When NetherRealm Studios switched focus from their Mortal Kombat reboot to develop a fighting game involving superheroes and villains, the Injustice series was born. The line between good and evil in the DC Universe became blurred in Injustice: Gods Among Us, with the story seeing Batman and Superman at odds after a despicable trick by the Joker led to deadly consequences. All in all, it was a great super-powered addition to the genre in terms of concept and game mechanics, but now it’s time for a sequel to build upon its success.

Injustice 2 has now arrived, hoping to be bigger, better and boasting an even more action-packed story, inspired by DC Comics of course. But is it the beacon of light the fighting genre needs right now, or are there better games of this ilk (I’m looking at you Mortal Kombat X) already out there?

In Injustice 2, you’ll take control of heroes and villains from the world of DC Comics in 1vs1 battles, with the winner being the first competitor to completely deplete their opponent’s health bars. I say bars because, unlike the two round system we usually see, here it uses two bars of health throughout an entire match and so whatever remains in health bar one as you drain the oppositions first one, rolls over to the next part of that fight. I like the idea, mainly due to the fact it’s different, but also as it gives an advantage to those who start off well.

Continuing on with the gameplay and boy are the mechanics smooth. Every manoeuvre input comes out as intended and as long as you’re swift in the finger pressing department, should be able to string decent combos together with relative ease. The sheer simplicity of initiating most special moves, needing just a couple of directions and a single button press, enables all abilities of gamers to appreciate the awesome character-related moves on offer. Even the Super Moves are easy to pull off once a full meter has been earned and almost all of them bring out the very best of each character’s skill set, with just a couple of them becoming stale very quickly due to a lack of creativity in the harm they are causing.

It’s worth noting that many features from the first game return, such as the Clash – which allows each player to wager a proportion of their Super Move gauge for a defensive or offensive reward – and the ability to extend the damage or length of a good combo using a Meter Burn. Mastering the use of such mechanics is often the difference between the average and top quality players, especially when spending parts of the Super Move gauge for evasive action. There’s a certain relief of having a way out of being caught in an immense juggling act, thus prolonging my defeats ever so slightly and offering a slim chance of victory.

Knowing your combat arena is vitally important in gaining an edge, making use of the environmental interaction attacks where possible; whether that’s by driving the Batcycle over an opponent, whacking them into the background, or throwing kegs their way. Then there are the transitions, sending the other player through to an entirely different area of the arena, which leads to a nice bout of damage and some spine-crushing action. My favourite is in Atlantis because there’s a crafty cameo, and massive sea creature, in the transition scene.

Fortunately, everything you need to know is in the main tutorial and if you’re struggling with a specific character, there’s a very helpful set of tutorials for getting to grips with each of them – effectively replacing the S.T.A.R. Labs missions of Injustice: Gods Among Us.

There are both online and offline modes to get stuck into, but for now I’ll focus on the local action and mainly that of the story mode. The tale picks up where the first Injustice left off, with Batman on one side wanting eyes around the globe to find any wrongdoings going on, whilst Superman wants to pre-empt any potential crimes and rid the world of known criminals by any means possible – including death!

Although the tension is still high between both parties and their followers, there’s a more dangerous threat on the horizon. Brainiac and his new recruits are running roughshod over Earth, with the evil supervillain wishing to shrink a few cities and also finish off his Kryptonian collection. Can the former Justice League duo band together to fight back, or will they end up killing each other seeing as there’s so much bad blood?

Without wishing to spoil too much more, it delivers a fair few hours of exciting cutscenes interspersed with well-placed battles between old rivals and dream matchups. Matches like Flash vs Captain Cold, Batman vs Robin and Supergirl vs Wonder Woman; it’s utterly bonkers at times, seeing the heroes lose their way and having someone like Harley Quinn seeming to be marginally sane. It does feel as though some characters are shoehorned into the story just because they’re on the roster, but it’s still great fun.

Each chapter focuses on controlling one or two different characters throughout four battles, offering fresh gameplay and different perspectives. Sometimes it’ll even let you choose which of the two heroes to use and even which villain to face, but it doesn’t affect an awful lot – with the exception of the last chapter as it has two endings.

Visually, the character models and facial features blow me away for the most part, with heroes and villains all wearing rather modernised attires which look great. The action sequences are pretty cool too, whilst the voice acting is top notch. A special mention must go out to the stellar job done by the Batman voiceover artist, Kevin Conroy. He absolutely nails it once more and fills my head with immense nostalgia of when he voiced him in the 90s animated series, as well as many more times since then.

Story mode aside and there are plenty of other ways to enjoy all Injustice 2 has to offer. The options are there to challenge the A.I. in one-off fights, take on a friend locally and even start a competitive multiplayer tournament from your own living quarters. You can hone your skills in the practice mode too, but the real draw comes in the form of the Multiverse concept.

Within the Multiverse, new challenges will appear regularly, asking you to venture to alternate universes in order to take down a set list of foes in specific settings, settings which usually tie-in with the little back-story each potential threat is given. For example, one mentioning the electricity manipulating Livewire has bolts of electric randomly hitting areas of the battle arena, meaning you have to contend with your opponent and the battle conditions. This helps keep each threat fresh, as do the rewards on offer for both completion and performance.

The rewards on offer are generally must-have items and Mother Boxes containing random loot, and at the time of writing, a whole new universe of events has arrived with the opportunity to unlock exclusive gear from the Wonder Woman movie. All this talk of items and ‘gear’ must be rather confusing, but I’ll explain how that comes into play shortly. The variation in ideas and difficulty that the Multiverse mode brings could keep me going for weeks and months on end.

Another new mode is the A.I. Battle Simulator, which only really serves a purpose as a means of earning Mother Boxes for doing sod all. Basically, you assemble a team of three A.I. controlled characters to spar with other gamer’s assigned A.I. teams. If you win you get a better standard of Mother Box than if you lose. With a cap on daily earnings to ensure the system isn’t abused.  I get the idea, but at the same time I don’t believe I’ll honestly bother with it again.

Don’t worry though as there’s always the online side of things for when you’re feeling extra confident in those abilities of yours. The winner stays on format of King of the Hill is present, as are unranked player matches, both of which are available when hosting privately for friends. For some reason I did have a few server issues on occasion when trying KotH, seeing everyone getting booted out one by one, which was a shame, but otherwise the online play has felt super responsive. What I’ve not seen before is the private Hot Seat mode, where effectively one person hosts and is never dethroned, simply playing everyone invited in turn. It’s a great idea, especially in the current climate of streamers.

Ranked matches haunt me forever, but modes like this are included for the best of the best to climb those leaderboards and show how masterful they can be – or how good they are at infuriatingly spamming moves. There’s always a character with the abilities to help you outwit and nullify such tactics; sadly, I rarely pick the right one and end up being zapped into a corner by Darkseid or shot to death by Deadshot. One day I’ll win a Ranked match, however, for now I’m more than happy to get my longevity in other areas.

And this is where the customisation comes into play to ensure added longevity, allowing you to mould and upgrade heroes and villains across four attribute categories – Strength, Ability, Defense and Health. Items can be garnered, mainly via earning Mother Boxes and are completely random in terms of which stats they boost. The better the Mother Box, the more chance of Rare and Epic gear, and not only do they enhance a character, they can offer bonuses and alternate looks to the attires. Changing the heads, arms, torsos, legs and accessories offers a visual freshness, but to those who want to spend the time shaping character stats to suit their play style and add new abilities, the canvas is there.

I’ve spent ages sifting through the inventory, equipping some awesome looking items and ensuring I have the best gear that my character level allows. You see, each fighter earns XP when you use them and so as they level up, better gear can be accessed – I’ve got a max level (20) Nova Blaster accessory for Cyborg I’m dying to use which massively boosts Strength and Ability, as well as an augment adding increased damage when he has really low health.

The amount of different currencies in the game is a little confusing, with some used for Mother Boxes, others for regenerating an item’s stats and transforming its appearance. But over time you can figure it out.

Guilds are the final new feature to arrive in the Injustice 2 universe, offering groups of like-minded individuals – possibly complete strangers – a place to collectively contribute towards challenges and special Guild Multiverse events. Everyone reaps the rewards at the end, so as long as there are no freeloaders, it’s a great way to earn some extra loot for you and your guild.

As you will have noticed, your time in Injustice 2 will no doubt be spread across many areas and the icing on the cake should come from the characters available to select for your fighting sessions. I love the obscure inclusions of Blue Beetle and Atrocitus, whilst it’s great to see the ever popular Supergirl make her debut too. It honestly feels like there’s a character for every type of DC fan and every type of gamer, with the brutes for those who like to get up close and personal and those who take the fight to their opponent from a distance.

Although many of the aforementioned characters are new to the series, I feel the roster itself could’ve been bigger as there are only a couple more characters in total than the previous title. It’s especially annoying when a load of DLC characters are set to arrive in the near future to rid us of even more cash. I just wish they’d have them in on Day One, or offer them for free later… surely NetherRealm can make money off the Mother Box microtransactions instead.

It’s safe to say I’m having a blast on Injustice 2, trying out a myriad of characters to level them up and put them in some shiny new gear. The customisation side is sheer brilliance, even if you aren’t overly bothered about stats, a change in attires is always welcome and there are a ton of items to collect. The story is exciting from the very beginning, to the end, and works as a gentle way to dive into the real action after succeeding in any of the many tutorials. I don’t see much point in the A.I. Battle Simulator, but the Multiverse holds the key to keeping many gamers interested.

Injustice 2 is accessible to all, introduces a diverse roster of characters and provides plenty to do. Don’t delay, join the Injustice League today!

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