Directed by Ed Boon
Produced by Adam Urbano
Developed by NetherRealm Studios
Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Spoilers ahead for Injustice 2 and the tie-in comic books.
Injustice: Gods Among Us was a runaway hit for WB Games and Netherrealm Studios on both console and mobile platforms. With the release date of its sequel, Injustice 2, less than two months away, Newsarama was granted access to a playable pre-release builds of both versions.
The PlayStation 4 console version was up first with a hands-on demo of both single-player and multiplayer modes of the game. We used both Blue Beetle and Batman in a couple of matches against another player who used Doctor Fate and Swamp Thing. NetherRealm’s approach has remained largely the same; borrowing from their work with Mortal Kombat and the previous Injustice entry, Injustice 2 downplays a button-mashing approach in favor of pushing players toward learning button combinations with succinct timing. What works for one character may not work exactly for another and so more casual fans that are akin to faster fighters like Marvel vs Capcom 3, may find some frustration in the overall learning curve.
The visuals are what you’d expect from a AAA game of this caliber but what was really impressive were the inventive ways that NetherRealm brought each characters’ skills to life. Blue Beetle is able to manifest weapons from his hands including changing them into foot-long blades that deal additional damage. Batman has a bevy of gadgets at his disposal that have their own little bar next to the special bar for added variety. Swamp Thing is one of the most fun new characters visually. He ducks by literally sinking into the ground and despite being such a large character, his moves focus on grappling. Doctor Fate uses a lot of different spells that vary from simple ranged bolts to actual healing spells.
The set up is largely the same as Injustice: Gods Among Us: one-on-one battles complete with an interactive environment and a special bar. The clash system is back as well, allowing you to wager your special bar against your opponent’s to see who will get to pull off their move. In single player mode, the story weaves across multiple characters, forcing the player to adapt to different skillsets on the fly. Players will not be able to take a single character through the entire single player mode.
The story revealed in the first chapter available at the demo opens with Batman and Robin (Damian Wayne) in the Batwing when it’s suddenly hacked and they have to eject. They’ve been arguing about Superman’s use of force to kill the Joker. Obviously, Batman doesn’t cross that line but Damian disagrees. They end up in a prison where Superman confronts Batman, leading the Dark Knight to use a red kryptonite grenade to weaken the Man of Steel and they fight. Damian reappears with Victor Zsasz at knifepoint. He asks Zsasz how many women he’s killed. Zsasz replies, “121.” Damian slits his throat. He and Batman fight. Upon Damian’s defeat, he is flown away by Superman. Batman continues his investigation and faces off against Wonder Woman as well. Injustice comic book fans can rest assured that this story will take into account the events of the comic book series.
The biggest upgrade in Injustice 2 is the gear system. By playing through the story mode and battling against others plays online or locally, players can gain coins to purchase upgrades that will unlock gear. The gear will come in various sets that will not only augment the visual aesthetic of heroes but provide stat boosts as well. This will allow players to customize a character based on their style of play. Obviously, certain characters will have certain strengths to being with but players want to play a more ranged-attack-focused Superman rather than an out-and-out brawler, will be able to equip him with gear that allows for that. There are five loadouts for each character complete with five gear slots and two ability slots for each character. Injustice 2 also allows for various predetermined color schemes, some of which have ties to comic book counterparts (i.e. Red Lanterns) and some that just plain look cool. Players will have the opportunity to bring these armored characters into various online arenas, making it all but certain that you’ll never play against the same characters and loadouts online.
NetherRealm was quick to point out that this is in no way a “pay to win” system. Players will not be able to purchase specific pieces of gear with in-game or actual currency. Also, for players that might prefer a certain visual aesthetic but not love the stats of a certain piece of gear or vice-versa, there will be a way to transfer those elements in-game.
The mobile version of the game looks to build on the success of the previous version as well. The battle system itself has been changed from the original to give players a bit more control and the experience overall is different from the console version.
First and foremost, the mobile game features three-on-three, akin to Marvel vs Capcom complete with the ability to switch characters in and out. Characters fall into three different classes that have a rock-paper-scissors relationship to each other that is indicated during gameplay so that plays can switch on the fly to the character that will have the best advantage.
The controls have been tweaked as well. A block button has been added to the two-finger press block from the first game and players now how have the ability to dash forward and back rather than just have the game control their movement. Combos are largely the same:multiple taps lead to combos but players can also swipe up or down for additional high and low attacks. There are buttons for multiple special moves as well that can be enacted mid-combo. The new controls were very responsive on the build I played using a team of Superman, Harley Quinn, and Batman.
The visuals are surprisingly impressive for a mobile title. NetherRealm ported the exact character models from the console version into the mobile version. So every character will have unique animations and movesets. It won’t just be the same type of fighter reskinned. Additionally, the servers will know what type of device you are running the game on so when you boot it up, you’ll receive graphical setting optimized for your device to avoid freezing and crashing of the game while you play.
The gear system is different than the console version but players will be able to collect and equip new gear as they progress through the game that will affect how their character looks in battle. Similarly to the console version, the system is not pay to win and players will not be able to purchase specific types of gear.
The story mode for the mobile version will be exactly the same as the one on console but it will be rolled out over a period of time rather than all at once. A Challenge mode will also be included, allowing players to send their heroes off on missions from a period that ranges a few minutes to multiple hours. Upon the heroes completion of the mission, they’ll be rewarded with experience points.
Players of the Injustice: Gods Among Us mobile game were treated to exclusive characters that did not appear in the console version. That will continue in Injustice 2 but there is no indication of who those characters will be at this juncture.
Both versions of Injustice 2 look to be feathers in Netherrealm and WB Games’ cap. They’ve improved on a formula that already worked and added some much needed replayability to the console version that will breathe life into the franchise.
Injustice 2 will be available for PS4, Xbox One, iOS, and Android on May 16.