Those eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that we’ve played Injustice 2 on three separate episodes of Beatdowns n’ Banter and that’s not just because we’re bad at planning our episodes ahead of time (don’t be fooled though, we are god-awful at planning our episodes out). Two of the three times we’ve played it on stream have been short notice and it just happens that it’s a game that Dan and I both happen to have at the ready to go, which is a big part of why I’m writing this.
Due to space limitations on the Playstation 4’s 500 GB hard drive, I constantly find myself deleting games from my system to clear the way for other titles, but Injustice 2 has occupied space on my PS4 since the day I bought it, joining Transistor and Persona 5 in the “do not delete” category, and I find myself asking “why”? I wouldn’t venture put it on the same personal tier as those two games, and it’s no better or worse than games like Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age or Horizon: Zero Dawn, two games I bought around the same time as Injustice 2, take up around the same amount of space and are massive single player experiences, and have both been off my hard drive since August. Even looking at it strictly through the lens of fighting games, I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly better game than fellow Netherrealm Studios title Mortal Kombat X, and I think I’m far better at MKX than I am at Injustice, yet it’s the former that’s been shelved since the last time we played it.
When it comes down to it, I don’t believe the reason I find myself coming back to Injustice 2 has anything to do with it being better than other fighting games, but rather, how good is it at every little thing it does. It’s got a cast of familiar characters from DC Comics’ deep roster, and each character is interesting enough that I’m at least willing to try them (with the exception of The Joker, but hey, that’s another article), which has lead to me getting out of my comfort zone and playing character types I wouldn’t usually touch. Usually, in fighting games I gravitate towards either rushdown characters or shotos, but I’ve found myself playing Superman, a grappler, the most in Injustice 2.
In typical Netherrealm fashion, the story mode is good enough that I don’t mind going back through it, and the game implements lootboxes into it’s core loop better than any game that’s tried it recently, including Overwatch. Netherrealm has always had it’s own version of the popular trend, in the form of the Mortal Kombat series’ Krypt, which serves to unlock new costumes and fatalities, and Injustice‘s Mother Boxes are the natural extension of that. Mother Boxes are unlocked through completing Multiverse events, which are the game’s equivalent to arcade mode or living towers, and can be bought with in-game currency that is obtained through completing daily challenges the game gives you, typically ranging from “play two online matches” to “perform four supermoves”, and can be completed simultaneously. Upon opening the box, you receive on average, two to four cosmetic items for a character, i.e. a new cape for Superman, a new shield for Wonder Woman, etc., that alter that character’s stats in offline modes. Sometimes, you’ll get an item that you can’t equip yet due to level, meaning you need to go through and play some more matches, which in turn, earns you more Mother Boxes and continues the cycle, leading to you getting better at the game. Compare this to a game like Overwatch, where lootboxes often feel worthless. Sprays and voice lines are nice, but it’s the skins that most people are after.
Combine how slim the pickings in the average lootbox in Overwatch tend to be with how many matches you have to not only play, but win, in order to get one and it becomes clear why they’re seen as such a problem in Blizzard’s global juggernaut but not in Injustice 2. Winning five matches against an AI scaled to your skill level, with a guarantee of getting anything is immeasurably easier than playing ten minute match after ten minute match of a team based game, just to get a spray that you’re not going to use and a voice line you’re going to forget about. Injustice uses the mechanic as a motivator to keep playing and improving and to reward you for doing so.
Injustice 2 is a game that uses everything at it’s disposal to make the experience enjoyable for the player, and is a huge step up from it’s predecessor, Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is to be expected from Netherrealm Studios. It’s definitely one of the best games out this year and one that I’m sure I’ll keep coming back to.