Republished on Wednesday 28th September 2022: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of October's PlayStation Plus Essential lineup. The original text follows.
Injustice 2 may be one of the most impressive fighting game sequels in recent memory. Following the release of Injustice: Gods Among Us (which raised its fists over four years ago), this successor continues the story of a hypothetical universe, in which Superman has been tricked into causing a devastating tragedy which has consumed everything and everyone he loves. The original title was inspired, and the execution of the initial concept was legitimised by NetherRealm’s presentation and storytelling, which had become notorious following the release of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. But years later, it's upped the ante all over again.
The story mode – which has been kept alive by a comic book series to bridge the gap between games – is followed easily if you have only played the first campaign. The story starts before the events of Injustice, and introduces the character of Kara-El (Supergirl) as she watches Krypton be destroyed by the primary antagonist of Injustice 2, Brainiac. She escapes as the only other House of El descendant apart from Kal (Superman), and as she leaves her home planet we skip to five years after the first Injustice video game, as Bruce Wayne is attempting to rebuild the society which Superman (now imprisoned) had taken over and controlled. While the premise doesn’t have the shocking moments found in the first game such as Superman pushing his fist through the chest of The Joker, it still has its flickers of cleverness and great writing which make the story mode a blast to play through.
However, what makes this story mode stellar is its presentation. Impressive facial capture brings flesh to the narrative, as Harley Quinn jostles pieces of gum in between her jaws, Batman’s sweat glistens below his nose, and as the frustration of Wonder Woman is shown through the creases accentuating on her forehead – the attention to detail is what pushes this next chapter in the Injustice story much further than its predecessor.
This ideal execution seeps over into the fighting game mechanics, which have been evolved in Injustice 2. These particulars have been adjusted to compensate a quicker combat style, by adding meter burns which adjust manoeuvrability, removing the heavier characters (with even the returning Bane shedding quite a few pounds), and increasing the overall agility of the characters. The result is a welcome change, and encourages a more active playstyle which discourages individuals from relying on minimal tactics such as projectile spamming. That isn’t to say that you will have to adjust your playstyle too differently if you’re used to a specific character which is returning from the original Injustice, as basic combos and mechanics are still present.
One of the new additions to Injustice 2 is the gear and character customisation options. You unlock this gear through loot boxes, and while many were scoffing at the idea of creating and building your own unique character, the implementation and utilisation of the gear allows this part of the game to feel easily justified. The amount of gear and customisation options present are staggering, and doesn't constrain your character to a specific gear-set for more than a couple matches, as you're continuously unlocking more and more options to customise your comic book star. There's five different tiers of loot boxes, and you receive them constantly. Also, if you have a high level character and decide to go to online play, the game will auto-adjust your level to the same as your opponent's, making the game fair for more competitive players. Injustice 2 is commendable for its customisation additions, and it will be great to see where it takes this system in their future titles.
Another thing to commend NetherRealm for is the solid netcode in Injustice 2, allowing low-latency online play. While there definitely were some hitches on the first couple days the game was released, the fighting is much more responsive than it was in the original Injustice or Mortal Kombat X (although that title went through extensive netcode testing months after release which has been implemented to Injustice 2 with great effect).
Apart from online, if you’re a solo player you might be spending a lot of time in Multiverse. An ever-changing range of tower options which range from affecting environments to affecting specific character’s abilities. Seeing story vignettes at the end of each individual’s Multiverse is a welcome return. However, bosses in The Multiverse are poorly balanced, executing combos in a way which would be almost impossible for even a dedicated player to be able to punch in. This, coupled with the increased health and damage output, creates a seemingly unfair fight which requires a great deal of repetition and relying on AI manipulation. Many times, it’s a test of endurance, and others you need to rely on specific combos and manoeuvres which the opponent can’t counter. It’s unfortunate that cheap difficulty spikes are still seen even after Shao Kahn smashed many players in Mortal Kombat 9.
For those of you which fantasied about your favorite DC characters fighting by bumping your action figures together, Injustice 2 extends that fantasy into an impressively executed video game. There’s a lot to offer, and it will take you hundreds of hours to unlock everything, let alone attain the Platinum Trophy. The game’s depth in fighting, story, and customisation options make it a worthy addition to not only any fighting gamer’s library – but demands to be tried by people of all tastes.