“Behold! I teach you of the Superman! He is this lightning! He is this Madness!” – Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
(Pretentious review introduction quoting Nietzsche? Check.)
The idea of Superman taking a turn for the wicked is a fairly well-trod trope in the comic book world. There have been many times where Superman has been brainwashed, temporarily driven insane, or accidentally put in the position of the antagonist via simple misunderstandings.
The idea is so common that various alternate universe Supes (Bizarro, Ultraman), and erzat stand-ins (Hyperion from “Squadron Supreme” and The Plutonian from “Irredeemable”) have been created to explore this simple concept. It’s because of this that, for most of his history, Superman has been considered a “safe” hero; one with a virtually unbreakable sense of justice that befuddles wrongdoers and inspires everyone who witnesses him.
But the question remains. What would happen if Superman lost that sense of justice and simply broke? And what implications would that have for the world?
The original Injustice, released in 2013, answered both of those questions for fighting game fans everywhere: It would require both the loss of the woman he loved AND his unborn son, and the results would be terrifying.
The anticipated sequel, Injustice 2 continues the tale of this world with a “broken” Superman, while improving just about every virtue and flaw the original had.
What Is It?
Injustice 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed DC Superhero fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us. Once again developed by NetherRealm Studios, the same people who managed to revive the dormant Mortal Kombat franchise to new critical and commercial heights, it returns to the alternate DC continuity introduced in its predecessor, in which a grieving and angry Superman finally loses all sense of boundaries and founds a global dictatorship, with himself as leader. His sense of truth and justice gone, he instead embraces fear and terror to maintain order at all costs. This alters the status quo, creating villains out of heroes (Green Lantern, Wonder Woman), and heroes out of villains (Harley Quinn).
By the time of Injustice 2, Superman’s regime has been overthrown by Batman and his resistance. Superman now resides in a Red Sun prison, whilst Batman attempts to bring back some sort of normalcy to the post-Resistance world. But the still-recovering world is faced with not only one, but two new threats: The Society (a group of supervillains who survived Superman’s violent purges and led by Gorilla Grodd), and an all-knowing and extremely powerful extraterrestrial threat who appears to have been the destroyer of Superman’s home planet of Krypton, a being known only as Brainiac.
There’s also a certain Kryptonian refugee who has recently awoken from cryo-sleep. But I digress….
Like its preceding entry, Injustice 2 is a one-on-one fighting game in which one or two players pick from a roster of DC characters. Also like its predecessor, it does a good job of mixing the roster with both iconic and more obscure characters. Well known characters such as Batman and Wonder Woman are joined by niche entries like Captain Cold and Doctor Fate.
Each character is equipped with a list of combos, special attacks and super moves that they must use against their opponent to deplete both of their life bars (there are no ’rounds’ as such).
Each fight takes place in several unique and iconic arenas, each with their own degree of interactivity and detail. There are boundaries to bounce off of, objects to throw, and breakable exit points that can launch the fighters into a brand new area of the arena. The ‘Clashes’ system also returns from the first game, in which fighters must bet a certain amount of their Super bar in order to either inflict major damage or recover much needed life energy. Each character also has a special buff that is unique to each character. Batman’s buff gives him a trio of exploding flying batarangs, whereas Cheetah’s temporarily increases her speed.
Outside of the story mode, there is also the standard versus modes and multiplayer. Along with this comes two new features: The loot-based Gear System and The Multiverse. The Gear System allows players to acquire various costume pieces and equipment that will boost their stats (which include strength, defense, health and ability), which are acquired by winning fights and spending in-game currency to unlock various ‘Mother Boxes’ filled with choices of loot. The Multiverse, similar to Mortal Kombat X‘s ‘Living Towers’ mode, allows players to traverse various parallel worlds, each with their own handicaps, stipulations and goals. The game’s Arcade Mode is included in the Multiverse as the ‘Battle Simulator.’ The game also includes a micro-transaction system that allows cosmetic purchases using real world money.
Why Should I Care?
The folks at NetherRealm Studios proved with the original Injustice that they could make a solid, fast-paced fighting game that didn’t require the shocking gore of its other franchise. That same polish is present here in this installment, with several improvements. The controls feel somehow even more intuitive than before, which is quite a feat in and of itself since the original was already highly polished.
The roster is also larger and much more diverse than the original, and is not as Batman-centric as the former. Characters from the Justice League, The Rogues, the Teen Titans and the Justice Society of America are all present along with members of the famed Dark Knight’s rogues gallery. Even more mystical characters like Swamp Thing and Doctor Fate make an appearance. Various Silver Age villains like Cheetah and Gorilla Grodd are joined by modern Suicide Squad members like Deadshot.
Then there is the story mode. Gone are the forced minigames and overreliance on the ‘alternate universes’ trope. This entry takes place solely in the Injustice universe, with much tighter writing and an overall darker tone. We get to see more of the early days of Superman’s regime, as well as the destruction of Krypton and soul-searching of the various characters post-Regime. Some, such as Green Lantern, have gone through hell to redeem themselves, whereas others such as Wonder Woman and Black Adam are attempting to reestablish Superman’s dictatorship. Others, like Harley Quinn, are trying to grow out of their criminal pasts, whereas others like Captain Cold are seeking vengeance on the Regime. It all culminates in a cinematic and well-written story that equals some of the best DC Comics has to offer in print form, and far surpasses any of its current film ventures.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
If you loved the first Injustice, then this game is a must-buy. If you are new, it is still worth playing for its incredible roster and its intuitive fighting system. If you are a DC Comics fan? It’s an essential purchase.
Of course, although the game is amazing, it is not without some minor flaws. Graphically, the game is much improved from its predecessor yet still has a small ‘uncanny valley’ effect on characters like Catwoman (though still much improved). The micro-transaction system can itself be a no-go for some players who oppose such things. True, NetherRealm Studios claims that all micro-transactions are purely cosmetic, but it’s the same gimmick WB Interactive pulled before. The other loot is still plentiful and easily obtainable through in-game currency. There are also DLC characters (such as Starfire), and texture variants (such as Power Girl) that must be purchased with real world currency. Whether or not it is worth it is purely up to the player.
Altogether, Injustice 2 is a worthy successor to the original, perfecting its virtues and surpassing its flaws. With a story that is both fun and dramatic, and plenty of features to keep the player occupied for the long term, NetherRealm Studios has once again shown that the are one of the kings of accessible yet intuitive fighters.
(Also? Superman is a dick.)