Following any smash hit is always a risk. Even if you have every creative force from the original to back it, even if you have a plan in motion to capitalise on the last tale, you can still screw things up. Each sequel needs to be loyal to the original while improving upon it in almost every way, and Injustice 2 largely succeeds in this regard. It’s flashier, bigger and definitely punchier, with an infinitely more interesting roster of characters.
Set in the wake of the original game, Batman is attempting to rebuild after Superman’s dictatorship finally fell to bits. Facing resistance from both former allies and remnants of Superman’s army, things are only made worse when Gorilla Grodd makes a bid for power. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one interested in claiming the Earth for himself...
Perhaps the most striking difference between the original Injustice and this new release are the visuals. No longer bound to older technology, the animation here is smoother, much more fluid and vastly more detailed. Both in fights and major cutscenes, it outshines almost every other game in its genre, save for the odd uncanny valley moment when it pauses to deliver a few close-ups. This is used to reflect a broader range of emotion among the characters, but each of the fights have also been visibly enhanced. They’re more responsive than before, vastly faster and the big super moves eclipse anything seen with these heroes previously. Plus, as many will be glad to know, this isn’t used as an excuse to throw in even more chain-attack mini-games like last time.
It helps that the actual combat mechanics themselves are still solid. While NetherRealm has largely stuck to its guns with certain moves, that hasn’t stopped them experimenting in odd areas. Superman and Batman will largely feel the same, but previously maligned options like Wonder Woman have been tweaked to remain a little more competitive with the other meta-humans. There’s definitely a vastly better balanced roster present this time, and the environments prove to be incredibly creative, offering both fan pleasing nods and destructible scenery aplenty. This has been further revised with a new set of unlockable items and equipment, which proves to be a double-edged sword. It’s certainly an interesting aspect to work with and adds more incentives to keep going in arcade, but the actual management system proves to be surprisingly obtuse at times.
Equally, and perhaps most depressingly, the main story is a very mixed bag. While it works well with established DC universe ideas and the new villains are excellent, other aspects prove to be decidedly problematic. Parted from the more benevolent “prime” versions of the original reality, the characters here are notably more obnoxious in their behaviour, and spiteful infighting seems to arise with even the slightest prompting. It’s difficult to get behind anyone at times, and the story has a bad habit of simply glossing over certain facts. Hal is a Green Lantern again? You’ll never find out why unless you read the comics. Top this off with a very unfortunate take on an already villainous version of Superman, and fans of this setting might have some difficulty getting the same enjoyment out of Injustice 2 as they did the first game.
Still, it would be wrong to damn this game based upon its story alone, and on the whole this is a definite success. If you had plenty of fun beating the living hell out of the Justice League in the last game, you’re sure to enjoy this new one. Give it a look for a few dozen hours more brawls and beam-spams, and for the fun of witnessing the Batman-Superman war begin anew.
INJUSTICE 2 / DEVELOPER: NETHERREALM STUDIOS / PUBLISHER: WARNER BROS. INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT / PLATFORMS: MICROSOFT WINDOWS, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW