We recently got a chance to play the Xbox One version and interview Ed Boon, creative director of NetherRealm Studios, the game developer, to bring you this detailed preview!
New threats emerge
The original Injustice: Gods Among Us pitted a variety of DC Universe superheroes and villains against each other in a one-on-one fighting game. Its story involved an alternate universe in which Superman became evil and took over the world, recruiting other former heroes into his authoritarian regime.
A handful of heroes from another universe crossed over into this dark world and stood up to its oppression. Using nanotechnology, regular humans such as Batman increased their strength in order to battle against superhumans. Eventually, these heroes managed to defeat the evil version of Superman and restore peace to the Injustice world.
Injustice 2's expansive story mode takes place shortly after the last game. Batman and his team of heroes continue fighting to rebuild their world. Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd (an evil, super-intelligent gorilla and nemesis of The Flash) forms a team of supervillains called The Society in an attempt to take over this wartorn world.
Grodd's Society is only the first menace our heroes face. Eventually, both sides must cease hostilities to face a greater threat: Braniac, the extraterrestrial android bent on capturing or eliminating all life in the universe. Soon Supergirl, also an alien, becomes embroiled in the conflict. She plays a key part in the new story, according to Boon.
Injustice 2 will launch with 28 playable characters. One additional fighter, the galactic despot Darkseid, is available as a preorder bonus and will be sold separately after release.
More than half of the roster are new to Injustice 2, so nobody can accuse NetherRealm of rehashing the same old lineup. These characters include:
- Atrocitus: A Red Lantern fueled by rage.
- Black Canary: As seen on TV's Arrow, this lady has a powerful sonic scream.
- Blue Beetle: Poor Blue Beetle – he wasn't allowed to appear on TV's Arrow, and now he suffers from an ugly character design in this game.
- Brainiac: The green-skinned primary villain of story mode.
- Captain Cold: The Flash villain immortalized on TV's Legends of Tomorrow brings his ice powers to Injustice 2.
- Cheetah: A female villain with cat powers.
- Darkseid: Who needs Thanos when you have Darkseid?
- Deadshot: An assassin who never misses a shot, as well as the lead character in the Suicide Squad movie.
- Doctor Fate: DC's Doctor Strange equivalent is best known for his distinctive gold helmet.
- Firestorm: The nuclear man, a flame-headed hero currently featured in TV's Legends of Tomorrow.
- Gorilla Grodd: As seen on TV's The Flash!
- Poison Ivy: Batman's plant-powered nemesis, she has several unique moves involving the creation of killer plants.
- Robin: Whereas the first game featured Nightwing (a grown-up Dick Grayson), this one brings in Robin instead. (We didn't get to see him in action.)
- Scarecrow: This Batman villain doses his opponents with fear gas at the start of every fight, causing himself to appear as a ghastly superhuman. He wields a pair of scythes to deadly effect.
- Supergirl: Although she doesn't resemble the TV version very closely, Supergirl retains her trademark powers like heat vision and frost breath. She also has a move in which she flies off the side of the screen and comes through the other, like Scorpion in Mortal Kombat.
- Swamp Thing: This plant man (and my favorite new character) grows long vines and roots to extend his reach. He looks bizarre when he ducks, as his lower body simply disappears beneath the ground.
Additionally, the returning characters have new appearances and moves. While some of the new costumes are less than impressive (Superman and Bane, for instance), the Injustice 2 version of Harley Quinn is sure to be a fan favorite.
Injustice 2 will receive nine characters (not counting Darkseid) as downloadable content. The first paid DLC pack includes:
- Red Hood: A former Robin gone bad, Red Hood is DC's equivalent to The Winter Soldier.
- Starfire: The orange-skinned Teen Titans princess from another planet makes her Injustice debut.
- Sub-Zero: Since the first game enjoyed Mortal Kombat's Scorpion as a guest character, the sequel gets Sub-Zero.
Super moves, Injustice's non-lethal version of the fatalities from Mortal Kombat, return in a big way. Every character has a unique super move that can only be performed when their super meter has completely filled. Catch the opponent with your super, and you'll enjoy a cinematic beatdown on a massive scale.
These include Harley Quinn's jackals mauling the opponent until she delivers a baseball bat finish; Swamp thing pulling a foe underground and beating them with gigantic root hands; and Green Arrow freezing an enemy with an ice arrow before smashing into them. Getting hit by a super move doesn't automatically end the fight like a Mortal Kombat fatality would, but it sure does sting.
Injustice 2's most significant upgrade over the original game is the gear system. Each fighter can now equip hundreds of different pieces of gear, including items for the head, chest, arms, legs, and accessories. You can even change the color of your gear by equipping different shaders (color palettes).
This equipment not only allows you to customize a character's appearance, it also provides stat boosts. Thus gear of higher rarities will provide better bonuses than common gear. I find the stat bonuses slightly disappointing, because they mean players are encouraged to equip items based on their stats rather than appearances. Thankfully, the host can turn off stat boosts in multiplayer, evening the playing field.
Another exciting type of equippable cosmetic item are premiere skins. As in the first game, these make a fighter look like another character who doesn't otherwise appear in the roster. A few examples we know of:
- Supergirl becomes Power Girl.
- Captain Cold becomes Mr. Freeze.
- Hal Jordan Green Lantern becomes John Stewart Green Lantern.
- Flash becomes Reverse Flash.
Premiere skins will be acquired in the same ways as other gear: by winning them from Mother Boxes or as rewards for Multiverse battles. Mother Boxes are loot boxes that players receive from single-player and multiplayer victories. They come in five different rarity levels, with the rarer boxes offering the best stuff.
After playing a good handful of matches at the preview event, I got to open ten or so Mother Boxes. Each one I opened contained between two and four random items for different characters, so you wouldn't get all Batman items from a box, for instance. Considering the cool assortment of characters and the vast array of gear you can find in boxes, opening them in the preview build was pretty enjoyable.
In addition to the robust story mode, Injustice 2 introduces another strong single-player mode, multiverse. This mode consists of an ever-changing selection of challenges to complete. Challenges are time-limited, with some lasting only a few hours while others might last one or more days. The idea is that you'll always experience new challenges when you boot up the game each day.
A single challenge can consist of multiple fights. These might require you to play as a specific character or even to wear specific gear in order to access them. Multiverse enemies come in different experience levels, with higher level enemies providing a much greater threat than lower level foes. Complete all of the matches in a multiverse challenge and you'll receive exclusive gear with which to customize your fighters.
An epic superhero battle approaches
During my time with the Injustice 2 preview build, I played as or fought against nearly every new character. Even with a few faces missing from the preview roster, I was blown away by the amazing lineup of characters NetherRealm managed to fit into this sequel.
Not only do you get some less mainstream entries like Swamp Thing, you also get plenty of fighters from the CW TV shows such as Captain Cold, Firestorm, Black Canary, and Supergirl. I miss Batgirl and Martian Manhunter, but otherwise Injustice 2 looks to have nearly all my favorite DC superheroes.
The game plays very much like the original, with three attacks and a character-specific power mapped to the face buttons. The aerial attacks are a bit slow and clunky compared to what I'm used to, but everything else felt fast and responsive. The game looks better than ever, and the addition of multiverse mode and the gear system should add a tremendous level of replay value.
Injustice 2 is set to arrive on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on May 16 in North America and May 19 in Europe. (The PC version will arrive at a later date.) It will cost $59.99. Preorder now to get Darkseid for free!
Disclosure: Our travel to the Injustice 2 preview event was provided by Warner Bros. Studios.
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