Some sequels are inevitable. When the first Injustice came out, putting DC Comics heroes and villains into Mortal Kombat-style fights — and by the people who made Mortal Kombat, no less — there was little question that it would be a hit unless it stank (it did not). The mobile version wasn’t too shabby either, so Injustice 2 was thus always fated to happen.
But just because something is preordained doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty good, and Injustice 2 fits that description. It’s not simply an iteration on the first game except in the most obvious ways, and it largely succeeds in feeling like a different, richer experience than its predecessor — even if it’s not necessarily head of the class among mobile fighting games.
One thing Injustice 2 definitely has going for it is a story to tell and an awesome way of doing it. Thanks to both the Injustice video games and the comic books DC put out to support it, there’s a rich lore now about an alternate Earth where one tragic day (involving the Joker, as these things do) turned Superman from hero to tyrant. That shuffled the deck a bit in terms of good guys and bad guys, and even though Superman was ultimately defeated, there are a lot of pieces to be picked up in this world.
The gorgeous opening cinematic introduces the external threat of Brainiac and the game’s story mode allows you to fight through more of the tale chapter by chapter. That alone is probably worth a download for diehard DC fans.
That’s not even the meatiest part of the gameplay, though, which involves collecting various heroes and villains and fighting through a campaign of progressively difficult battles. Injustice 2 brawls are one-on-one affairs but with teams or three or more characters on each side, meaning you can and will tag in other team members during a fight. A class system means that it’s not necessarily just raw power that goes into the make-up of your squad, and it helps to have a varied roster at your disposal.
The controls are fairly simple, using mostly taps and swipes to attack and dash in or out of melee range. There’s a dedicated block button, which is a little more annoying than just being able to tap and hold anywhere on the left side of the screen, as well as buttons for special moves and to swap characters. It’s not the best layout for a mobile fighting game on the current market, but it’s not horrible by any means.
Injustice 2 uses an interesting risk/reward mechanic when it comes to abilities that is hard to pin down as a positive or negative. As you fight, your character has a gauge that fills up. You can choose to spend points to pull off an ability as soon as you can pay the cost or wait it out and unleash your cinematic special when the meter is full. That’s often a fight-ender, plus they are just awesome to watch. The gamble is that you might get KOed before you even have a chance to execute it, so there’s definitely some strategic thinking required.
There are a number of ways to improve your characters along with the standard leveling, including a gear system. Equipment is going to be a big part of the console game, customizing heroes and villains in both appearance and capabilities, but it’s much less involved here — and less interesting. As well, getting entire gear sets looks like it will involve grinding some of the same battles repeatedly, which is never fun.
An Arena mode also beckons, inviting you to battle up the leaderboards each week against other human-created teams. It’s not true PvP, which would be pretty sweet if technically difficult, but it provides probably the most challenging and varied gameplay in Injustice 2. The energy system in the Arena is also separate from the PvE aspect, which is nice.
Visually, Injustice 2 is a feast, with those aforementioned cinematics backed up by pretty good-looking character models once the fighting actually begins. In motion, they sometimes are a little stiff, and blended with the controls, the whole experience just isn’t quite as crisp as it feels it could be. But then you’ll see one of the ultimate moves play out, like Cyborg boom tubing an opponent to Apokalips and seeing the poor sap get beat up by two Parademons before returning to Earth and getting a huge sonic cannon blast to the face. Somehow that makes your small gripes about the game go away.
In other words, Injustice 2 isn’t perfect, but it’s still pretty darn cool. Assuming its console cousin is a success, we can look forward to an Injustice 3 a few years from now, and that will probably be just fine by everyone.