.
Injsutice 2 features strong voice acting and a cast that treats each role seriously. There’s no melodrama and all of the performances fit the characters. The acting is definitely on par with what DC fans have become used to with the animated universe, and is outstanding. Musically, everything here is epic to a degree – but nothing is all that memorable. It’s a shame too since the developers have certainly crafted memorable songs before, but nothing sticks with you after playing. The sound effects are great though, and things like Joker’s crowbar sound just as violent as they should.
Injustice 2 tells one of the best stories ever featured in a fighting game, and the folks at NetherRealm have once again shown that it’s something they truly excel at. As a core fighter, it’s really more of the same with the Injustice engine, and if you were to imagine that game rebuilt with much higher-quality character models, a new story, and an updated roster, you’d have this in a nutshell. That’s not really a bad thing; it’s just a sign that this is exactly what someone would imagine a sequel to that game being for better or worse. For anyone who loved that game, you should get this as soon as possible. If you didn’t play that one, then you’re better off starting there – if you dig it, then buy this too. The two games fit together perfectly like puzzle pieces, and are a lot of fun to play.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of Injustice 2 for the PlayStation 4 provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.