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Just as outstanding as the first game

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    Injustice 2

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    Just as outstanding as the first game

    Injustice: Gods Among Us impressed me me back in 2013 as one of the best fighting games of it’s generation. Now, Injustice 2 delivers as potentially one of the best fighting games if it’s own generation. Likes it’s predecessor, it features combat that is simplistic enough for casual players but also complex enough for serious competitive gamers. It’s also done a good job of giving a cohesive narrative to the campaign of the story, something not very common in the fighting genre. Overall, this game delivers in terms of both content and fun.

    From a graphical perspective, the game is quite impressive. Realism and resolution don’t matter much to me, but they certainly deliver in this aspect. More importantly, the artwork and attention to detail is fantastic. The character models are nicely fleshed out and detailed, and all of the stages definitely feel alive in how they were crafted. Each stage has it’s own look and feel that accurately represents it’s location. Gotham City is dark and gritty, Joker’s Playground looks like a twisted theme park, etc. The in-game cutscenes also look fantastic, with some top-notch facial expressions and quality lip-syncing. When it it comes to visuals, Injustice 2 has really set the bar for the fighting genre.

    Not many fighting games give a large focus on story or cinematics, admittedly because they don’t really need them. That said, Injustice 2 delivers a rather solid and engaging campaign that goes beyond just fighting a bunch of random opponents. Like the first game, it goes the route of a cohesive narrative where you watch cutscenes before engaging in specific battles against certain opponents. The upisde is you get to play a variety of different characters, the downside is you can’t just run through the game with a preferred fighter. This time, however, the campaign slightly alleviates that by giving you a choose in certain fights to choose between two characters. It’s purely for personal preference, but it does allow for some freedom as well as replay value. The two possible characters are also often, though not always, close characters in the DC universe. The story itself is is pretty intriguing. Following the downfall of a tyrannical Superman and his regime in an alternate universe, Batman is trying to rebuild the world with his own allies. However, a new threat comes along that forces these two opposing sides to rejoin forces before ultimately facing off again. Alongside this story is Supergirl, who has arrived with the goal of protecting her cousin but is initially unaware of his corrupt status. The campaign even allows you to choose between the two sides in the end, with each providing it’s own outcome. The ‘evil’ ending is more intriguing than the ‘good’ ending, but it’s definitely a nice touch. Overall I think the campaign is fantastic in both it’s narrative and it’s gameplay, aside from the really cheap bosses with practically unavoidable attacks. I don’t get why fighting games like this idea nowadays. Unavoidable attacks are not clever, they are lazy and detrimental. Aside from that, I loved the campaign.

    Netherrealm Studios continues it’s belief in delivering loads of content, as well. Unlike certain other fighting series, they give a plethora of different playing modes. Aside from the campaign story, arcade modes, and online matches, Injustice 2 introduces the Multiverse as an additional mode. The Multiverse is essentially a collection of various challenges that may change daily or even hourly, so there will be different ones every time you turn the game on. These challenges have varying difficulties and recommended levels, and sometimes require beating other challenges first. You can pick your own character for each one, however, and the real treat is the various goals or handicaps that may be featured. In one challenge ice may fall from the sky and damage, in another you may be forbidden from using combos, and sometimes you can even summon a sidekick to aid you periodically in battle. Sometimes these battles feature optional goals that will net better rewards in the form of motherboxes, random upgrades for characters. The Multiverse is my personal favorite mode for it’s sheer variety, challenge, and constant change. Injustice 2 also features Guilds, which are online groups you can create or join to house your friends. Within these guilds you can help each other achieve goals and take on guild-specific Multiverse challenges for rewards. Definitely a great touch for those who want to play online or with friends.

    Injustice 2 delivers as a fighting game by delivering what made the first game so great, while offering some improvements and tweaks here and there. As previously said, perhaps it’s greatest strength is how it’s accessible to both casual players looking to have fun and serious players who pride themselves on complex mechanics and tough challenges. The core mechanics are very easy to grasp. Every character has their own repertoire of special attacks and combos for dealing significant damage. While some skill is required, the timing of most moves is forgiving enough that most players of any skill level can pull them off. This is satisfying for someone like myself, who does not have the time to master perfect timing but still wants some depth in my gameplay. For the more competitive players, there are several additional mechanics that can really mix things up. Juggle combos let you continue an assault on an opponent in the air, special cancels let you transition from a combo to a special move or vice-versa, etc. As in the previous game, players have a power meter that fills by dealing or receiving damage. You can spend parts of it during gameplay to enhance special moves and add combos to them, or pull off air escapes and roll escapes to get out of tight situations. Of course the super moves return where you can either use a completely filled power meter to unleash a massive finisher-style move. Clashes return as well, and feel ever so slightly improved. Now you can easily tell how much of your power meter you wager in a clash, and whoever wins the clash plays their own animation. Overall, the game feels fun for everyone by featuring simple mechanics for beginners and deeper mechanics for advanced players. When compared, it feels like an ever-so-slight improvement over the first game, which is fine since the first game was outstanding. The fighting in the game is just incredibly fun and satisfying, with enough complexity in the design to keep it from getting too tedious or repetitive.

    The base roster features 29 playable characters, which is quite solid (Especially considering some fighting games start off with only around 15 or so these days.) Naturally the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman make their return along with some other iconic names. However, Injustice 2 has delved deeper into the DC roster to bring some less prominent characters like Black Canary, Cheetah, Swamp Thing, and Blue Beetle. I actually kind of like this, as it feels like a fuller representation of the DC universe. Naturally some characters feel better overall, but overall most of them have their own style and trying most of them out is fun to play. The game also features 12 playable stages, which is a slight downgrade from the 15 in Injustice: Gods Among Us. However, they make up for that in terms of atmosphere, style, and detail. Just like before, stages also feature various interactions in the environment you can use. There are also the transitions you can do by knocking opponents off a stage, which are still incredibly entertaining. This is mostly the same, either delivering about the same as it’s predecessor or a bit better.

    Injustice 2’s most prominent new feature is it’s gear feature, which gives a slight RPG-feel to the game. As you play the game, be it in the campaign or single fights, random bits of gear may drop for characters, which can be equipped to increase their health, strength, defense, and ability. This is in addition to a leveling system for each character, which makes them stronger as you use them more. This definitely adds a unique taste to characters as you can slightly alter them to fit your style of play, as well as tweak them to handle certain match-ups better. You can also use in-game currency to boost gear to your level, preventing it from being obsolete. I like a lot of things about this new feature, but it’s also admittedly my biggest source of concern for the game.

    I will give Netherrealm Studios credit where it is due: These gear upgrades are only applicable to multiverse battles and unranked battles. Also, power upgrades cannot be purchased with real money, so this is not a pay-to-win design that gives a competitive edge to players with more money to throw around. That being said, the random nature of gear pickups is annoying, as there is no telling what character it’ll be for. It’s purely rng in nature, and the grinding that can become required to get gear for your main character is irritating. Also, motherboxes (This game’s version of lootboxes) are also purely random in what loot they provide. While sometimes interesting, it is annoying when you have no control of what character is getting the good stuff. I like the way each fighter levels up on their own to gain better stats and abilities, and the ability to create multiple custom version for quick access is a nice touch. The random factor for loot, however, was better off left out. It’s a bit of a slippery slope too, so hopefully future titles don’t feature forced lootboxes. Luckily it doesn’t detract too much from the experience, it’s mainly an annoyance when customizing your character.

    On the whole, I have to say Injustice 2 is an absolutely fantastic game that sets a bar for future games to aspire to. It features smooth controls that are responsive, gameplay mechanics that are fun for beginners and pros alike, a generous base character roster, a fun campaign with a compelling narrative, numerous different different modes for playing, and an ever-so-slight RPG-esque gear system that allows for personal customization. The detrimental random nature of it’s gear system and currency system, as well as overly cheap boss battles are it’s only real flaws. Everything else is designed in a way that makes a superb fighting experience. I consider this a must-try for fans of the fighting genre, and can recommend it to anyone who is considering the genre. I hope this series continues to deliver in the future, because Netherrealm Studios has a winning formula here. If they just rethink their lootbox system, they could have a perfect game on their hands.

    +Amazing stage and character visuals +Fighting mechanics that are ideal and fun for all skill levels +Solid story campaign with replay value +Numerous different modes offline and online for extensive variety +Some personal customization allowed with favorite characters

    -Some boss battles are really cheap -Random nature of the gear system can force tedious grinding

    Final Score: 9/10

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