The first Injustice game was a potentially great game, that was let down by a handful of small issues that held it back from becoming a game that people continued to come back to after the Next Big Fighting Game came along. Constant balance tinkering, inconsistent netcode, dodgy matchmaking and a somewhat lacklustre roster marred what was potentially an exciting new fighting game franchise with enough ideas and personality to hold its own in what has become an increasingly crowded genre. Have those wrongs been righted second time around, or have NetherRealm got another near-miss on their hands? Well it doesn’t take very long to find out…
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really particularly excited when word came out that an Injustice sequel was on the way. I enjoyed the first game, and put a fair amount of time into it, but as is usually the case, soon went back to Street Fighter and Marvel vs Capcom once the initial novelty wore off. Frustrated at being matched online with people ranked way higher, and uninspired by the unimaginative roster, it pretty soon joined the pile of fighting games that have come and gone since the genre re-emerged following Street Fighter 4’s launch in 2008. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself utterly unable to tear myself away from Injustice 2, hardly touching Street Fighter 5 for days on end and enjoying a fighting game more than any other since the original Marvel Vs Capcom 3 in 2011. It improves on the original in almost every way and at a time when a busy fighting game genre is experiencing an influx of genuinely great games (step forward Tekken 7 and Guilty Gear Rev 2), puts down a marker for how a fighting game should be put together in 2017.
The presentation is superb from the moment the game starts, with simple but crystal clear menus and a character select screen that is unsurprisingly reminiscent of Mortal Kombat X. Character models look great, and backgrounds and transitions are varied and deep,with a wider range of colour and mood than the previous game. Injustice 2 looks and sounds great, and is feels far more rounded and complete than the darker, bleaker original. Similarly, the new roster feels more varied and balanced. I may be biased due to the inclusion of my beloved Swamp Thing, but less reliance on Batman’s universe seems positive and the increased diversity opens up the colour palette for a wider range of moods and atmosphere.
Probably the biggest issue that faces modern fighting games is how to draw in and keep casual fans without dumbing down and alienating hardcore, experienced players. Again, Injustice 2 manages this about as well as any game that has come before it. The amount of single player content is huge, and the story mode is as good as it gets for the genre, with only its fellow NetherRealm games to rival it. The Multiverse mode is the games (very close) equivalent of the ladders from MKX, and are made up of a series of matches containing different criteria (perform 5 throws etc), and other stipulations such as speed boosts or various missiles falling from the sky. As these challenges are updated weekly and daily, the potential for future content is huge and will keep players coming back consistently in search for the core of Injustice 2’s reward system, Gear. This constitutes costume and appearance upgrades for all character, dealt out at random as the game is played and challenges are completed. These upgrades effect character stats during single player and player online matches to boost and improve the capabilities of each fighter, and provide purely visual developments whilst playing in online ranked mode. It’s an addictive and fun way of improving and pimping out your character, but can get a little frustrating as Gear acquisitions are random and playing one character wont necessarily unlock any gear for that character.
Playing online is obviously the prominent way for many players to stay involved with a fighting game, and was probably the main reason why I didn’t stick with Injustice the first time around. This time however, as somebody who spends an unreasonable percentage of his life waiting for Street Fighter 5 online games to arrive, Injustice 2 is a breath of fresh air. Matches arrive quickly and consistently, and in my experience, run smoothly and without spikes in lag. It can’t be understated the difference it makes when you spend the vast majority of your time playing rather than waiting. Like Multiverse mode, playing online brings Gear rewards, and happily doesn’t seem to have any of the matchmaking issues that drove me away in the last game.
I genuinely didn’t see this coming. Having played the majority of fighting games from the last 10 years, there haven’t been many that have dragged me away from the traditional Capcom titles for more than a than a few weeks. Skullgirls, King of Fighters 13 and Guilty Gear Xrd have stuck around, but with Injustice 2, I feel like we have a game that will not only stick around, but also force the established titles to up their game in order to keep up. It is absolutely one of the most enjoyable and complete fighting games of the last decade, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for serious and casual players alike. As good as the comics, better than the films, Injustice 2 is the best thing DC have done since Arkham City. Go get it.
Reviewed on PS4