The Dreaded Backlog: Injustice 2
It’s hard to know where to start with Injustice 2. It is broad and deep, yet simple at to the point. It’s a 2D fighting game featuring superhero characters from DC comics publications. That’s an effective summary, but NetherRealm have got so much more from that formula than they necessarily needed to.
The first Injustice is a very good game. It has solid fighting systems with your usual character-specific combos, plus arena transitions and environmental attacks. There was also the supermeter that could be bet on a ‘clash’ or used for a visually spectacular ‘super move’. What set it apart for a lot of people was its story mode. It had a narrative that drew from DC multi-verse stories to spin a yarn about a world with a Superman gone fascist, and the heroes of another world brought in to rescue that world. Injustice 2 also has a great story in addition to several new game modes and new gameplay features.
Let’s start with the gameplay features of Injustice 2. You now have loadouts for your characters. You can earn different shaders and armour for your characters. That’s right, you can design your own batsuit, Flash outfit, Darkseid garb and so on. You can focus your character to suit your sensibilities or to counter those of your opponent. Or you can just go for pure aesthetics. Admittedly there is a lootbox system behind the gear that is tempting for the player to spend real money on.
However, you primarily earn these items by playing the ‘Multiverse’ mode. It’s essentially a single player version of a multiplayer experience. You take your characters out into the Multiverse to save various Earths from varying (but defined) threats. Each has a theme with its characters looks tailored to said theme. For Halloween there was a zombie Earth with appropriately zombified DC heroes and villains. Meanwhile spiders jump at the screen, cats trip up the fighters and giant pumpkins descend from the sky. And all of that is just one Earth with one theme. There are many Earths with many themes and they’re constantly swapped out and updated on a day-to-day basis.
I actually played Multiverse for two weeks of owning this game before I started the story, it was four before I got around to finishing it. That is not a mark against the story mode, it is very good, but the Multiverse mode is addictive. It encourages you to seek out new approaches, looks and even use and develop characters you’d never consider. I actually got this game mostly so I could play as Black Canary and I love every chance I get to play about with my version of Dinah Lance. However I have also developed Batman, Flash and Wonder Woman, all characters I sucked at in the first Injustice. You can even develop your own squad for people online to challenge.
I’ve not played the multiplayer mode. I am not good enough. It’s a shame and perhaps one day I’ll have progressed enough to have a go. However, based on MLG matches and my own experiences of Multiverse mode I am sure it is a nuanced delight.
The story of Injustice 2 perhaps isn’t as hard hitting as the first game’s. However there are improvements in the details. The visual overhaul since the first game helps a lot. The characters can emote properly in the cutscenes and fight intros thanks to incredible facial animations. The writing is a little less wrestling and a little more personal this time around. The characters seem like actual people that are also superheroes. Although, it still keeps enough of that silliness. I say there is less ‘wrestling’ writing in this title, but it still has enough of the joy of seeing two bombastic personalities in bright costumes facing down.
However the game’s opening is pure serious emotion. We see the destruction of Krypton from the perspective of Supergirl. We see her losing everyone and everything before failing (through no fault of her own) in her duty of protecting young Kal-El. This powerful sequence is made more poignant by the fact that we know this is a universe where Superman turns into an evil dictator.
The primary threat in the story seems to be an invasion by Brainiac. This time this Earth’s Batman chooses to rely on the resources within his own universe alone. However eventually he is pushed into freeing Superman and his other evil-Justice Leaguer cohorts to get the job done. The game debates the no-kill rule a few times. That aspect is a little trite. However there are some nice touches, such as the redeemed Flash fighting a Captain Cold who’s thrown out his cold after suffering in Superman’s regime, which said Flash used to be part of.
At the end of the story, after Brainiac has been defeated, the player has a choice to make: Superman or Batman. To kill or not to kill. Now I chose Batman because regardless of the killing debate this Superman created a fascist super-state…so… My favourite fictional character it is then… I hope if there is an Injustice 3 it actually canonises both ending choices. I hope to see the Superman-wins universe take on the Batman-wins universe. In the ‘logic’ of Multiverse stories it would make sense this choice would create two universes where two different choices occurred.
Injustice 2 is an amazing gaming achievement. Every aspect of it has multiple layers and most of those aspects aren’t even something you expect from a fighting game. Injustice 2 treats you and then throws more treats at you. You’re buried in treats.
If you’d like to see some of this treats, watch my weekly Arrowverse recap show in which I play Injustice 2 whilst talking Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Arrow (and soon Black Lightning).
Played on Xbox One (and X)
What is a Dreaded Backlog?