Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One,
Rating: T for Teen
The Mortal Kombat franchise been has through quite a journey ever since it was released in 1992, starting with the controversy that eventually lead to the creation of the ESRB. After several successful sequels, the developers at Midway took the combat to a 3D space with Mortal Kombat 4, and their experimentation led to Deadly Alliance and Deception, resulting in an emphasis in MK lore more than… combat (with a “C” this time)—a notorious detriment to the franchise name. Unfortunately things grew to an insane level once again when Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was released before the total reboot occurred with what we refer to as “MK9.” However, before the reboot, we witnessed one of the craziest crossovers ever in 2008.
Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was the final project Midway created before the company filed for bankruptcy. In 2009, Warner Brothers acquired most of Midway’s assets, which is why we even have new additions to the series in the first place. Because of his previous work and that the fact that his company was now officially a subsidiary of WB, Ed Boon was given the green light to work on a separate series featuring DC Comics characters. The result was Injustice: Gods Among Us. Being a long-time fan of both comics and Mortal Kombat, it became one of my favorite video games in the genre. We now have a sequel, and these heroes and villains continue to pull no punches.
Spiritual Content: A character by the name of Doctor Fate is a sorcerer with magical abilities. He works for a group of supernatural beings called the Lords of Order. His helmet, cloak, and amulet were created by an ancient being called Nabu who acts as his guide and mentor. When Kent Nelson puts on the helmet he and Nabu become one and call themselves Doctor Fate.
Violence: Injustice 2 is a video game in the fighting genre where two characters engage in melee combat, featuring heroes and villains from DC Comics. The objective is to deplete an opponent’s health through punches, kicks, and a variety of weapons such as swords and guns. Sounds of impact, special effects, and blood splatter appear when the characters make contact. Characters are also seen being stabbed, impaled, and attacked by animals when certain special moves are done through button inputs. In one particular cutscene, a character’s throat is slashed off screen and is later seen face-down on the floor in a pool of blood. In some stages characters can also be knocked into separate sections, during these moments they are sometimes hit by moving vehicles or fall through buildings.
Crude Humor/Language: Various characters can be heard swearing on occasion, such as D**n, a**, and S**t. One character makes a sexual reference when they refer to prisoners as “thieves, rapists, and murderers.” Dialogue varies when two characters make an entrance in battle, the common result is characters either cracking jokes at or threatening one another.
Alcohol/Drug references: One part of the metropolis stage takes place within a bar, which has bottles and beer kegs laying around and signs that refer to alcohol; drunk customers hang out in the background of this stage.
Sexual Content: Many female characters wear tightly-fitted clothing while also baring cleavage with some of their costumes. Some of these same characters also pose in a suggestive manner.
Positive Themes: The plot of the Injustice series has dealt heavily with the quarrelling of close friends and teammates. Injustice 2 in particular deals with character’s response to the events that occurred in the first game. This time around, these characters are forced to become allies once more. During this time, they begin to remember what it was like to be allies in the past, but still struggle with their own stances on the original conflict. Injustice 2 continues the theme of where a hero’s moral compass should align.
Injustice 2 plays like every single project that NetherRealm Studio has come out with since the Mortal Kombat reboot in 2011, which is not a bad thing. I was ready for more, since Injustice: Gods Among Us was released in 2013, and I have been anticipating a sequel. They did improve on the formula and added a number of new features. During combat, moving and attacking feels much quicker and responsive rather than the first game which was a bit stiff and clunky. There are many more ways to burn the super meter other than using it only for special attacks and the super moves. Those Super moves are taken up a notch as well; it is pretty fun to watch The Flash take his opponent back in time to slam them into a Sphinx and then a T-Rex right after. Although, during my best fighting, I found myself forgetting about them and used my meter burn to chain some sweet combos.
The super meter has three purposes: it can execute the visually stunning super moves, modify your regular special moves and combos, or help you defend and attack in a clash. Modifying a special move adds an extra effect to them; Bane’s uppercut move will have an added piledriver while Batman will throw an explosive batarang at the end of his slide move for example—some of these will even give you opportunities to chain longer combos. The meter is split off into four segments, with each modifier using up one chunk of it while all of it is required to pull off a super move. The clash is used to defend against an enemy’s combos. Youu will need to decide how much of the meter to burn with a button press as the characters banter in the midst of combat. R2 is the dedicated button for meter burn; push it at the end of a special move’s combination of button presses to modify and push forward+R2 during an enemy’s attacks to execute a clash. Lastly, those epic super moves are done by pushing L2+R2 at the same time.
“Every Battle Defines You” is the slogan that has been used to market the newest and most unique feature to ever be added into a fighting game. Players now have the option to customize their character by unlocking various pieces of gear that have stats attached to them. Each character has attributes in five categories: Strength, Ability, Defense, and Hit Points. Gear can be unlocked in two different ways as well: through random drops after victory or through loot boxes. As you continue to use your favorite characters, their rank will increase. Note that some of the gear cannot be used unless you reach a specific level. All of this loot and gear talks sounds like an RPG right? Injustice 2 is now one of a million video games with RPG elements, and the best part is that loot is handed out like a Sonic Drive-In by you mints with your every meal.
Those loot boxes are referred to as “Mother Boxes” in Injustice 2. You can earn them by fighting online but my preferred way is through the new Multiverse mode. This new mode works like the challenge towers did in Mortal Kombat X, each Multiverse world holds various themes and challenges. In one challenge, I had electric fists, missiles rained down on the stage in another, and one challenge even flipped the stage upside down. Getting certain scores will get you bronze, silver, and gold loot boxes. Some of these challenges cannot be done until you have characters to a certain level, which is one way the game encourages you to keep ranking up different characters. This mode is perfect for people like myself who dislike getting owned by random opponent online and one of the most robust singleplayer experiences I have ever seen with the genre.
The one thing that brings me to the online section of fighting games is that I play with my brother who lives several states away. A great netcode is essential for video games in this genre, and many fail to achieve an outstanding experience. I can say that the only time we ever experienced an lag in our battles was during one match, and this was due to my brother’s occasionally faulty internet connection. Fans were unsure how that was going to be handled when the gear and customization features were announced, but they will pleased that ranked matches online turn off gear stats, while there is a on/off toggle switch for them when playing when playing a casual match.
Since the 2011 reboot, the developers have created some amazing story modes containing cinematic cutscenes that effortlessly transition into gameplay. The story of Injustice: Gods Among Us took a bold direction in giving us a great plot and a creative rather than cheesy reason why these heroes are battling it out with each other. Injustice 2 builds upon that great story and continues after Superman is imprisoned along with his overthrown regime. The transitions from scene to gameplay are still effortless, but the graphics themselves are visually stunning—the internet is currently in awe over how realistic these facial animations are. A presentation that was initially inspired by the comic books has been taken into a more realistic movie-like direction. Bane is a perfect example of this shift as he is much smaller than he was in the first game.
I’ll be honest: Injustice 2 does so many positive things for the genre that it was hard to find anything I absolutely dislike. If I had to pick something, navigating the menus can be cumbersome. Before diving into the story I wanted to dip my toes in the water with the standard arcade ladder mode. It was nowhere to be found in the basic single player menu, but just when I nearly accepted it wasn’t there, I found it off to the side in the Multiverse mode labeled as “Battle Simulator.” Though this mode does have character endings when you finish it, I have found myself turning to the loot-filled Multiverse mode, spending more time customizing my characters than fighting with them. Notwithstanding, the soundtrack that plays while I do this gets annoying. Injustice 2 has a soundtrack full epic orchestrated music that sounds like its straight out of the Dark Knight or Man of Steel which is well done yet overdramatic as I’m pretty much “playing dress-up” with my favorite heroes and villains.
While those issues are minor, the devs solved two major issues that fighting games suffer from. We now have a fighting game that provides a great incentive to play as every single character, all of which have very unique playstyles. They also found a way to meet the needs of both casual single-player fans and hardcore multiplayer fans. In a day and age where it seems impossible to please everybody, NetherRealm Studio has indeed done so. At its core, the gameplay is pretty much the same as it was in 2011, but continuous improvements to the formula and engine keep me coming back to their work satisfied. At this point, I have no idea where they can go in terms of story arc. After two outstanding entries in Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2 are we ready for a follow-up to Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe? If so, I have the perfect title—if I were Ed Boon I would call it Mortal Injustice.
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The Bottom Line
Injustice 2 is an overall improvement compared to the first entry. The developers mastered making a video game that hardcore fighting game enthusiasts and casuals can both enjoy. NetherRealm Studios also continues its tradition of great storytelling.