Review: Injustice 2 (PS4)

Review: Injustice 2 (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Format/Hardware Used:

  • Blu-ray Disc
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Injustice 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (27.8 GB)
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

NetherRealm Studios has been on a consistent release schedule of great fighting games since the release of the Mortal Kombat reboot (MK9), the entry that marked the franchise’s 2D resurgence and return to the upper ranks of the genre.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed alternating installments of both Mortal Kombat and Injustice every other Spring.

Ed Boon and his team have been both commercially and critically successful operating under publisher Warner Bros. Interactive and this good fortune has led to higher production value, creative iteration, and increasing polish with each new release.

With Injustice 2, the story mode cutscenes have reached a graphical fidelity unrivaled by the studio’s previous work while the Multiverse features a verbose set of RPG/loot-drop elements designed to deliver virtually endless gameplay.

Gameplay:
After it was announced and the games media went hands-on with preview builds, the popular consensus seemed to be that this game was simply Injustice: Gods Among Us with an updated roster and fresh coat of paint.

It’s understandable that such an impression is garnered on a topical level but delving into the depths that the game has to offer will reveal some unexplored territory and risky bets on new modes and mechanics.

Fans of the original may notice that marquee characters like Superman and Batman use many of the same combo strings and special moves with some stylistic tweaks. These are offset by an overall faster gameplay setting and new uses of precious meter.

Players can now spend their bars on air escapes, effectively dodging the continuation of their opponent’s juggle combo with a fair bit of control over where they’ll land.

However, air escapes are not guaranteed as seasoned players may be able to guess your chosen direction and even adjust their timing to uphold the onslaught. Projectile spammers must be weary of the new meter burn ability that adds a degree of invincibility, allowing for gap closure and space control.

… the story mode is a success with a degree of replayability …
The Clash System, another type of combo breaker, makes its return and proves that it can still quickly turn the tide of a battle. Clashing players will secretly wager sections of their meter to either deal damage or regenerate health.

When taking into consideration that your four bars of meter can be used at varying costs to deal high damage combos, initiate armored juggles or dashes, perform an air escape, win a clash, invincibly interact with the stage, or unleash your super move, the meta-game provides endless strategy amongst split-second decision making. Such is the excitement of Injustice 2.

The six to eight hour campaign is an adventure with a foreboding tone and deep subject matter that will crumble a player’s previously solid ideas of right and wrong.

With a branching story path, incredible animation, seamless transitions between scenes and gameplay, and forcing the player to fight as a majority of the cast, the story mode is a success with a degree of replayability. Once again, the devs seem to have been given carte blanche when it comes to the narrative and there are certainly some instances where cannon loyalists will cringe.

With this new iteration, NetherRealm Studios may have bet the farm on the Multiverse, a new mode that pools together ideas from some of their previous games and builds upon the single-player spotlight. There are new and different Multiverse Events everyday, each with their own varying degree of difficulty, loot-drops, match modifiers, objectives, and duration.

Completing Multiverse Events will award players loot-boxes that contain buffing gear, new abilities, and attractive color palettes for any and all members of the current twenty-eight character roster at random.

… almost every mode in Injustice 2 is given the star treatment …
I’ve been focusing on learning Atrocitus since the game’s release and I’ve since obtained new masks, chest plates, armor, and shaders that have drastically changed my stats, character power, and appearance.

Players are incentivized to check the Multiverse daily as rewards are sometimes themed for a single character. Have you been waiting to get that super rare, epic gear drop for Black Adam that includes a new set of strength increasing pants? Today might be your lucky day as I’ve already seen such character specific reward themes.

Balancing purists can of course enjoy the competitive play without the stat buffs and they needn’t sacrifice the cool cosmetic changes. NetherRealm Studios has presented an elegant solution to the longevity conundrum faced by the genre and given life to a style of gameplay that would have otherwise perished without a consistent competitive scene.

From practice mode to online play, from the campaign to the Multiverse, almost every mode in Injustice 2 is given the star treatment with all of the bells and whistles considered. You can jump to any chapter in the story once you’ve completed it, making it easy to replay with different characters where applicable.

The amount of information like frame data and move list specifics available in practice can be overwhelming when coupled with the AI options and gameplay recording suite.

Although the included tutorial touches upon the game’s foundations and offers a brief introduction to each character, I would have liked seeing something like a combo challenge for the roster in its entirety with strings and maneuvers ranging from novice to expert.

… the endless combinations do not falter on any stage, during any move, against any character …
Visuals:
I’ve already touched upon the visual fidelity of the cutscenes but most notable are the facial animations which approach a photo-realism that is somehow maintained, perhaps through some camera trickery, as the game transitions to actual play.

With so many gear options and different colors in the equation, it’s impressive that the endless combinations do not falter on any stage, during any move, against any character. Oh yeah, on top of all this, the game supports HDR. Those with a capable set will enjoy even crisper lighting effects and enhanced colors.

Audio:
The mild soundtrack lends itself to the player who might be spending several consecutive hours honing his/her skills in the training room or testing their chops in online battles. Tuning out to your favorite album or podcast while getting better is the way to go.

Crank up the sound effects though, because NetherRealm never skimps on those. Each punch, grunt, scream, or exploding vehicle has an impact on the gameplay. The voice acting excels as character specific banter heightens the tension before a match.

The high profile cast includes names like Laura Bailey and Phil LaMarr while Khary Payton and Kevin Conroy reprise their respective roles as Cyborg and Batman from other DC properties.

… the characters leap off the pages of the comics and find new life on your screen …
Online/Multiplayer:
With each new release, NetherRealm is closing the gap between the online and local experience. Throughout most of my time with the game, lag has been almost non-existent. Further still, in an incredibly commendable effort, a simulated delay practice option is included to account for the inevitable discrepancies of online play.

We finally have a developer that doesn’t simply pretend the issue doesn’t exist, admits that their game is imperfect, and accompanies that admission with a self-humbling, useful, and effective remedy.

Conclusion:
Injustice 2 is certainly a cut above its predecessor, a goal that any sequel to anything tries to achieve. What it lacks in differentiating the original cast, it makes up for with new mechanics, improved fluidity, and tighter gameplay.

While some story mode content is questionable, the devs are masters at faithfully fitting the heroes and villains lore into the fight styles. With such an iconic cast in the hands of such a talented team, the characters leap off the pages of the comics and find new life on your screen, under your command.

We know that NetherRealm Studios makes great fighting games, but what is it about their development cycle that produces content capable of breaking down the genre’s boundaries? Are they testing their single player capabilities? Are they gearing up in the cinematics department? What’s with the RPG elements and Clash Royale/mobile-game-style addictive loot?

I’ve been waiting for another game like Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks for a long time now, and the wealth of single player content plus the cinematic quality of Injustice 2 make this game the half step between fighter and brawler/beat ’em up. Is their next game a narrative driven action/adventure set in the Mortal Kombat Universe? A guy can dream, right?

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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