Review: Injustice 2 (Xbox One)

DC is currently on fire. Wonder Woman is the queen of the box office. DC’s Rebirth comics are at the top of the charts and are great reads. Injustice 2 has come out to blow everyone away. The original Injustice was a good game, it was a bit lacking especially compared to the other big fighting games at the time (Street Fighter IV and Marvel vs Capcom 3). The game had a great story, yet it didn’t really stand out besides that; it was just Mortal Kombat‘s little brother.

But Neatherrealm Studios must have realized that as Injustice 2 is an improvement in every way possible. In fact, it’s the studio’s best game. Injustice 2 is one of the most impressive fighting games I’ve ever played. It’s amazing how much content is in this game and the quality of said content. There’s something for everyone in this title.

Story

Injustice 2‘s story picks up after the events of the first game. The world is at relative peace, as Superman and the majority of the Regime are still locked up. Batman has become a public figure and still defends the innocent from evil. But things get shaken up when Braniac shows up to capture the “last Kryptonian” and in the process, destroy the Earth.

Neatherrealm really did a great job of expanding the Injustice universe. The world is left in a very satisfying place after the events of the original. There’s a real sense of change in the game due to the amount of new characters and their large roles in the story; it’s not just a repeat of the first game. Injustice 2 does a really great job of giving each character in the story stand-out moments. The budding bromance of Blue Beetle and Firestorm, Flash vs Reverse Flash across multiple cities, little moments between Batman and Superman as they remember what once was. It’s surprisingly well done for a fighting game’s story.

The story continues outside of the game’s campaign, in the form of the many interactions in regular matches. Every character has a couple unique interactions with every other character; in these interactions you really get a sense of who these characters are and their relationships with everyone else. If you aren’t an avid DC fan, you should be able to get a good sense of who Swamp Thing or Cheetah are after playing this game. The interactions give Injustice  2 a ton of personality and really makes it feel alive.

The only complaint I have about the story is more of a nitpick; the portrayals of Superman and Wonder Woman are insufferable. While I know these aren’t the heroic characters I love from the comics, I just want to punch them every time they open their mouths. They’re really irritating; I’m not sure why Neatherrealm made them so annoying either. Injustice 2 has good villains in Brainiac and Gorilla Grodd, I liked watching these characters and hearing what they had to say. I really wish there was an option to have the “classic” versions of Superman and Wonder Woman during normal matches; I don’t want to play as either just because of how awful the Injustice versions are as characters.

Sound

The sound department is easily Injustice 2‘s weakest area. The sound effects in the game are a mixed bag. The punches, explosions and hits all sound fine. Some of them even have a weight to them that make landing hits satisfying. Some of the sounds for special moves are great too; I love hearing the noise Bane’s tubes make as he injects Venom. It’s a great sound cue that’s empowering for the person playing Bane and scary for their opponent.

But on the other hand, some of the sound effects are just lame. Deadshot’s gun shots all fall flat because of how bland they are. Supergirl’s eye lasers sound weak, when they should sound much more powerful. It’s a bit sad that a good amount of the sound effects are so plain; if they were more bombastic. The game would be even better as a result.

The game’s music is incredibly boring as is Neatherrealm tradition. There’s nothing wrong with it, the music is just background noise. There’s not a single piece of memorable music in the whole game, which is incredibly disappointing for a fighting game. Fighting games like Street Fighter, Darkstalkers and Killer Instinct have some of the best music in all of gaming. It adds personality to the games, it helps you understand the characters/stages, it can even get you hyped up. I would love for Flash to have a fast paced theme or Green Lantern to have a synth-y scifi theme, stuff that would really fit the characters and just be fun to listen to. But we’re left with a boring soundtrack that tries to emulate a movie’s score opposed to fighting game music.

Graphics

The graphical leap from Injustice to Injustice 2 is incredible; Injustice 2 is an improvement in every way possible. The character models are incredible with tons of attention to detail were into them. The faces are particularly impressive, they look like they come out of an action game more than they do a fighting game. Neatherrealm didn’t even have to make the models look this good. They could have easily cut corners since the camera is zoomed out most of the time. Neatherrealm went the extra mile and it really helps the game stand out.

The character designs are much better than in the first game too. While I’d prefer if the characters wore more comic accurate costumes, the costumes in Injustice 2 are leagues above the over designed messes from the original game. The game’s gear system adds to this as there are some awesome options there. I even prefer Bane’s default design and some of Scarecrow’s gears to the comic costumes.

The original Injustice had this dim, grimy color palette to it, colors didn’t really stand out and everything looked sort of bland. In contrast, Injustice 2 is very bright and full of color; it’s a very lively game. Which is much more suiting of the DC universe than the original game’s color palette.

Injustice 2’s lighting is also super impressive. Each stage has it’s own lighting which helps add to the stage’s “feel”. It helps to diversify the stages and make them stand out from each other. I’m personally a fan of the Atlantis and Slaughter Swamp stages, they have this coziness to their look that I just love.

Gameplay 

Injustice 2 is a great fighting game. There’s no large barrier that newcomers must break through,  there’s not a low ceiling that pro players will hit their heads on either. The casual player can mash with their friends and have a good time. People who want to learn fighting games, can start with this game and learn the basic pretty easily. While the pros can retain their knowledge from past Neatherrealm games and use that to test the game to its limits.

The game has been incredibly fun to learn so far, finding a new move that can open players up or a new string that offers a lot of pressure is so rewarding. I have as much fun in training mode as I do in normal matches. The game has several characters that I’m interested in maining (specializing in one character), it’s almost hard to pick since there’s so many.

The game’s roster is fantastic. It offers a mix of DC staples like Flash, fan favorites such as Harley Quinn and characters only hardcore comic fans like Dr Fate. This is a roster that really represents the major cornerstones of the DC universe. On a gameplay level, all the characters feel unique from each other and stand out on their own. Even characters with similar play styles are vastly different. Darkseid and Deadshot zone (use projectiles effectively) in completely different, while the brutes Atrocitus and Gorilla Grodd share almost no similarities. The roster is near perfect minus a few exceptions (where’s Booster Gold at!?).

On a balance level, the game feels pretty balanced for the most part. There aren’t any characters that feel like they’re particularly bad yet. This is great as it gives players the freedom to main whoever they want and have a shot at doing well. However, there are some characters that are a bit too dominant; mainly Deadshot and Black Adam. It doesn’t even feel like Black Adam was properly balanced, he does way too much damage for how many tools he has. Adam is good in almost every situation, it’s nuts.

Many players are turned off of fighting games because they don’t want to dedicate the time to get good to play online. Injustice 2 wants to get those peoples’ attention by offering a ton of single player content. Outside of the campaign, there’s the Multiverse. The Multiverse offers many challenges that change up weekly, daily, and hourly. These challenges will have you fighting a series of opponents and gaining rewards along the way. To keep you on your toes matches will randomly have modifiers. These modifiers include earthquakes, freeze missiles, and the incredibly annoying modifiers where you can’t combo. The modifiers give the Multiverse a lot of fun and difficulty. I haven’t even seen all of them, I’m sure I’ll run into more that will surprise and challenge me.

As you play the game, you’ll gain gear. Gear gives characters different pieces of armor to equip; these armor pieces will alter your character’s stats in various ways. The more gear you get the better your character becomes. You can also unlock alternative moves for your characters, these moves can alter your character’s playstyle drastically. You’ll be able to take your geared up character online too, thought the stats are turned off in ranked mode.

I feel the gear system is the “carrot on a stick” feature that fighting games have desperately been looking for. I constantly find myself checking my characters’ gear to get them to look as cool as possible, while also boosting their stats. It’s really fun to customize your characters in this game.

Verdict

Injustice 2 is the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game since Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. There’s so much to keep me coming back. I want to do all of the new multiverses, collect new gear, and master my Bane and Green Arrow. The game has me wanting to play with my friends or with new people online. It’s almost overwhelming at how much there is to do in this game. But the fun it brings keeps me from being scared away. Injustice 2 is perhaps the most complete package I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. I feel as if anyone can pick this game up and feel like they got their money’s worth. Injustice 2 is a must buy for any DC fan, any fighting game fan and anyone just looking for their next addiction.

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