Sunday, March 11, 2018

Injustice 2 review

    One of the big flaws of DC and Marvel comics is the "illusion of change", which is a term coined by Stan Lee. Basically, recognizing that monthly franchises could easily become unrecognizable, it was important to make sure you put the toys back in the box pretty much as you pulled them out. It's resulted in such good things as Spiderman not becoming a cosmically powered being called Captain Universe forever but also has resulted in such terrible things as One More Day and the perpetual cycle of universal reboots which plague both franchises.

    The solution to this, for the most part, is for comic books to have spin-off universes with beginnings, middles, and ends. The Ultimates was a mixed-bag version of this where they managed to trash the entire universe after just a few years. The DC Animated Universe is a triumphant example of this, successfully giving a multiple-series universe which ends in a fascinating but satisfying way.

It's a fighting game so you know what to expect.
    The Injustice universe is an example of a universe which benefits from this kind of creative freedom. Not only does it have the option of permanently killing characters but relationships can change, the world, and it's all open for the writers. It's because of this that Injustice is not just a pair of excellent video games but a decent series of comic books as well. It's an evolving world and this game does a decent job of continuing to expand it.

    The premise is, a year after the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us, Superman has been imprisoned by Batman with his regime being dismantled. Supergirl has finally arrived on the planet but is being kept in the dark about her cousin's madness by Black Adam and Wonder Woman. In this universe, Krypton was destroyed by Brainiac and the last two survivors lure the supervillain to this world. This being the first attack on Earth by Brainiac, humanity is swiftly overwhelmed and an alliance must be made between Batman's Justice League and Superman's regime. Worse, there is a group of wild cards in the last remaining supervillains on the planet led by Gorilla Grodd.

Superman vs. Batman is best when its ideological.
    The story is remarkably well written with Supergirl serving as the "point of entry" character. Superman's treatment is more sympathetic in the game and less one-dimensional, which raises the storyline quality up considerably. Batman vs. Superman in Injustice is best treated as freedom vs. security with the latter not being a psychopath but simply more ruthless. He's still considered the bad guy but he's not an insane child-murdering despot like he was in the previous game. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is still one-dimensional and we don't have the option of playing the "real" Superman and Wonder Woman in the game.

    I have to say I think this game is probably the best use of Brainiac in the character's entire history and a reminder why he was once Superman's second most famous foe. He's also one of the few villains I could believably see as a threat to the entire Earth and require Injustice Batman to team up with his greatest enemy. I mean, there's Darkseid obviously and a decent number of other galaxy-conquering despots but none of them have the same level of personality as Brainiac aside from the Lord of Apokolips.

Brainiac is at his best.
    Gameplay wise, it's pretty much the same as Injustice with a few improvements. The combat flows much better than it did in the previous game, however. Unfortunately, the game includes loot boxes and they're one of the worst things in video games today. The game has the option of getting bits and pieces of equipment for the characters but this is a tedious bit of pointless busy-work that lowers the quality of the game as a whole.  The graphics are exceptional and far improved from the original Injustice, which wasn't bad itself.

    Storyline-wise, the ending of the game suffers a bit in Story mode. The defeat of Brainiac should be the ending but you end up having to face a repeat of Batman vs. Superman, which I think is a poor ending versus the two sides parting semi-amicably. I also think Brainiac should have been defeated by Supergirl in the ending rather than Superman and Batman. It is, after all, her story which begins with Brainiac destroying her homeland and should end with her avenging it.

    Speaking of Supergirl, I liked her portrayal in the game and think it's probably her best treatment since the Silver Age. She's an idealistic and Superman-esque character in a setting where that legacy has been severely tarnished. Contrasting her naivete and idealism to the harsh world around her is an effective storytelling device. It also reminds the characters that the DCU is not meant to be like it is in Injustice and the writers are aware of that.

Love Harley's design.
    The Society led by Gorilla Grodd was an excellent addition to the game because the previous game had Superman wipe out the majority of supervillains on Earth. Captain Cold, Deadshot, Poison Ivy, and the Reverse Flash are all characters who work well as antagonists. I was a bit disappointed by Grodd being revealed to work for Brainiac in the end but I supposed there needed to be a hierarchy of villains in these things.

     The characterization is well done with everyone from Black Canary to Harley Quinn being in character. There's also some great surprises like Robert Englund (a.k.a Freddy Krueger) as the Scarecrow. The DLC characters include some gems, too, like Darkseid, Hellboy, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I also liked the skins of some existing characters like Power Girl for Supergirl which comes with its own dialogue. I also liked how you could sometimes choose different characters in Story Mode.

    In conclusion, this is an excellent game that was enjoyable from beginning to end. There's some issues like the loot boxes and the fact there's still a Leveling System that makes no damn sense in a fighting game. Still, I think this is probably the best comic book game currently out today and excellent for those who want to dabble in the colorful but dark world of Injustice.


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