Injustice 2 Review

Played on Windows.
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One
A different game of the same name is available on iOS and Android.

Some days it’s not enough to have discussions of who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman. They’re both highly qualified fighters and heroes, but rather than just ask which is better, most people want more. Thankfully Injustice 2 gives us a chance to throw down with some of our favorite superheroes. The question then becomes, is this going to be the definitive answer of which hero is best?

This is actually the third time NetherRealms Studios tackles the DC universe, with DC Vs Mortal Kombat, and Injustice: Gods Among Us coming before. In fact, both of those games were good, and Injustice 2 has big boots to fill this time around.

Simply put, Injustice 2 succeeds right off the bat with the graphics. This is easily the best looking game of the three, and I think it’s superior to Mortal Kombat X in almost every way. I’m a fan of how good the characters look in Injustice 2, and how well detailed the environments are.

The character models are really the cream of the crop. They are well detailed and just wonderfully rendered. I was shocked the first time I saw the game. It’s been about a year since release and I’ll say that the Injustice 2 characters look a little weaker over time, but they are still impressive and just stunning to look at. There are tons of great tricks to make this work but the most important thing is the developer has a love for these characters, which is clear throughout Injustice 2.

Injustice 2 does take the time to show off all their graphical prowess, which is understandable but becomes an issue over time. One of the big features of the game is “Super moves” Which allow characters to use some large attack, such as Supergirl flying her opponent into space and then blasting her with her laser attack destroying asteroids and devastating the enemy. Ignoring the question of how certain characters survive that, or how many astral bodies she’s destroying, the cutscene for it is quite long.

It’s a shame because each super move is a very cool animation the first time I saw it, similar to the X-ray attacks of Mortal Kombat X. But since they are significantly longer, they become too long and break up the flow of the fight. I would have been happy to have a “double time” option somewhere, or a way to skip super moves. After the third or fourth match with a character, the super moves become rather ordinary, not to mention that I was able to pull them off twice in a single match on some occasions.

Still, if Injustice 2 looks good, it only looks better in the cutscenes for the story mode, and the really high-quality models made me think I was watching a movie a couple of times. The level of quality in the graphics of Injustice 2 is extremely impressive, and I have to admit, I wasn’t prepared for that.

The cutscens really shine. The character models are amazing and the animations are flawless.

Though I do have to say there is some problem. I believe by turning off V-sync, my audio and video in the cutscenes got out of sync. It’s a strange problem and without a noticeable reason, on a few occasions saw audio ten seconds delayed. I’m not even sure if V-sync will fix this but it’s a bad problem, and the only solution I know of is pausing the scene so it can properly catch up. That would be acceptable except that cutscenes don’t allow pausing in the middle of loading so I’ve seen most of a number of cutscenes with this bug. I believe this only happens on PC, but it’s bad enough I do have to call it out.

The story mode is quite well done. Rather than continue the story of the original Injustice game, Injustice 2 seems to handwave much of the original game, focusing on the alternate universe with the evil Superman. The original game’s events did happen, but Injustice 2 is unwilling to even talk about them for the most part.

It’s odd because while the game sometimes will refer vaguely to the incidents of the first game, it avoids any mentions of the multiverse in the story, and tries to tell a new tale. Fans definitely should read a synopsis of the first game or play through Injustice as this is a very different DC universe than you are used to, but at the same time, you feel like you have to discover new lore due to new characters and figuring which team each character “Should” be on. Characters like Harley Quinn are working alongside Batman and the game acts like that’s a normal statement.

Injustice 2’s story is done well, but I’m unsure if it really needs the alternate universe. This is a typical Brainiac story that has been done a few times, though looks exceptionally good here and plays well. The fact that we’re using the alternate universe feels more like it’s done for Soap Opera reasons so every character has a reason to fight each other, rather than a direct continuation of the original tale.

Injustice 2’s character selection feels a little off. A lot of obvious choices are here, Superman, Batman, Harley Quinn, Joker (which makes no sense according to the story of the first game). I feel like the original Injustice: Gods Among Us had an excellent list of fighters. While Injustice 2’s list has been expanded and improved upon, I feel like they started over from scratch. A number of returning characters look different but major fighters have gone missing.

Doomsday’s absence doesn’t make a ton of sense, neither does Deathstroke’s and Lex Luthor. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Zod and Martian Manhunter, but all five of these characters are missing. We have an interesting roster but some characters feel out of place. Injustice 2 has a few odd choices, seeming to be based on the television Arrowverse, but also not done in the style of the show. We have a beefcake version of The Flash, Deadshot, Captain Cold, and Firestorm.

Yeah I’m not going to be able to accept this Joker.

A big piece of this is similar to Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite’s roster selection in that this feels more like it was chosen from DC’s desire than NetherRealm’s. Just to be clear, it’s not an awful selection, but a few character designs just feel off such as the Joker, or the new version of Harley Quinn.

Even trying to use a focus on the comic studio as an explanation of who got selected or looking at who’s popular today, there are other choices that don’t make as much sense, with Doctor Fate, and a very different version of Green Arrow (which has nothing in common with the tv show, so are they based on the tv show or not?) included here, as well as Cheetah instead of Ares and Blue Beetle (who?)

Also, I realize there were limits of what was decided at the time or what Injustice 2 could show, but choices like a white and blond Aquaman or beefcake Flash feel outdated now after the Justice League, in fact with the DCEU possibly in trouble, we might be seeing all new versions of these characters before long.

Even if Injustice 2’s character designs have issues, the presentation of the characters is good. There are small touches that bring the characters to life. When characters are selected and players look at the stage select, the two chosen characters will attack each other and it’s a small but interesting addition to the menu system.

Once the players enter a level, most characters will have a taunt based on the story or universe, adding a lot more life to the game. Some of these taunts are just nasty, such as Damian Wayne (Robin in this game) “A good father would make time”, and Batman responding. “A good son would deserve it.” Savage taunt… if you know the characters, and trust me, it’s worth learning a bit more about the characters as there’s a good amount of backstory to these characters that the game features. Supergirl even said, “You fight like a noob” at one point which made me have to pause the game to laugh about that.

All of this works well, but the downside is at the end of the battle, the winner’s pose is always the same. The same screen every time, and I would have loved to see a couple of different animations. After winning ten or twenty matches, it becomes a pointless screen to skip through.

Playing Wonder Woman? Better get used to this scene. All the victory scenes are repeated every win.

But with everything there, from the presentation, the story and the graphics, it’s not as important for a fighting game. What’s essential is going to be the gameplay, so we’ll have to dig in there.

If you’ve already played Mortal Kombat X you’ll have a good idea of what’s here, it’s a similar system, though lacking fatalities. If you haven’t played that, Injustice 2 has a fantastic fighting system.

Everything in Injustice 2 fighting system feels well polished. While I’m sure there are some nuances I didn’t notice. The basic fighting is solid. While the game relies on the “Light, Medium, Heavy, Character action” system that other games have, it works here because it allows the player to focus on combos and the moves they’re trying to pull off. A strong but slow attack can always be created by holding back and the heavy button. Uppercuts are one by holding down and medium attack.

This sounds like it creates a generic experience, but that’s far from the case. Each character has different moves for all these attacks, it’s just the generic controls. Many characters have different combos, and certain attacks will take different timing or can be combined into a combo in multiple different ways. Every character has their own special moves and character actions which lead to the deeper fighting game.

The character actions are just special moves done by hitting the character action button. Green Arrow can shoot arrows, Bane will power up by using venom that changes his special moves, Batman summons little bat drones and more.

Special moves too will change the characters, and each character has a unique set. Every character feels like a unique choice, and the game really emphasizes what makes them special in the DC universe. Specials can be anything from a mini combo to large move to cover a lot of distance, to a parry system, and even projectiles. Special moves are relatively easy to pull off as well, and except for a couple of moves, I found there was no frustration at all when trying to use them in a combo.

I also mentioned the super moves above, and it’s just one of a few ways Injustice 2 changes the formula when using a super bar. Special moves can be powered up, a block can turn into a wagering system called a “Clash” and super moves can be executed giving the players a way to mix up the formula further.

Clashes look awesome, and is great risk vs reward wagering.

With this complex level of fighting, the good news is that Injustice 2 has fantastic hit detection and a great combo system. The game overall feels huge and tight and there’s always more to play with. You feel like you’re fighting with these superheroes. The sound of impact and more just feels fantastic.

Though I will say it’s odd that so many mortal characters are taking on immortals like Superman without exploiting their weaknesses. It makes sense from a gameplay standpoint but so many immortals are being knocked out here, I’m unsure what to make of it.

The entire combat engine of Injustice 2 is great, and it’s the reason that everything works so well. There’s a lot of variety in the characters as well that keeps me coming back to try someone new or different pairing. Though with the combat being so well designed, it’s a shame that so many other pieces feel flawed.

A major part of Injustice 2’s gameplay, is the graphics, though not in the way you expect. The most important part of Injustice 2 is getting as close to 60 fps as you can. While the game has some great options to avoid requiring 60 fps such as frameskip, they don’t work well. I assumed 30 fps would be playable, and it’s clear that NetherRealms doesn’t believe that. Getting to around 60 fps is essential for any enjoyment of the game.

The good news is NetherRealms Studios has the ability to use “Auto settings”. This allows the players to click a button and the game will tell the player what settings to use at the current resolution. It’s a nice feature, though it doesn’t attempt to change the resolution when you’re unable to hit 60 fps in one go.

I ended up having to go for a lower resolution, 1600×900, just to get a workable solution but the end result was being able to play most of the game on high settings, just a smaller resolution, and was a nice trade-off.

The AI in Injustice 2 is par for course for the NetherRealm games, which means it’s solid until you reach a “boss” and then any sign of fairness is tossed out the window. The story mode follows suit with the rest of the developer’s games and gives a really solid experience until the final boss who has abilities that can take huge chunks of your life and is able to use them at will. I’d be more upset about it if I wasn’t expecting it, though I was able to push through on the easiest difficulty. It is a little frustrating.

Even with the character select there’s choices that can be made to show different characters. This is where the Multiverse had a lot more power for one-offs.

Along with Injustice 2’s story mode, there’s a brand new mode called Multiverse. This is Injustice 2’s take on the Living tower system of Mortal Kombat X, where there’s a theme for a series of levels, and the player has to fight through a tower usually with a modifier.

The Multiverse has 6 planets, each with a set of challenges and they swap out at a regular rate. Each planet has a theme or a specific character they are featuring, as well as a planet-wide challenge for some bonus gear.

It’s a great idea but the implementation has some issues. Most planets have a theme, but the character selection doesn’t fit it very much. It just feels like random characters from the roster. Almost every planet that is swapped out is replaced by another that looks the same and it feels like a find and replace was used. A planet about Sub-Zero suddenly is about The Red Hood, and the special event on both is that the named character will come in to assist you.

I think about the Living Towers or Smash Brothers Ultimate’s spirit battles. Almost every Spirit battle in Smash Brothers Ultimate feels unique and has a theme to it. There’s everything from really obvious themes to in-jokes and more. The Spirit battle system make you play more to see what reference you’ll get next. Sadly, the Multiverse doesn’t contain that same unique feeling and it makes it less interesting to play through after a few hours.

A bigger issue with the Multiverse is that it’s very reliant on the AI, while the AI does work most of the time, at the highest levels it’s unforgiving and potentially cheats by reading the player’s input rather than reacting naturally to the game. The problem is where the final boss fight was unfair to end the story mode, in Multiverse these brutally hard boss fights appear at the end of each multiverse.

There is some good news as the player has a counter. They can use their own AIs, letting them fight for them, and in fact, I found with a couple of tweaks, the AIs for the player are deadly and can wreck the game’s AIs. This seems like a good thing, but there’s a point where the player realizes he’s just grinding the multiverse using AI rather than having fun playing the game and having new experiences. Players will feel compelled to grind because he’s getting levels and stats and that will let him do more.

I did figure out that using the AI will also allow the players to gain levels and I chased the levels for a time. I realized spending about two to four hours with the AI will get most characters to level twenty out of thirty. Playing will do the same but again, this is a grinding experience and not very fun either way. In addition doubling that time will get the character to 30.

But a question becomes if the game is fun, wouldn’t that time played already be spent? Why add in the grind?

Super moves are great additions but they’re over the top and long.

Online with Injustice 2, there are two options for each mode, but the game defaults to the option of the level and equipment based gameplay, while the other option is called “tournament mode” yet tournament mode seems like it should have been the main feature as it sets up the fair and balanced version of the fighting which is what players will want.

I did play with the online mode and the gameplay is fantastic. I’m not one hundred percent sure about the accepting or refusing of opponents, as I feel that can be gimmicked, but it’s a solid system and I do applaud NetherRealms for their online experience.

I would be boggled as to why the stat based gameplay was placed in Injustice 2, but I think the reason is clear. Microtransactions are here, and they want you to pay money to level up your character, open new loot boxes to get equipment, or even buy costumes.

I already have a piece on my opinion of microtransactions and Injustice 2 doesn’t change my opinions, unsurprisingly as I referenced this game in that piece. However, it does perfectly illustrate the problem where microtransactions lead to a bad design decision to incentive those microtransactions.

Injustice 2 has a great combat engine. The fighting at its core is fantastic and it’s very fun to play. But the chasing of gear and levels are not a good system and they hurt the overall experience. They were put in place so you would buy more stuff, rather than just playing the game because it’s fun.

Fighting games already have additional purchases baked in. Injustice 2 has a number of DLC characters, and I will say that at this point it’s worth getting the Legendary edition to get all the character as it brings the number of characters from 28 to 38 characters, with some big names in that list, my personal favorite is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where you can play as all four of them.

What a disguise. Is that a detective, a mailman, a businessman, I don’t know! It’s definitely not a turtle.

But when I was chasing the levels, and trying to make my players more competitive I realized I was letting the AI fight for me too often and just having to hit A after each battle, and I asked myself why I was doing this? It’s because of the importance of the stat systems. If you wanted all characters to reach level 30 you have a few options. You can play a very long time, you could use the AI to automate it, but just 4 hours a character, with 38 characters, that’s 152 hours, or a lot of time just to get levels, and then you’ll have to get optimal gear after that point. The other option is to drop about five dollars to level each character to level 20 (and perhaps a similar amount to get to level 30). To me, this is a big sticking point.

I’m not against the inventory, and in fact, I want to point out Tekken 7 has a fantastic inventory system that doesn’t produce stats, and instead allows players to customize their characters. Injustice 2’s system produces the same experience, but it’s the stats that ruin the experience for me.

Ultimately, Injustice 2 is a solid fighting game as I’ve said, and the fact is, no matter what else happens, it’s fun to boot up Injustice 2, and fight with two random characters and play for hours. The problem is Injustice 2 is layered in systems that I just can’t agree with. I’m forced to ding the game for design decisions that don’t affect the core gameplay but rather surround the gameplay.

I like the idea of the multiverse, and customization, but the push towards microtransaction and grinding leave a bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps I’m being lenient on Injustice 2 because this is an attempt to try something new, in a series I love, but if I was to see this same game when Injustice 3 comes around, I could see it dropping even lower, because it’s not acceptable to harm the game design in a chase for more money.

I give Injustice 2 a


Final thoughts: One of the best fighting games but is brought down quite a bit by microtransactions, stat-based gameplay, and more. Still, I love playing as superheroes and just beating someone up.

Stats: 53.5 hours (about 20-30 hours of that was AI) 53/74