Crisis on Infinite Canapes
Back when I was playing the original Injustice: Gods Among Us, I didn’t think a superhero fighting game could get much better: a decent single-player story, some fun diversions, and the ability to send that smug little prick Nightwing through a face-first concrete wall.
I was wrong. He is path more satisfying to send Damian Wayne through a face-first concrete wall. Preferably in midday traffic, or in a piss-filled sewer inhabited by a rabid crocodile.
Injustice 2 made many of my oddly specific dreams come true.
Injustice 2 [PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One]
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Released: May 16, 2017
fuck – Fighting games are best experienced shoulder to shoulder with another player. When you have someone next to you to torture and laugh with. When there’s pride to lose, ribs to elbows and low blows to decry. With that in mind, me and the talented Nick Valdez (who gave his first reviews on the game last week) pool our considerable fighting game expertise in this review to share our combined knowledge of Injustice 2.
The first thing I want to discuss is how the Joker looks like a narc trying too hard to blend in at a Juggalo Gathering. Thoughts?
pseudo – Haha, I didn’t really mind! Of course he looks like Jared Leto suicide squad incarnation, but with 30 more seconds on Mars, he only looks like an edgelord until you unlock a cool hat.
fuck – The very first piece of Joker gear I got was a top hat that includes a smear of bright red and green clown makeup. I immediately went into practice mode and spent 20 minutes punching him straight in the face with Swamp Thing’s weird tree arm motion until my hands hurt.
It’s canon now. This is how the Joker dies. Sorry Batman fans.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the gear system is a lot cooler than I thought.
pseudo – Fully agree. It’s the visuals that help sell it. The fact that each piece of gear looks different (I haven’t seen any matching characters yet) adds incentive to keep grinding. Especially when some parts make a major change. Each Green Lantern shader, for example, also changes the color of its Super.
Too bad the stats don’t really matter.
From my time using it so far, I haven’t encountered any major differences between gear unless it’s a fight between two extremes (level 1 vs level 20). Thus, the system relies entirely on your willingness to disguise yourself.
fuck – I totally agree with the statistics that don’t really matter! One of my biggest fears before release was that the online game would be totally skewed in favor of the player with the highest HP and damage stack. But, as long as you stick to ranked mode or find willing players who are cool with disable gear in player matches, all the glowing capes and neon tentacles look cool.
I think it’s a shame that some moves and abilities are locked behind gear. On the one hand, it’s pretty cool that each character has a deeper bag of tricks than it initially seems and even after a week of playing I’m still surprised by new things. On the flip side though, if you take the game even halfway seriously, those moves might as well not exist. You won’t see them in ranked play, and you wouldn’t want to get too used to playing with them casually, lest you ruin yourself with luxury when you return to ranked. It’s especially painful for me to see Brainiac access half of Lex’s kit from the original game, but all as the gear moves. Such a tease.
At least you can go wild with stats and speed moves in multiverse mode.
pseudo – I would like the new abilities to be tied to the pieces of equipment themselves. Instead, it’s another separate unlock further exacerbated by randomness, which means it can be a while before you unlock a new move or gear, let alone the one you want. . I just want Superman’s arms, that’s all.
However, I like how almost every mode unlocks them. I played several matches online for this review, but once I got tired of getting my ass kicked, I switched to The Multiverse. I haven’t really played Mortal Kombat X‘s living towers, and I assumed I wouldn’t be drawn to the same kind of fashion, but Gear’s pull was very strong.
The fact that a new challenge pops up every three hours is pretty cool, and it’s not like I need to be great at the game to enjoy it either. Super players can play these expert missions and immediately unlock level 20 gear, but there are lower level epic pieces that are incredibly rewarding for schmoes like me. I feel like this mode is going to be how I improve in the game in general.
fuck – Yeah, if I had one major complaint about the gear system, it’s that it revolves so much around chance. The game tilts post-game drops towards the character you’re playing, but it’s cold comfort when the majority of gear comes from loot boxes earned in the multiverse or completing daily tasks. I have a closet full of epic Atrocitus gear when all I really want is a helmet for Brainiac that doesn’t look completely ridiculous.
That said, you can always keep an eye out for the rewards for the various multiverse quests and make sure to nail down the ones for specific characters. It’s not perfect, and I wish there was a better way to direct the unlocks you earn, but it helps.
Like you, I haven’t spent much time with MKXliving towers. While “try your luck” was good for laughs while playing on the couch, climbing a bunch of towers against different spreads of the same AI fighters over and over didn’t sit well. The Multiverse, on the other hand, found a way to bring the concept to life. Combining objective-based quests with truly ridiculous modifiers, insanely equipped characters, and insanely tough bosses, the Multiverse is exactly the kind of gaming junk I always find myself coming back to for one more bite. I spent more time this week than I care to admit calculating how much time I had left for an event and whether I could refine a specific character fast enough to make it a goal.
Speaking of getting your ass kicked online, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience (in a bit of a masochistic way). Almost every game I’ve played has been smooth as silk from a technical standpoint. Crisp, responsive and low lag, it’s hard to believe the game is a direct follow-up to Injustice: peaks of lag among us.
From a balance standpoint though, I noticed a few rough edges. Maybe I just have a bad case, but zoning seems very dominant online (and I mostly played a character with decent anti-zoning tools). I’m sure it will even out as people get more familiar with the characters, but right now Deadshot is triggering my worst memories of Deathstroke from the original. How did it go for you ?
pseudo – I experienced some slowdown in the online pre-release, but it has since leveled off. I also encountered the same kind of difficulty, as most of the characters with guns are almost impossible to integrate. Even Harley, thanks to the overall speed increase for everyone, has a shot with very little lag, which is super annoying.
I tried using the new roll mechanic (which gives you an invincible roll for the cost of a yard), but it has such a slow start for some that it’s basically useless right now. But the most useful characters seem to be mid-range fighters with plenty of options. Characters like Doctor Fate are beastly around the edges of the screen, but the most fun to play seem to be those with quick and deadly close-up work like Cheetah. Hopefully the general consensus will lean towards mid-range characters because there are so many this time around.
fuck – Yes! As appreciated as the new rolling move is in theory, you’re absolutely right that it seems useless against the best zoners in the game. Although you can use it to blast characters that have zoning tools with a good amount of recovery, any roll against Fate or Deadshot serves you up for another punch to the face. It feels a bit disjointed, as if the roller was introduced as a tool to help combat heavy zoning, but fails to do so.
I worry about the severity of the zoning not because I think it’s really broken (although Deadshot could use a tweak or two) but because I think it’s going to be a deal breaker for a lot of new ones players attracted by the story and the equipment. Getting beat in a fighting game is one thing. Being held to the edge of the screen by a relentless barrage of projectiles is quite another. Hope the community helps new players figure out how to get around the worst.
In general though, I’m pretty happy with the roster as a whole. It’s very deep, with 29 characters at launch and more (for better or worse) along the way, but every character seems to have something to offer. NetherRealm really seems to be taking the “give each character dirt” approach to balance. If you don’t actively learn what each character is capable of, it’s very easy to feel helpless when faced with some of the trickier mixes or setups. However, like all great devilry, being on the other side of the coin is great fun. And there are always characters like Batman and Superman who offer powerful yet easy-to-learn tools to help players find their footing.
pseudo – Injustice 2 is one of the few fighters where I want to try everyone. The more elaborate single-player modes alone provide enough incentive and match diversity that you don’t even have to play online multiplayer in a fighting game!
And when you realize you’ve been sucked into the single-player mode, you also realize that you understand the characters better (and your main pressure) and become more capable of fighting against real opponents.
While looking dope.
fuck – This is the first fighting game that I recommended to my non-combat friends in a long time. Whether you just love the idea of a DC Superhero party, enjoy RPG gear hooks, or are looking for an accessible way to play fighting games, Injustice 2 got you covered.
At the same time, if you’re an avid fighter and want a viable competitive game with plenty of depth to explore, Injustice 2 makes a solid case for itself. It’s the complete package in a market full of fighters that came out half-baked. I plan to savor it for months to come.
And by savoring it, I mean kicking Damian Wayne like a red-haired stepson.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]