Hands-on: ‘Injustice 2’

‘Injustice 2’ is the RPG-fighter Netherrealm Studios has been waiting to make

Injustice 2 is the game that Netherrealm Studios has wanted to make for almost a decade, since before it knew what Injustice was. With the sequel to its 2013 DC Comics fighter, the studio will attempt to combine the original’s distinctive combat with RPG-style stats and loot that will allow players to customize their fighters look and play style.

It’s a bold and frankly counter-intuitive experiment. Building a fighting game around a system that completely breaks the intricacies of its balance runs completely counter to the conventional wisdom around fighting games. At a time when investors are pouring millions into competitive gaming, it seems utterly insane to make something that could interfere with its capacity to develop a pro scene.

E3 2016: Sons of Anarchy meets The Last of Us in Sony’s zombie slayer Days Gone

According to producer Adam Urbano, making a fighter with an RPG progression is an idea that’s been kicking around the studio since before the fall of Mortal Kombat’s original publisher, Midway. The success of the original Injustice, which earned it the trust of Warner Bros. and DC Comics, emboldened the team to pitch its dream concept for the sequel.

Between fights, players can equip their fighters with six items — head, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, and a weapon — which alter their appearance and upgrade four stats: strength, agility, defense, and health. (You can also earn shaders, which set a unified color scheme even if you’re using equipment from different sets.)

In making those character statistics visible, Injustice 2 will bring a little more transparency and, for better or worse, a little more math into the experience. While the health meter doesn’t say “hit points,” every time a character gets hit, a number indicating how much damage it did appears as their health meter goes down. Though it may be difficult to notice when two generally even characters go at it, the numbers make it clear that higher level characters do more damage. As characters customize and prioritize certain specs, you can bet those numbers will play a role in helping players calibrate their fighters.

Some items will also have what the team calls an “X-Stat,” a modifier that changes how a move works, rather than altering its stats. One Batman of gauntlets, for example, changed Batman’s batarang special to throw a flurry of three, instead of one. The game will have thousands of collectible weapons and armor pieces for each character, allowing for “millions” of combinations.

That same boldness also the team to dig deeper into the DC Comic canon when selecting new characters for its roster, such as Flash villain Gorilla Grodd and the Red Lantern Atrocitus, who join classic characters Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Supergirl. (Though they haven’t been officially shown, based on the trailer it’s safe to say the Flash and Wonder Woman will also be playable characters.) One of the studio’s challenges for the original Injustice, Urbano said, was rehabbing Aquaman’s image to make him a viable character.

Netherrealm is committed to its loot-based system, but doesn’t plan to eschew competitive play, either: Though the studio is keeping its exact plan secret, it is committed to finding a way to balance players’ gear for the competitive scene. According to Urbano, Netherrealm considered adding a tournament mode that would remove player spec, but reconsidered after consulting with pro players. “They said, ‘if you’re going to do this, do it right,’” Urbano recalled.

Stripping away all of the customization, much of the moment-to-moment gameplay of Injustice 2 feels very similar to the original. Many of the series distinctive traits, such as tiered stages with interactive elements and over-the-top super moves, are still in place. The game will still feature a story mode, which picks up where the first Injustice left off.

Of course, the game looks better too. Despite the fact that the game’s loot has heaped on a large number of extra assets for developers to conceive and design, each character and stage appears more detailed. In many ways, Injustice 2 is a pretty standard, but still a marked update for a new but established fighting series. That said, with a whole new layer of meta-game getting layered on top of it, maybe it makes sense for the studio leave some aspects of the game intact.

Injustice 2 will launch on PS4 and Xbox One in 2017.

Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Gaming

Feeling nostalgic? Here are the 25 best Sega Genesis games

Although the company has since fallen into obscurity, Sega was an indisputable titan throughout the '90s. That said, here are 25 best Sega Genesis games that helped define its fabled decade.
Gaming

The best free-to-play games you can play right now

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ gifts perfect for the video game fan in your life

Chances are someone on your holiday shopping list is a fan of Fortnite. As the most popular game on the planet, there are plenty of Fortnite-themed gift options available for purchase in stores and online. Here are the best ones we found.
Gaming

‘Gears of War’ designer Cliff Bleszinski says he’ll never make another game

Cliff Bleszinski, the game designer best known for his work on the Gears of War series, says he will never make another video game. His studio, Boss Key Productions, shut its doors earlier this year.
Deals

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Gaming

Every rumor about the PS5, including a new game from Luminous Productions

PlayStation 5 rumors have been circulating for over a year now but there's still plenty we don't know. Here's everything you need to know about the PS5, including rumors about its release, specs, and games.
Gaming

Nintendo and Microsoft say they’re all-in on E3 after Sony bows out of 2019 event

Shortly after Sony announced it will not participate in E3 2019 for the first time, Microsoft and Sony announced the show will go on as usual for each software giant. E3 2019 now presents a unique opportunity for Sony's major competitors.
Gaming

The best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

Microsoft is reportedly planning an Xbox One without a disc drive for 2019

Microsoft is reportedly planning to release a new Xbox One model without a disc drive in 2019. The console will be significantly cheaper than other Xbox One systems, including the Xbox One S.