The Game We Deserve, Not The One We Need | Injustice 2 Review
The hype was real for Injustice 2. Since the unequivocal success of Injustice: Gods Among Us, the promise of a sequel has swirled overhead. Gamers have debated character options, move updates, and even story progression. There has not been a more hotly anticipated sequel since Bioshock: Infinite. And Injustice 2 delivers on every expectation. When it is firing on all cylinders, the game is an unquestionably enjoyable ride.
However, around the edges of Injustice 2, there is a problem. Not just one problem in fact. Many problems. Problems that Injustice 2 didn't create. But difficulties that occupy the same space as the game. And these issues are part and parcel of what makes the game what it is.
Injustice 2 is without a doubt the best fighting game I've ever played. It might also be the best superhero game I've ever played. But it is also representative of the worst that DC Comics, video games, and the entertainment industry have to offer. And it is impossible to play the game and not feel that reminder continually.
What's Not To Love
Video games are suffering from the same remake pains which currently plague the film industry. Remakes, sequels, and reboots are rampant in games right now. Some of the best games of the year have been remakes. And some have been reboots. Some have even been sequels, like Injustice 2. There's nothing wrong with making a video game sequel. In fact, one could make the argument that video games are the most acceptable field for a remake. Computing power advances much faster than filmmaking ability. So a remake of a video game that came out ten years ago is far more acceptable than a remake of a movie that came out at the same time.
The problem with video game franchise culture is that each game in a franchise feels the need to push the envelope. The next game has to be different, so it grows in some way. That's the attitude that made open-world maps the norm. Unfortunately, it's also the belief that stuck the Batmobile right in the middle of Arkham Knight. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. But when games don't push themselves to new heights, the absence is felt.
The Many Different Kinds of Unoriginality
Many reviews have said, "If you liked, Injustice: Gods Among Us, you'll love Injustice 2". And that's true because they're the same game. So if you enjoyed playing the first one, you'd enjoy playing this one. But if you liked that Gods Among Us was a high-water mark for fighting games because of anything that made it unique, you're likely to feel let down by the sequel.
But the lack of originality is far from Injustice 2's biggest offense. Much more frustrating are the small things that remind you of more significant problems elsewhere. Thier character design for The Joker, for example, seems to suggest that you'd enjoy Mark Hamil's Joker even more if he were a little more like Jared Leto's. And the similarities between their Harley Quinn and Margot Robbie are begging you to give Suicide Squad another chance.
But worse even than Warner Brothers pushing the odiferous cesspool of the DCEU into the beautiful land of Injustice is that they think they can make you ask for more. Injustice 2 is littered with amusing, but ultimately offensive, microtransactions. After having the testicular fortitude to charge $100 for the "Ultimate Edition" of the game (complete with all the characters), the game still finds time to ask you to pay more. The money pit disguised as a crafting system they call "gear" is one of the only original parts of the game. And even there, what's original is WB finding a way to ask for even more money for a subpar product- which has become their signature move since Man of Steel in 3D IMAX.
It's entirely possible though that the frustration around these shortcomings, which have nothing to do with Injustice 2, are because the game itself is so incredible. The sequel to Gods Among Us has filled itself out nicely to become an all around enjoyable game with an almost infinite amount of replayability. Perhaps that's why it's so frustrating to see so many glaring imperfections near the game, if not in it. Injustice is precious to me, and I don't want Suicide Squad or microtransactions getting their gross oily hands all over it.
The first, most obvious, change that sets Injustice 2 apart from its predecessor is the roster. In the second installment of the Injustice franchise, NetherRealm Studios overhauled the character list. Any characters with anything more than a passing resemblance to each other are out. This newfound free space has given rise to new heroes, like Swamp Thing and Blue Beetle, who haven't had much screentime in DC multimedia projects before.
The single player campaign is a longer story that is much easier to follow than the campaign in Gods Among Us was. And it's even more user-friendly, giving the player the opportunity to choose between multiple characters rather than assigning them one for an entire chapter.
There is also a new single player mode "The Multiverse" in which players compete in challenges against the AI. These random twists on fights range from aesthetic differences to changes that completely impact the way gamers play the game. Each one is new and exciting and including them as a challenge mode in the game provides players with a fantastic reason to come back to Injustice over and over again.
The bottom line for Injustice 2 is that it's a fun game that is well worth the $60 price tag. Also, it is incredibly unfortunate that such an awesome game is indelibly linked to the broken cultures of DC Entertainment and video games right now. Forty extra dollars for all the characters is not fun. Being forced to relitigate Suicide Squad is not fun. Even the dyed-in-the-wool DC Bro Fanboys giving this game a 10/10 on Metacritic isn't fun.
But Injustice 2 is fun. It's an absolute blast. It achieves Mario Kart levels of greatness in that it is a game worth playing at parties whenever you have the chance. It would be endlessly more fun if enjoying it didn't feel like taking sides in a war which pits DC Fans and their fragile egos against whatever perceived slight they're upset about this week.
One can choose to put on blinders and focus on the game. By refusing to look at a broken video game establishment that charges for basic game elements and allows games to be released before the online system works is a choice. And ignoring that the game is a tool in DC's bigger mission to sell Wonder Woman and Justice League tickets is a choice. But it doesn't fix those problems.
Then again, refusing to buy the game is a choice too. And it doesn't fix those problems either. And it's a lot less fun than the alternative. In the end, it's just a shame that Injustice 2 is, like so many other DC projects, a great thing surrounded by garbage on all sides. Because DC won't be taken seriously until liking their products isn't a chore.
Injustice 2 released on May 16th and is available on Xbox One and PS4.