BITG Review: Injustice 2 (Xbox One)

Hey folks, it has been a while, eh? Well apologies for that. As per the last post my health issues have been a barrier to sitting down and actually putting finger to keyboard – is that the new pen to paper? Perhaps it’s the stop gap between pen to paper and stylus to screen? Either way I recently got a copy of Injustice 2 and I ploughed through the story campaign – which if I am honest was my main reason for the purchase.

Now, cards on table here, I don’t really enjoy fighting games as a combative pursuit, but over the years there have been specific franchises that have grabbed my attention. The original Mortal Kombat series, Tekken (from Tekken 3 onwards) and the Soul Caliber series. Now for me the single constant between these franchises is an effort to force a storyline into the games, which serves well when you don’t really care too much about a fighting game being technical. I think the only fighting game I ever liked for gameplay alone was the arcade version of Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes and that was just because I had seen it on either Gamesmaster, Games World or that one with Andy Crane and Violet Berlin that I think was called Bad Influence but I refuse to give in to my Google addiction and check. If it isn’t Bad Influence, let me know on Twitter @wearethelolocaust.

So, I like a story and when Netherrealm Studios released their Mortal Kombat reboot I was blown away by how much reverence they gave the single player campaign, taking in all main characters on a sprawling narrative that just worked, and by god it worked well. On a technical level the game was brilliant and the narrative fleshed it out. This was followed up by a second attempt at a DC fighting game after the underrated Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Injustice: Gods Among Us. Now it is easy to underestimate how great the first Injustice game was, but primarily it was down to it having an absolutely fucking great storyline (Joker tricks Superman into killing a pregnant Lois Lane, Superman goes mental and becomes a dictator) alongside some incredible level design and super moves. Mortal Kombat X ensured that everyone knew Netherrealm could follow up a game successfully and now Injustice 2 lands on our doorsteps (or in my case over the fence and into a bird bath, THANKS FOR NOTHING HERMES!). But is it any good?

Well, let’s concentrate on my main area of interest, the narrative.

Now, the first game ended with Superman imprisoned and Injustice 2 starts off with Batman inspecting a new technology that is designed to keep an eye on crime and supers with a chip on their shoulder. Certain ‘heroes’ went into hiding and Batman is always watching, like what Batman does. This is specifically pertinent as it slides into Person of Interest/Conspiracy Theory territory, with the concept of intrusive and overbearing surveillance providing safety, or at least the illusion of safety, at the cost of privacy. It is clear that Batman has one agenda, and he sticks to it. Over the course of the plot a threat from the stars – Braniac, voiced superbly by Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs – threatens life on Earth and former allies, turned enemies, must become allies against an enemy.

By the end of the game decisions have been made, loyalties tested, and lives lost along the way. All pretty solid stuff, but with a caveat.

Basically the fact that Braniac is a shit villain, with a shit plan.

DC hasn’t got a great track record of coming up with great villains – if you ignore the Batman world – and the first game worked because the long running, and often used rivalry and distrust between Bruce and Clark worked so well on a bigger stage. If BVS: Dawn of Justice had dared to ever get close to the darkness of Gods Among Us, it would potentially have been the best DC movie to date.

Injustice 2 almost feels like Lego Batman 3, but with angst.

It isn’t a bad narrative, but I just didn’t feel massively invested in terms of emotion.

So, it wasn’t better than the first, but that was always going to be a struggle given how perfect the first one was.

So let’s have a look at the gameplay element.

Combat works wonderfully – with the exception of the DLC character, Darkseid who plays like shit – as would be expected and the detail within levels, including interactive elements is superb. When playing with my son we would spend a good five minutes on each level discovering how each element could be interacted with. Some have multiple uses and one stage in particular has an Achievement attached to an interactive element (clue: The Last Picture Show).

A new addition is the gear system, which allows progress and achievement to unlock new items of armour that can tip the balance in combat. At this point I am still getting my head around the sheer level of customisation, and how it impacts gameplay so I cannot really comment much other than to say that I am very impressed with the scope and I am confident that it will add another area of control that pro gamers will adore.

Now multiplayer has not been touched – in terms of online at least, I’ve played a tonne of offline couch Kombat – as it really isn’t my cup of tea. In fact it is more my cup of Raspberry Iced Cooler in that I like it, but too much makes my head hurt. I will hold my hands up and say that I will miss out on some superb matches, but until I crack the gear system and some combos I would get trounced and simply end up hating the game, myself, the town I live in and that pigeon over there by the bins. The online play will be the backbone of the title, it just isn’t the backbone I need – sort of like Christopher Reeve.

All in all Injustice 2 is exactly what I wanted from a sequel, and maybe my super-high expectations of the plot meant that it would always have struggled to top the original, but with new DLC incoming and shed loads of items to unlock I shall not get bored of it for a long time to come. Maybe wait for a price drop if you are interested in the campaign only, but my shiny tin edition was worth the extra pennies and I’m always happy to support studios like Netherrealm.

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