Game Corner [Crossover Crisis]: Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360)


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Wednesday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Released: 16 April 2013
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Arcade, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One and Xbox Series One X/S (Backwards Compatible), Wii U

The Background:
When it was first released, Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) was a phenomenal success for Midway because of its focus on gore and violence, and it offered some real competition for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) in arcades and on home consoles. For a time, the series seemed unstoppable during the 2D era of gaming but struggled to find a footing in the emerging 3D fighter arena and Mortal Kombat seemed to be in jeopardy after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. The main reason for this was the poor reception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the first collaboration between Midway’s Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics characters owned by Warner Bros. Interactive, which was hampered by age-related restrictions.

Mortal Kombat‘s 3D struggles culminated in a disastrous crossover with DC Comics.

Luckily, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the team, now rebranded to NetherRealm Studios, immediately set about getting their violent franchise back on track; Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2011) was subsequently very well-received for its “back to basics” approach and, bolstered by the reboot’s success and eager to take advantage of the vast library of characters of their parent company, NetherRealm Studios sought to expand upon the game’s mechanics with a new, all-DC brawler. Although the game wasn’t as bloody and violent as its sister series, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a massive critical and commercial success that was followed up by not only a bunch of additional fighters and skins added as downloadable content (DLC) but also a sequel in 2017 and a critically-acclaimed comic book series.

The Plot:
In an alternate reality, Clark Kent/Superman has become a tyrant and established a new world order after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane before destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. In an effort to stop him, Bruce Wayne/Batman summons counterparts of the Justice League’s members from another universe to join his insurgency and end the totalitarian regime that threatens to subjugate the entire world.

Gameplay:
Just like Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a 2.5D fighting game; however, this time you’re able to select one of twenty-four characters from the DC Universe and battle it out in the game’s single-player story mode, one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent (both on- and offline), tackle numerous arcade-style ladders, or take on character-specific missions in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) training scenarios. Just as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat videogame, Injustice’s fights take place in a best-of-three format (although there are no longer announcements or screen text between each round) and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, such as the game’s difficulty) to your heart’s desire in the game’s options to suit your playstyle.

Attack with strikes, grapples, and combos to pummel a number of DC’s most recognisable characters.

If you’ve played the Mortal Kombat reboot then you’ll be immediately familiar with this game’s fighting mechanics and controls, although there are subtle differences: X, Y, and A are assigned to light, medium, and heavy strikes, for example, and may be either punches, kicks, or weapon-based melee attacks depending on which character you’re playing as. You can still grapple and throw your opponent with the Left Bumper (or X and Y and a directional input), dash towards or away from the opponent with a double tap of the directional pad (D-Pad), but now you must hold back on the D-Pad while standing or crouching to block, which can make blocking a bit trickier as sometimes you’ll simply walk or dash backwards when trying to block. If your opponent is crouch-blocking, you can land an attack by pressing towards and A for an Overhead Attack, and string together light, medium, and heavy attacks with directional inputs and your various special moves to pull off quick and easy combos. As is the standard for NetherRealm Studios’ releases these days, you can practise the game’s controls and mechanics as often as you like and take part in a very user-friendly tutorial to learn the basics of the game’s simple, but increasingly complex, fighting mechanics. You can also view your character’s moves, combos, special attacks, and “Character Power” from the pause menu at any time, allowing you to also see a range of information (such as where and how to pull of certain moves, the damage they inflict, and frame data).

Utilise Character Powers and the always-annoying Clash Breakers to whittle down your foe.

Each character has a range of special attacks that are unique to them; these mostly consist of certain projectiles or grapples and strikes but can also include various buffs for your character or to slow down your opponent. Each character also has a specific Character Power that is performed by pressing B; this sees Batman summon and attack with a swarm of bats, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow fire different trick arrows at his opponent, Doctor Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn gain various random buffs, and allows characters like Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Rachel Roth/Raven to switch between different fighting styles and thus access different special attacks. While some Character Powers have a cool-down period, others don’t, but they can also be detrimental to you; for example, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke can briefly give his shots perfect aim but, once the Character Power is expended, he’ll miss every shot until it refills. Another new addition to the game is the annoying “Wager” system; when the Super Meter is filled up by two bars, you can press towards and RT when blocking an attack to play a quick mini game where you and your opponent select how much of your Super Meter to gamble. If you win, you’ll regain some health; if you lose, the opponent regains health; and if you tie then you both lose. Personally, if find these “Clash Breakers” even more annoying than the usual “Breakers” seen in the modern Mortal Kombat games as I never win them and they generally just unnecessarily prolong a fight (and, even worse, there’s no option to turn them off).

Different characters attack and interact in different ways according to their strengths.

In a bridge between the differing character movesets of Mortal Kombat and the “Variation” mechanic seen in Mortal Kombat X (NetherRealm Studios, 2013), Injustice features a limited “Class” system whereby characters are split into two camps: Gadget- or Power-class characters. Gadget characters are generally smaller, faster, and rely on various tricks and weapons in fights while Power-class characters are typically bigger, often slower, and rely more on brute strength. One of the main ways you’ll notice the difference between playing as, say, Barry Allen/The Flash and Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy is that they interact with the game’s fighting stages in different ways. As in Mortal Kombat X, you can press the Right Bumper when indicated to use (or attack your opponent with) various environmental hazards, such as firing missiles at them or knocking them into the background. But, whereas Superman will wrench a car out of the air and slam it on his opponent, someone like Dick Grayson/Nightwing will rig the same car to explode or somersault off the environment to get behind their foe rather than try to crush them with a wall.

In addition to powerful Super moves, you can bash your foe into new areas using stage transitions.

As you might naturally expect, there are no Fatalities or gruesome finishing moves in Injustice (not even “Heroic Brutalities”). However, when your Super Meter is full, you can still press LT and RT together to pull off a devastating Super Move; while you won’t see bones breaking and organs shattering like in Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray Moves, it’s still pretty fun to see Hal Jordan/Green Lantern transport his opponent to Oa to pummel them with his constructs, Ares shower his foe with arrows and stamp on them while grown to gigantic proportions, Arthur Curry/Aquaman force his enemy into the jaws of a ferocious shark, and Bane demolish his opposition with a series of throws and grapples, culminating in his iconic backbreaker. Another way the game separates itself from Mortal Kombat is stage transitions; when near the far edge of certain stages, you can hold back and A to wallop your opponent through the wall or off into the background where they’ll be smashed up, down, or across to an entirely new area of the stage which often allows more stage interactions and new stage transitions available for your use.

The story involves multiverse shenanigans against corrupted heroes and features some QTEs.

You might wonder exactly how someone like Louise Lincoln/Killer Frost can survive being blasting through the brick walls of Wayne Manor or go toe-to-toe with the likes of Doomsday but the game’s entertaining story mode explains that, on this alternative world, the tyrant-like Superman has developed special pills that bestow superhuman strength and dexterity to his generals. As is also the standard in NetherRealm’s titles, the story mode is broken down into twelve character-specific chapters, which is again a great way to experience a wide variety of the game’s roster (though Batman does feature as a playable character in two chapters, which seems a bit lazy). You can replay any chapter and fight you’ve cleared at any time, which is great, and skip through the cutscenes after they’ve loaded a bit, and the story mode isn’t all constant fighting either as you’re asked to pull off a handful of quick-time events (QTEs) at various points, such as blasting cars with Superman’s heat vision. The story is a fairly standard multiverse tale of the main canon heroes fighting against their corrupted or misled counterparts but it’s pretty fun and easy to blast through in no time at all.

Fight to earn XP and level-up, unlock additional perks and modes, and take on a series of challenges.

Every time you win a fight, you’ll earn experience points (XP) that will eventually level-up your character profile. This, and performing a certain number of specific attacks, playing through the story mode, and tackling the game’s other modes and mechanics, unlocks icons and backgrounds for your profile card as well as additional skins in certain circumstances. You’ll also be awarded “Armour Keys” and “Access Cards” to spend in the “Archives”, which allows you to unlock concept art, music, more skins, and certain boosts that will increase how much XP you earn, to name just one example. Like in Mortal Kombat, you can also take on ten opponents in arcade ladders in the “Battle” mode; these range from the basic tournament-style ladder to specific challenges against heroes, villains, or battling while poisoned, injured, or with certain buffs (such as a constantly full Super Meter or health falling from the sky). We’d see a similar system be incorporated into the “Towers” modes in later Mortal Kombat games and similar scenarios exist here, such as a survival mode, battling two opponents, or being forced to fight against the computer set to the hardest difficulty.

Graphics and Sound:
Like its violent sister-series, Injustice looks fantastic; there’s almost no difference between the high-quality story mode cutscenes and the in-fight graphics (which, again, makes it all the more frustrating that NetherRealm Studios insist on having character’s endings represented by partially-animated artwork and voiceovers), though it has to be said that the graphics are much more palatable when in a violent fight. I say this purely because I am not a big fan of some of Injustice’s character designs: The Flash looks a bit too “busy”, for example, and Batman’s suit (and cowl, especially) look really janky to me, though I love the representation of Green Lantern and Thaal Sinestro.

In addition to various intros, outros, and Wager dialogue, characters also take on battle damage.

Each character gets a nice little fitting intro and outro for each fight and, between rounds, will perform and quip a variety of taunts to the opponent. In a nice little touch, different character skins get different intros and outros; when playing as the evil Superman, for example, he enters and exits the fight differently to his more heroic counterpart. When playing as different skins, like John Stewart or Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman, you’ll also be treated to slightly different dialogue and animations, which is a much-appreciated touch on the developer’s part. Although there aren’t any character-specific interactions in the intros, there are during the Wager cutscenes and, even better, both characters and the arenas will accrue battle damage as the fight progresses! This means that you’ll not only see Selina Kyle/Catwoman’s cat suit rip and her skin be blemished by bruises and blood but arenas will degenerate or change around you the more damage you dish out, which can also allow different intractable options to become available to you.

Stages include a range of recognisable DC locations and take damage as you fight.

Speaking of the stages, Injustice really goes above and beyond to make the best use of the DC license; while it’s a little disappointing to see Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor feature twice in the game, they are made distinctive by having Joker-ised and night-time variants, respectively (and also being clearly modelled after, and featuring cameos by, the Batman: Arkham (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) videogames and villains). Additionally, the use of stage transitions really helps to add a whole new dimension to combat, with some stages featuring more than others (or even none at all), to help ensure that every fight can be a little different. Stages also feature a bevy of other little cameos and DC references, such as the Fortress of Solitude being clearly modelled after Superman (Donner, 1978) while also featuring a portal to the Phantom Zone and a cameo from Starro the Conqueror. Similarly, J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter floats in the background of the Watchtower space station, Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is just hanging out at Stryker’s prison, and Amazons are preparing a boat to launch on Themyscira. Every single stage has a number of intractable elements and changes as you fight, cause damage, or smash foes around, with Gotham City being my favourite as you can battle on the roof with the Bat-Signal and then down to the grimy streets below and then blast your foe back up to the roof using a nearby truck!

Enemies and Bosses:
Injustice helpfully separates its character-selection screen into heroes (on the left) and villains (on the right) but, despite their different alignments (and that their loyalties change due to the multiverse shenanigans of the story), every single one of them will be an enemy of yours at some point as you play through the story, Battles, S.T.A.R. Labs missions, and on- or offline. Consequently, it’s worth keeping track of which character suits your playstyle as some have easier combos and special moves to pull off compared to others, or more useful Super Moves and Character Powers.

Play as, and against, the game’s characters to learn their strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

Additionally, the Class system should also be factored in; Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Solomon Gundy may be powerful and capable of gaining armour to tank through attacks but they’re also a lot slower on their feet and with their jumps. Superman and Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl are much faster Power-class characters but can also have their own drawbacks at times depending on your playstyle (Superman’s Character Power, for example, simply powers up his attacks rather than being a more offensive move like, say, Areas being able to conjure massive magical weapons). Personally, I tend to lean more towards Gadget-based characters, like Nightwing (who can switch between using quick batons or a longer bo staff to attack) or Green Arrow (whose arrows and bow allow for both ranged attacks and blindingly fast melee attacks).

Take on the corrupted Superman and banish him to the Phantom Zone for his crimes!

Unlike Mortal Kombat, Injustice doesn’t really feature any secret or hidden fights or unplayable sub-bosses or boss characters; the story mode and basic arcade ladder culminates in a battle against the corrupted Superman that is a far fairer and more competitive fight compared to the finales of NetherRealm’s recent Mortal Kombat games. While Superman is definitely a bit more of an aggressive foe, even on the game’s easiest difficulty, he doesn’t gain inexplicable armour, can be stunned, and doesn’t deal ungodly amounts of damage or spam his attacks like a cheap bitch. Additionally, he doesn’t transform into some monstrous final form and, instead, the final battle is a far better use of the skills you’ve built up through regular gameplay rather than forcing you to resort to cheap tactics and tricks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Because it lacks a “Test Your Luck” mode and “Kombat Kodes” for multiplayer fights, there aren’t really any in-game power-ups available to you outside of the various status effects seen in the Battle mode. As before, though, some characters can gain in-game buffs with their special attacks and Character Powers: Lex Luthor, for example, can erect a shield, Doomsday can cover himself in impenetrable armour for a brief period, and Solomon Grundy slows time down and drains his opponent’s health with his swamp gas. However, you’ll earn yourself additional XP if you mix up your fighting style and take advantage of stage interactions and transitions, which will allow you to unlock further customisation options for your profile card, and you can also earn additional skins and rewards by playing and linking up to the mobile version of the game.

Additional Features:
There are fifty Achievements up for grabs in Injustice, with three of which being directly tied to the story mode (50- and 100% completion and succeeding at all of the QTE mini games). Others are tied to the game’s online modes, levelling-up to specific levels, customising your profile card, and finishing Classic Battle with one (and every) character. There are also some character-specific Achievements on offer, including performing every character’s Super Move or a ten-hit combat and winning a fight using only arrows as Green Arrow, or landing at least twelve shots without missing as Deathstroke. Batman is the only character to have two specific Achievements tied to him, though, as you’ll get some G for winning a match using all of his special moves and his Super Moves and for defeating every villain as him.

Injustice included some surprising DLC fighters; even Scorpion showed up!

Another standard of NetherRealm Studios is their addition of further skins and characters through DLC; you can get skins to play as John Stewart, Cyborg Superman, and the Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) Batman, among others, and they’re all easily applicable when selecting a character (no need for extraneous “Gear” here). While the game’s DLC characters have no additional Achievements tied to them, Injustice included some fun and interesting extra fighters; Lobo, General Dru-Zod (who also sports his Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) look as a skin), Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zatanna Zatara, and the Martian Manhunter were all great choices to add to the roster and it was nice to see NetherRealm Studios exercise a little restraint and not overload the DLC with additional Batman characters. By far the most exciting DLC fighter was the inclusion of Scorpion, who sports a Jim Lee redesign and began a trend of DC and Mortal Kombat characters appearing in each other’s games.

Take your fight online or complete a series of increasingly tricky S.T.AR. Labs challenges.

When you’ve had enough of the story mode and regular battle options, you can take the fight online in a series of matches; here; you can participate in ranked and unranked fights and “King of the Hill” tournaments where you watch other players fight until it’s your turn and bet on who’s going to win. The S.T.A.R. Labs missions will also keep us offline, solo players occupied for some time; these are expanded upon when you download the DLC fighters, which is much appreciated and, similar to Mortal Kombat’s “Challenge Tower” mode, basically serve as extended tutorials for each of the game’s characters. You’ll take on ten character-specific missions, with each one getting a little bit of text and maybe a picture to set the context of the mission, and these range from performing certain combos or attacks, winning fights, or completing tricky challenges (such as guiding Catwoman’s cat through laser trip wires, avoiding damage or debris, or racing against Superman).

The Summary:
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a far better marriage of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics than Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and a fantastic expansion of the gameplay mechanics and features NetherRealm Studios revitalised their violent fighting game series with in Mortal Kombat (2009). While Injustice is obviously not as gory or violent as its sister-series, that doesn’t make it any less fun and it’s still a very brutal fighter; the Super Moves, especially, and certain character’s outros (such as the Joker’s) are definitely in the Mortal Kombat mould. With gorgeous in-game graphics, a fantastic amount of variety thanks to all of the character’s different special attacks and gameplay mechanics and the stage transitions, and a simple to learn, easy to master fighting system, Injustice is an extremely enjoyable game for anyone who’s a fan of either franchise or fighting games in general. The story is a breeze to get through (thought it is essentially every basic multiverse story ever told in comics) and nicely varied with some QTE sequences; the S.T.A.R. Labs missions and different arcade ladders are much more enjoyable and challenging than in its sister-series and there are plenty of character options, variety, and unlockables to keep you busy. Best of all, the game isn’t bogged down by endless grinding to unlock Gear, skins, or other perks and is a much more user-friendly and accessible fighting game, and overall experience, than its sequel.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Were you a fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us? What did you think to it as a blend of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics? What were your thoughts on the game’s story and its depiction of a parallel world terrorised by a corrupted Superman? Which of the game’s fighters was your favourite and why? Did you buy the base game and all the DLC packs separately or did you pick up the Ultimate Edition when it released later? What did you think to the additional DLC characters and skins? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? Which DC Comics videogame, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Are you a fan of multiverse stories and crossovers? Whatever you think about Injustice, leave a comment down below and be sure to check back in next Wednesday for more Crossover Crisis content!

Game Corner: Injustice 3 Roster Wish List

GameCorner

To say that I was disappointed with Injustice 2 (NetherRealm Studios, 2017) would be an understatement; I really enjoyed the first game, Injustice: Gods Among Us (ibid, 2013), which actually blended the characters of DC Comics with the nuanced, hyper violent fighting of NetherRealm’s recent Mortal Kombat (ibid, 2011 to present) videogames in a way the dismal Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) failed to do. While still lacking in the over-the-top gore and Fatalities of NetherRealm’s infamous franchise and having a few wonky mechanics (such as the rock/paper/scissors-style “Clash” mechanic), Injustice was an enjoyable experience with a wide roster of characters, skins, and additional gameplay options to choose from.

Injustice2Gear
The “Gear” system really let Injustice 2 down.

While I enjoyed Injustice 2’s story mode and roster for the most part, the game was really let down by the “Gear” system. The randomness of acquiring new Gear for your favourite characters was annoying, the fact that the game basically forced you to pay real money for the best Gear and Premium skins really irked me, and the fact that I couldn’t customise characters exactly as I wanted meant I sold the game soon after completing it. With the release and success of Mortal Kombat 11 (NetherRealm Studios, 2019) and subsequent downloadable characters and content (DLC), and the fact that NetherRealm is owned by Warner Bros., it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’ll be seeing an Injustice 3 at some point in the near future. However, if that is to be the case, I figured I’d take the time to talk about some options I’d like to see implemented into the game’s roster, similar to my thoughts regarding guest characters for Mortal Kombat 11. I should mention, though, that I can’t guarantee that I’ll take the time to purchase Injustice 3 even if all of these were implemented as NetherRealm would need to make a lot of gameplay changes to make up for the poor experience I had with Injustice 2 but it’s always fun to speculate so let’s get to it.

Injustice3WishLogo
Roster Wish List
Injustice3WishBatman
Less Bat-Characters

If it’s one thing I’ve disliked about the Injustice series since the first game, it’s their reliance on Batman and Bat-related characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Batman; I am a massive Batman fan and I totally get that he’s DC’s most popular and financially successful and bankable character. He’s always at the forefront of any comics, cartoons, movies, and videogames they produce and, as a fan, that’s great to see but Injustice 2 really took the piss with their dependence on Batman, his allies, and his rogues.

Injustice3WishScarecrow
I liked Scarecrow’s design I just wonder if Parallax or Nekron would’ve been a better fit.

I kind of got behind Scarecrow; he was voiced by the always sinister Robert Englund and had a monstrous redesign in Injustice 2 but that’s also part of the problem. Although he’s boasted about his “Crane style” of fighting in the past, the Scarecrow is not a character I traditionally associate as being a physical threat to anyone, much less Batman, and I can’t help but wonder if another fear-based character like Parallax might have been a better fit, or even the Spectre or Nekron, whose design is eerily reminiscent of Scarecrow’s in Injustice 2.

Injustice3WishRedHood
Why not use Grifter instead of clogging up the roster with another Bat-character?

Similarly, Red Hood was included as a DLC character and, while I quite liked his design and the way he played, did we really need to go back to the Bat-Family for such a character? I mean Grifter is right there and would have helped diversify the scope of the roster a bit more and they still could have used Red Hood as a Premium skin or something similar to how Black Lightning and Power Girl were slapped on to Raiden and Supergirl, respectively.

Injustice3WishBatman2
DC has plenty of heroes and villains to choose from who aren’t associated with Batman.

Injustice 2 also brought back Bane, who had a pretty terrible redesign this time around. I get that Bane is popular and one of Batman’s top-tier foes but NetherRealm could have used the likes of Orion or even Big Barda instead if they wanted another power character on the roster. I like Bane but, when your roster includes Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, some Bat-fat needs to be trimmed. Speaking of Poison Ivy, could we not have gotten Golden Glider instead, maybe? The Flash got a surprising amount of representation in Injustice 2 with both Gorilla Grodd and Reverse-Flash being on the roster but could we not have brought back Killer Frost instead? Or even used Silver Swan so that Wonder Woman had another adversary to butt heads with?

Injustice3WishHarleyJoker
You want the most popular characters but you also want diversity, surely?

It’s a tricky thing and I totally get it; you want the Joker and Harley Quinn in the game because they’re popular, mainstream Bat-villains but DC has such a wide assortment of villains who would be just as suitable and allow the roster to be diverse and inclusive at the same time. It just feels like characters like Aquaman and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman get the shaft a bit because they don’t have as interesting of well-known allies or villains to include but, if NetherRealm add too many more Bat-characters, they may as well just rebrand the series as Batman: The Fighter or something.

Injustice3WishObscure
More Obscure Roster

Speaking of obscure, I was really hoping for Injustice 2 to bust out John Constantine as a DLC character and, certainly, including Swamp Thing definitely seemed to be lending some credibility towards that, or Constantine being included in the sequel. Bring back Matt Ryan to voice the character and have the Keanu Reeves version be a separate skin and we could be on to a winner; unlike the likes of Doctor Fate or Zatanna (who I’ll get to later), I feel Constantine should fight mainly through the use of familiars and summoned demons rather than traditional magic or physical attacks, which would help keep him unique amongst his other peers.

Injustice3WishPlasticMan
Plastic Man is at the top of my list for Injustice 3‘s roster.

While I’m on the subject of unique characters, NetherRealm would seriously be missing a trick if they don’t include Plastic Man in Injustice 3. Plastic Man could be such a diverse and wacky fighter thanks to being able to stretch and contort and transform into all sorts of wild and crazy shapes and forms; he could add some comedy relief to the proceedings and you could even have the Elongated Man (terrible name, by the way) and Offspring as optional skins.

Injustice3WishRagDeadman
Ragman and Deadman would be great, unique additions to the roster.

I’d also like to see Ragman make an appearance; I don’t know what it is about this guy but I really feel like he’s an under-rated and under-exposed DC character. Ragman could take on a wraith like appearance and play like a cross between Spawn and Noob Saibot from Mortal Kombat 11, teleporting across the field, unleashing demonic tentacles and shadows from his cloak, and wrapping opponents up in his rags. Sticking with the supernatural characters, NetherRealm could also bring in Deadman; Deadman could possess other fighters, kind of like Quan Chi would do, or make himself intangible, and again opens the door for some comedy relief in the game’s usually bleak and dire story mode.

Injustice3WishAntiMonitor
NetherRealm shouldn’t feel like characters are off limits.

Finally, as mentioned before, NetherRealm really needs to expand on the roster for the villains they use; I like Black Adam but why not bring in Dr. Sivanna in a multi-purpose mech? He could even have Mister Mind with him or, if NetherRealm wanted to get really wacky, Mister Mind could be a playable character! Some characters are criminally under-rated with their villains and allies as well; Black Manta needs to stay, for example, but Ocean Master should probably be included too. Why not include the likes of Onomatopoeia, Eclipso, or Starbreaker? I’m somewhat expecting Injustice 3 to top the threat of Brainiac with the Anti-Monitor so maybe we’ll also see more characters from across the Multiverse make an appearance, like Doctor Manhattan and Rorschach.

Injustice3WishDiversity
More Diverse Roster

These days, more than ever, diversity is a big deal in media and, being as it’s been quite a big deal in comics for some time, it’s only fair that NetherRealm try to lean into it for Injustice 3. That means bringing back Zatanna, for one thing, maybe bringing in Katana as well for some slice-and-dice sword-based combat and upgrading Black Lightning from a Premier skin to a main roster character.

Injustice3WishDiversity2
DC has plenty of diverse alternatives to popular characters.

NetherRealm have some other options they can use these days as well; why reuse Hal Jordan when you could bring in Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, either separately or as a tag team character? I’d love to suggest Huntress as well but that kind of violates my call for less Bat-characters but perhaps if she was used in place of Robin or Nightwing it could work. Similarly, I’d quite like to see Connor Hawke used as Green Arrow rather than Oliver Queen; again, there’s nothing stopping NetherRealm having Ollie and Hal and these other characters as skins but push the diversity first rather than burying Black Lightning behind the likes of Raiden.

Injustice3WishGuestFighters
Guest Characters

NetherRealm has gone from strength to strength with their guest characters since the 2011 Mortal Kombat and Injustice 2 had some really good guest fighters: Hellboy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were surprisingly fun additions and Starfire and Enchantress should definitely be upgraded to main roster status for the third game.

Injustice3WishGuestFighters2
DC has had a lot of crossovers in the past that NetherRealm could draw from.

NetherRealm have made a habit of including a popular Mortal Kombat character in the Injustice games so far and, while Liu Kang or Johnny Cage would be good choices for Injustice 3, I’d quite like to see Jax make the cut. I reckon his straight-talking, no-nonsense style could lead to some fun interactions with the DC characters and it’d be a less obvious choice. For the other guest fighters, NetherRealm should look into DC’s long history of inter-company crossovers and bring in the likes of the Shadow, the Mask, and even Judge Dredd. I would have loved to see Spawn mix it up with Batman again but NetherRealm don’t reuse guest fighters so, in his absence, bringing in some unexpected guest fighters would be the best way to go; Dredd could borrow a lot of RoboCop’s move set, the Shadow could borrow from Erron Black (maybe even have him as a skin), and ideally the Mask could replace the likes of the Joker but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

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Returning Characters

I’ve touched on this a bit above but if it’s one thing that’s disappointed me about NetherRealm’s games it’s that they don’t tend to carry fighters over from one game or another; if a character is a DLC fighter in one game, for example, they don’t tend to be promoted to a main roster fighter in the next game and that’s a shame as it means we have to miss out on obscure characters like Tremor or one of my personal favourites, Rain, not making the main roster.

I missed some of these fighters in Injustice 2.

Injustice has been the same so far, meaning the Martian Manhunter was sorely missing in Injustice 2 when he really could have added to the game’s roster. I’m also a little biased in that I’d much rather see Deathstroke rather than Deadshot but that’s because I find Deathstroke to be the more versatile, popular, and interesting character as he’s not just a guy with a gun. This also meant that neither General Zod or Lobo showed up in Injustice 2, a game where Superman could really do with another villain other than Lex Luthor. I get that NetherRealm want to keep the rosters fresh and showcase more of the DC cast of characters but when you have Hawkgirl in one game and Poison Ivy in the other, you’re limiting the scope of your world to just Bat-characters.

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What are some things you’d like to see added or tweaked in Injustice 3? Which characters would you like to see return, dropped, or debut? Who are your picks for Injustice 3’s guest fighters? Do you think NetherRealm could pull off another Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe title now that they’ve done such a good job with the solo efforts? Whatever you think about Injustice and Mortal Kombat, feel free to drop a comment below.

Game Corner: Mortal Kombat 11 Guest Characters

GameCorner
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I’m a bit late with this but NetherRealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat 11 will be coming later this year and, as with every Mortal Kombat, fans have immediately started asking several questions: What characters will be returning? What new characters will be included? What will the story be? What new, or returning, gameplay mechanics can we expect? Just how brutal will the Fatalities be?

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Guest fighters are now commonplace in Mortal Kombat titles.

And, of course, the question of guest characters. After the inclusion of Freddy Krueger in Mortal Kombat (ibid, 2011), Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015) featured four guest characters from outside the franchise: Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Alien, and Predator. This may have been a bit of overkill; I would argue that it would have been enough to just have Alien and Predator and that the other two DLC spots could have gone to some classic Mortal Kombat characters but it does set a tone for what we can potentially expect from Mortal Kombat 11.

The question of guest characters has been brought up to me in conversations about the videogame so I figured I would talk about a couple of characters I’d really like to see turn up as DLC in Mortal Kombat 11.

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Pennywise would be my first choice.

The first is Bob Gray, better known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the eponymous “It” from Stephen King’s classic 1986 novel. Honestly, I would argue that it’s extremely likely that we could see Pennywise in Mortal Kombat 11 as NetherRealm Studios is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, which is itself a subsidiary of Warner Bros., the studio behind It: Chapter One (Muschietti, 2017), It: Chapter Two (ibid, 2019), and Stephen King’s It (Wallace, 1990). As a result, the rights shouldn’t be any more of an issue than they were to get Freddy or Jason into the game. While it’d be nice to bring in Bill Skarsgård to voice the character, NetherRealm Studios would most likely do what they did with Freddy and simply have It chuckle, roar, and growl as It attacks. Given that Mortal Kombat 11 is set to bring back character variations, which allows each character to have three slightly different playstyles, each one associated with a different costume, I would hope to see NetherRealm Studios continue what they did with Leatherface when it comes to Pennywise’s variants.

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Seeing It’s different looks would be an essential inclusion.

Each of Leatherface’s variants was modelled on a different outfit from one of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (various, 1974-2017) movies. Since DLC characters tend not to have the same amount of additional costumes as regular fighters, I’d do the same for Pennywise; have one variation be modelled after Pennywise’s 2017 look, one after his 1990 look, and one more closer to his depiction in the books (a shiny, silver suit with big orange pompoms and a bow tie, as illustrated above by Mikael Quites).

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Make use of Pennywise’s warped sense of humour.

Next, for Pennywise’s general moveset and depiction, I see Pennywise as a very grounded all-rounder. It would have an average jump height, speed, and recovery and could clash at opponents with claws, fangs, and tentacles. I would look back to what NetherRealm Studios did with Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat and the Joker in their Injustice titles (NetherRealm Studios, 2013; 2017), specifically in Injustice 2, where the Joker was depicted as a nightmarish clown. Just imagine seeing Pennywise morph through some different forms or holding a balloon (or a bunch of balloons) in front of Its face while taunting Its opponent, perhaps while munching on a child’s arm. Pennywise’s special moves could be as varied as you want; I remember being really disappointed with how limited, boring, and weak Freddy’s special moves were in Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm Studios really made up for this with Mortal Kombat X’s guest characters.

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Mesmerise a foe or just chew on their flesh!

Pennywise could warp from one side of the screen to another in a cloud of orange smoke or a burst of orange light, stun or screw up an opponent’s controls with a Deadlight Gaze similar to Quan Chi’s Trance from MKX, and chomp away at the opponent’s face and neck with those big old vampire teeth like Mileena’s Pounce from MKX or Reptile’s Fatality from Mortal Kombat 4 (Midway Games, 1997).

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Let’s get those spider legs in there!

I’d also like to see Pennywise dart towards the opponent with spider legs like in the 2017 movie and similar to D’Vorah’s attacks, maybe summon a bunch of drowned dead kids to hold the opponent in place, and grab the opponent whilst spewing toxic bile over them in Its Leper form. I would avoid using balloons in any of Pennywise’s moves and save them for the intro and outro animations but I guess It could use them as explosive traps to propel the opponent into the air.

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As for the X-Ray moves, I’d like to see Pennywise morph into a gruesome variant of the Frankenstein Monster and the Mummy and perform a move similar to Jason’s Back Breaker/Tight Squeeze and have It crush the ribcage of the opponent, and use those razor-sharp fangs to crush the opponent’s shoulder blade.

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You can’t have Pennywise and not do the Spider…right?

For Pennywise’s Fatalities, you have to go back to the Spider-It; take inspiration from the 1990 version, yes, but I would also either incorporate anything used in It: Chapter Two (if this form even appears) and both the Alien’s Killer Queen Fatality and Scorpion’s transformation from Mortal Kombat 4. Have Pennywise contort and twist into a giant, crazed spider; have It impale the opponent through the chest/stomach, tear their upper body off, and then drop their still screaming form into its salivating jaws.

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The Deadlights could melt foes to their bones!

It’s other Fatality could be based on the depiction of the Deadlights in It: Chapter One; have Pennywise grab the opponent and Its head split open, mesmerising the opponent so they float up to the Deadlights that then melt the flesh off their bones similar to Nightwolf’s Ascension Fatality from Mortal Kombat.

Brutalities are generally quite standard but you could have Pennywise rip the opponent’s head or limbs off and start gnawing away, slice the opponent’s legs off at the knees with Its spider legs, maybe toss a balloon at the opponent’s face that explodes in a burst of Deadlights and has the opponent’s head explode.

As for Pennywise’s story and ending…well, these are never that strong or defined for Mortal Kombat’s DLC fighters; Pennywise’s status as a transdimensional being means that It could easily be sucked into the Mortal Kombat universe and want to compete for chance to dine on new fears and new flesh. Its ending would simply be to accumulate the power necessary to spread Itself over the multiverse and feast for all eternity, or perhaps even eat Itself to death, or, maybe, some kind of hint towards King’s interconnected multiverse.

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I’ll take Spawn any time!

The other guest character I think is perfectly suited to Mortal Kombat is, of course, Spawn. If he hadn’t already appeared in Injustice 2, I would have also suggested Hellboy but Spawn also has a high probability of appearing as Todd McFarlane, the character’s creator, has all-but-guaranteed that his violent anti-hero will make the cut later this year.

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Spawn’s no stranger to being a guest fighter.

While McFarlane is known for blowing a lot of smoke when it comes to his most popular creation, it cannot be denied that Spawn would be a great fit for Mortal Kombat; Spawn was also previously a guest fighter in the Xbox version of SoulCalibur II (Project Soul/Namco, 2002) so a lot of his moveset could be drawn from that title. His story would also be just as simple as him being transported across dimensions and fighting to get back home, though I’d have his ending be suitably dire and angst-ridden, like he ends up displacing Malebolgia and becoming an evil despot intent on conquering the multiverse.

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Safe to say that Spawn’s look has changed a lot over the years.

Spawn also has a few distinctive looks that could be used for his variations; the classic Spawn look is a must, as is his tattered-and-torn look, and maybe Medieval Spawn, Angel Spawn, the Redeemer, or some other look could be incorporated into his last variant. Spawn could emerge through a hellfire portal like Freddy, or simply teleport himself in a burst of Necroplasm, and you could even bring in the legendary Keith David to reprise his much-lauded role as the character’s voice artist.

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Spawn’s brute strength and magic could pummel foes.

Spawn is a great opportunity to carry over some of the superhero-stylings of Injustice 2 thanks to his vast and varied moveset; Spawn could do variants of Superman’s Flying Punch, Lockdown Launch, and/or Rising Grab while teleporting in a manner similar to Scorpion, use his cape to float over the battlefield and launch himself down at opponents, and blast out energy bolts or beams (similar to Doctor Fate) that could set the opponent on fire.

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Go back to Kratos for an idea of Spawn’s moveset.

Spawn also has the added bonus of being well-known for his cape and chains; he could incorporate a Cape Parry similar to Batman’s, or wrap his opponents up in it like Sindel used to with her hair, and whip his chains around in a flurry like Takeda in MKX, Kratos in Mortal Kombat, and Scarecrow in Injustice 2. Spawn is also known for using heavy-duty firearms so could bust out a machine gun or rocket launcher like Jax did in MKX, or these could possibly be saved for his grabs and throws.

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Spawn should definately send his foes to Hell!

For his X-Rays, Spawn could grab his opponent’s head in both hands and crush their skull, or use his chains to draw them in close and snap their joints. I did have an idea for one Fatality that, similar to the Killer Queen, would see Spawn summon Malebolgia but, rather than repeat myself, I think it might be better to do something like the stage transition from Injustice: Gods Among Us and Cyborg’s Super Move from Injustice 2, which sees the opponent launched to Apokolips and assaulted by Darkseid and Parademons, respectively, only replace Apokolips with hell similar to that seen in Scorpion’s Fatalities/outros and Darkseid and the Parademons with Malebolgia, the Violator, and other Hellspawn.

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Spawn’s powers would allow for some gruesome Fatalities.

As for his second Fatality, Spawn could wrap his cape around the opponent’s head and suffocate them, or crush it, but that’s a bit lame; perhaps something similar to Reptile’s Weight Loss Fatality from Mortal Kombat or Scorpion’s Super Move from Injustice: Gods Among Us would be better and a good way to reincorporate some brutal moves previously used by other characters in other games. I’d also look back to Kratos, Takeda, maybe even Kabal for inspiration for Spawn’s Brutalities, which could be anything from detonating a grenade or energy blast in an opponent’s mouth to tearing their limbs off with his chains.

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Scorpion is eager for some fresh faces to set on fire!

In the end, Mortal Kombat 11 is sure to have its fair share of guest characters; for me, drawing from horror movies and violent superheroes/comics is a great starting point as certain characters just fit the franchise. NetherRealm Studios might seek to incorporate faces more familiar to their franchise, which I wouldn’t be adverse to (I’m looking at you, Rain!), or to other franchises (perhaps Chucky or Michael Myers, maybe even someone really obscure like Pumpkinhead!) but, for me, using Pennywise makes sense as It is a natural inclusion, is basically owned by the studio already, and has a big movie coming out this year so it all ties together as a marketing move, and Spawn is as natural an inclusion as someone like Hellboy or Kratos. You’d be hard pressed to find a more violent anti-hero, who still retains a lot of the popularity he had in the mid-nineties, without alienating the kids who might force their parents to buy them this super-gory game just because Batman has been included.

Time will tell who will make the cut but let me know in the comments what you think of these picks, who you would like to see show up, and your opinion of guest characters and Mortal Kombat in general.

Game Corner: Injustice 2: Legendary Edition (Xbox One)

GameCorner
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Given that Warner Brothers bought Midway back when they were forced to shut up shop, it should have been seen as inevitable that a videogame would be made that mashed together characters from the Mortal Kombat series with those of the DC Universe. Of course, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) was quite the barebones, lacklustre effort compared to the spiritual successor, Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013).

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Brainiac is coming to collect the Earth!

Injustice was generally applauded not only for its graphics, gameplay, and competitive fighting mechanics but also its story mode; NetherRealm Studios have seemingly perfected the art of infusing their fighters with an in-depth and genuinely captivating single play story and Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017; 2018) continues this trend. After the Justice League travel to a parallel world to help end the reign of a dictator-like Superman and his regime of similarly-evil former heroes, the Injustice-world faces a new threat in the form of Brainiac. Though Batman attempts to rally a new generation of heroes against Brainiac, they have no choice but to free Superman from his red sun prison cell in order to combat the threat and enter into an uneasy alliance.

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A good roster, bogged down with one-too-many Batman characters.

A fighting game is only as good as its roster; like Injustice, Injustice 2 has an unhealthy obsession with Batman characters – Batman, the Joker, Robin, Poison Ivy, Red Hood, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot bloat out the roster. While it is a little disappointing that this appears to have caused other, unique characters such as Booster Gold or Doctor Sivana miss the cut, Injustice 2 does bring some welcome new faces to the game; Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Atrocitus, Gorilla Grodd, and Doctor Fate are just some of the new heroes and villains available to play as. The Legendary Edition also includes some fantastic downloadable characters, such as Hellboy, Black Manta, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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Every character has a unique play style.

Every character boasts their own unique combos, special moves, and super moves and plays a little differently; Darkseid, for example, is slow and methodical, Supergirl is a much faster character, while characters like Green Arrow and Batman rely more on their gadgets and skills to succeed. Successfully pulling off combos, counters, and landing attacks allows players to build up their super meter and power up their special moves or execute a world-ending super move. Each character starts with three loadout slots, which can be increased to five, that allow you to gear up Aquaman, for example, to have one loadout the favours attack, one that favours health, one that favours special moves, and so on, depending on the gear you apply. You can also apply this gear to AI Loadouts and have them fight for you, which is kind of weird and I’m not sure why you would want to do that rather than play the game yourself but it is useful for the game’s Endless and Survival modes.

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Injustice 2‘s stage selection levels much to be desired.

While Injustice 2 has a decent roster, it doesn’t have much in the way of stages; there are only twelve stages to pick from and they’re not really that dynamic or interesting. You can still send characters flying to other parts of the stage, which is fun, but it seems there’s a lot less opportunities to do this than in Injustice. There are also some fun stage interactions to be had, like smashing Swamp Thing over the head with a crocodile in Slaughter Swamp, but, again, it seemed that there were more and better stage interactions in Injustice.

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Customise each fighter with the Gear System.

The primary selling point of Injustice 2 is the Gear System; winning matches not only earns experience points for each character and the player’s profile but also awards numerous gear. Players can then apply this gear to each character to boost their attributes, gain performance buffs (such as greater attack strength against Metahumans), alter the character’s costumes, and even unlock different special moves. Winning matches also earns the player coins and crystals, which can used to buy Mother Boxes and unlock more gear, transform or combine gear to make it stronger, or unlock Premier Skins for certain characters.

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Premier Skins are available…at a price.

Premier Skins allow you to play as new characters; Cheetah, for example, has a Premier Skin that turns her into Vixen and Raiden’s Premier Skin is Black Lighting. This is great, as it effectively adds even more characters to the game’s roster; the only downside is that, to purchase Premier Skins, you need Source Crystals, which are few and far between. You’re therefore forced to grind over and over, levelling up your profile and characters, to earn a pittance of Source Crystals or spend real money. This latter appears to be what NetherRealm Studios want you to do as it is extremely difficult to earn enough Source Crystals as the Premier Skins carry a hefty price tag, and only the best Mother Boxes and rewards can be earned through spending real money, it seems, making the in-game currency all but worthless. Unlocking gear and applying it to characters is fun but, let’s be honest, you won’t be applying all of your gear to every character as some characters are better than others and some or just dead weight. The biggest downside to the Gear System is that, unlike in Injustice, it is the gear that determines what your character will look like; therefore, you can’t just select Green Lantern and choose to play as Yellow lantern, you have to unlock the correct gear and colour palette (which also require Source Crystals), which is quite disappointing and annoying.

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The clash mechanic as as annoying as ever.

In terms of gameplay, Injustice 2 is very similar to its predecessor with a noticeable increase in AI competency; I played the entire game on Very Easy and, on more than one occasion, noticed that the AI doesn’t take any shit. If you spam moves or favour a certain tactic, the AI calls you out on it and gives you a competitive match more often than not. The story mode is fun to play through but a breeze; I finished it in within two casual days of gameplay and only went back to it to finish off the branching paths. The clash mechanic returns from Injustice and it’s just as annoying as ever; as you take damage, you can spend your super meter initiating a clash and pressing a button in a rock/paper/scissors type of mini game, which will either deal additional damage or restore your health. It seems that the AI always busts out a clash at the worst or most annoying opportunities and it’s easily to most frustrating part of the game.

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Take on the entire Multiverse…once you’re levelled up enough…

Similar to Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015), Injustice 2 utilises an ever-changing Multiverse mode that allows players to fight a number of opponents and obtain better rewards. These change hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly and often carry certain themes that will be familiar to DC Comics fans; you can also use the Battle Simulator to play traditional tournament modes or battle endless opponents. One thing I will praise about Injustice 2 is that every battle is different; I don’t think I ever fought the same version of a character twice as it seems every match sees random gear and colour schemes applied to the opponent. You can also join a Guild and take part in Guild Multiverses and challenges to unlock even more Mother Boxes and rewards; these are far more challenging than the regular Multiverse modes and, similarly, the best Multiverse rewards are only available when you’ve levelled a character up to level twenty or thirty, meaning that you’re going to have to play again and again and grind over and over to reap the benefits.

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Unlocking stuff is time-consuming and random.

Honestly, maybe I’m a bit jaded, but I don’t find myself particularly enthusiastic about stepping up to this challenge; Injustice 2 features a wealth of Achievements, many you can sweep through regular gameplay, but the more specific ones (such as maxing every character’s level out) just seem like too much of a chore. I really don’t like that I have earned so many in-game coins and yet I cannot use them to purchase Premier Skins or extra colour palettes; I don’t really want to spend my actual money buying them, was disappointed to see that they weren’t already unlocked in the Legendary Edition, and am not sure I can be bothered to grind over and over to unlock them.

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Want the best stuff? You better have deep pockets!

In the end, Injustice 2 is good; it’s fun to play, the story mode is decent, and the graphics are very impressive but there’s not too much calling me back to it. I played Injustice pretty much to death working my way through the challenge mode but you have to put some serious effort in to challenge the best Multiverses and the motivation is severely lacking this time around just because the best gear and rewards are either really rare or too expensive. Maybe, next time around, NetherRealm Studios should limit the in-game currency to two forms (one to buy stuff, one to upgrade stuff) and move away from forcing players into spending their real-world money on additional extras, especially if they’re going to bring out a Legendary Edition after the initial versions.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better