Injustice 2 manages to accomplish something that only a handful of fighting games have ever achieved, in that creates a single player experience that’s just as strong – if not stronger – than the multiplayer side of things.
NetherRealm’s comic book brawler is a sprawling, accessible, and highly attractive piece of work. In short, it’s everything a fighting game should be, and even if you never get a mate to pick up a second controller to play with you, you’ll still get your money’s worth from this one as an entirely solo experience.
For those that aren’t aware, the events of the first Injustice took place in a parallel world where Superman and friends became crazed tyrants and started killing supervillains (you hear that Zak Snyder? A parallel world).
Batman and a team of rebel heroes and villains who stood against Superman’s regime eventually managed to take him down, and Injustice 2 picks up several years after the events of the first game – but as Bats attempts to restore the world to something resembling normality and track down those still loyal to Superman, a much larger threat surfaces.
I say any more than that, as the story of Injustice 2 is a sprawling epic that’s best experienced first-hand. There are enough characters from DC’s rich history that both die-hard fans and casual observers will find plenty to enjoy.
The story mode essentially plays out like one big movie, with playable fights seamlessly weaved throughout. While we do get increasingly convoluted reasons as to why only two characters are fighting at any one time, it’s an enjoyable story that’s ambitious in scope, but also has a nice emotional core which is helped by strong voice acting and some sublime (if occasionally inconsistent) facial animation.
The mix of characters both obscure and well known has been masterfully handled this time around – newcomers to the roster such as Swamp Thing and Doctor Fate shine a light on DC’s weirder side, while The Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman et al are all present and correct.
Every hero and villain has a move set that feels true to their character. For example, Batman and Robin rely on gadgets and agile combat, while Joker has crazed, unpredictable attacks, and the likes of Bane and Swamp Thing move slowly but pack a hell of a punch.
Injustice 2 really can be picked up and played by anyone, sporting a control scheme that’s easy to get the hang of, while those who really want to dive deep will be rewarded with insane combos and tough online battles.
Strong, light, and heavy attacks can be chained, while fiddling with directional buttons grants access to special moves. The ability to interact with stages adds a pleasing dynamic to fights, and also helps level the playing field for less experienced players.
Anyone can press the button required to pick up a nearby car and smash it over their opponents head for big damage, even if we can’t all pull off certain combos and attacks.
Then are the super moves and stage transitions, which really make this feel like a superhero fighting game, rather than just another beat ’em up. Hit your opponent right towards the edge of a level, and you’ll trigger a brilliant cutscene as your punch sends them flying from one area to another.
These transitions usually involve a cameo from an obscure DC character, and always do a pleasing amount of damage. Given that it’s not easy to manoeuvre your foe into such a situation, these moments feel earned.
The super moves are just as over the top, and as is fighting game tradition these moves can only be activated after filling a meter. Gameplay always gets wonderfully tense when your opponent approaches with a fully charged meter, as the moves do massive damage and can easily turn the tide of a match – provided the initial hit successfully connects.
Outside of the story mode, and your standard two player brawling (both local and online), there’s a ‘Multiverse’ single player mode that throws you into matches with random modifiers and requirements, which is your easiest and quickest route into earning ‘gear’ – perhaps the biggest innovation Injustice 2 has to offer.
To be honest, you’ll either love the idea of customising your characters with various bits and pieces of gear, or you’ll look at it a few times, get confused by it, and never really bother with it again.
There’s no wrong way to approach the gear/loot system, and if you never use it you won’t exactly be depriving yourself of anything particularly special. I like the idea of being able to play with your characters stats and tailor certain fighters to your play style, but it all felt a wee bit confusing to me.
That’s not to say I didn’t like it, but rather than approach it with any kind of tactical mind, I simply kitted out my characters with the masks/belts/torso pieces that I felt looked the coolest and carried on playing, though I think those that really want to get stuck in and create the perfect fighter are gonna get so much out of this system, and that’s awesome for them.
To sum up then, Injustice 2 is one of the best fighting games to come out in years. It looks gorgeous, plays great, and offers plenty of depth for those that are looking for a properly competitive experience, while simultaneously offering a lightweight and fun experience for those who just want to make Batman and Superman duke it out with their mates on a Friday night.
A genuinely rich single player experience is the icing on the cake for a game that I would already would have recommenced to anyone.
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