DC’s comic creations regularly end up in second place to Marvel at the cinema box office - but when it comes to games, Batman and his super-powered squad mates consistently annihilate the Avengers.
2013’s crossover classic Injustice: Gods Among Us proved as much, with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and an entire rogue’s gallery of series villains coming to blows and finally settling scores fans have been dreaming about for decades.
The sequel doesn’t just return for more of the same: developer Netherrealm has learned a lot from the original, as well as the two Mortal Kombat entries it created either side of it.
The result is a comprehensive fighter that’ll keep newcomers entertained, but adds layers of depth for hardcore fans looking to prove themselves against the online opposition.
And it’ll keep kleptomaniacs very, very happy indeed.
Netherrealm is the absolute champ at taking the simple one-on-one fighting game and adapting it around a compelling single-player story - and has been ever since it gave Mortal Kombat a gory reboot in 2011.
Good news, solo brawlers: Injustice 2 continues that trend.
Things pick up where the multiverse-hopping Gods Among Us left off, which can be a little confusing for first-timers. The Justice League is still split, Superman is still in prison, and Batman is still the one that put him there. Sounds dark, right?
Well, it’s nowhere nowhere near as gloomy and sinister as the original, even if it stays on the serious side of DC’s comics universe. There’s no Guardians of the Galaxy-style silliness here - even if that sarcastic scamp Green Arrow does his best. The improved character models (and startlingly realistic facial animations) only add to the impact.
The annoying quick-time sequences from the previous game have been ditched in favour of more focus on the actual fighting. It’s a smart move, one that lets you hop between battles, or settle down to watch the cutscenes between each encounter unfold and piece together the story. Each chapter puts the focus on a few heroes or villains, unfolding the story a bit at a time. You either focus on one character, or pick between a pair of warriors for a few fights before moving onto something new.
It’s enough to get a taster of a large portion of the roster, but you’re almost exclusively playing as the heroes here - you’ll need to head to the multiplayer modes to try out some villains instead. There are a lot of overlapping plot points, too, so there’s a lot to get your head around. At least the action-packed cutscenes and fantastic voice acting make it an easier watch than the box office bomb that was Suicide Squad.
And with so many stars all battling for screen time, you’ll need to pay attention.
A REAL ROGUE’S GALLERY
Injustice 2 is overflowing with characters, from every corner of the DC universe. Each major member of the Justice League makes an appearance, of course, but only true fans will recognise the likes of Firestorm, Blue Beetle and Swamp Thing.
The villainous side of the roster isn’t necessarily filled with the characters you’d expect, either. Signature Batman villain Mr Freeze is out, but the similarly chilly Captain Cold does make the cut - as do Gorilla Grodd, Black Adam and Brainiac.
The original game had an even bigger roster by the end of its DLC-extended lifespan, and I’d expect a fair few characters to make the jump to the sequel eventually. Right now, though, there are plenty to pick up, even if you’re an Injustice veteran.
Old favourites do return from the previous game, of course, this time with tweaked moves and abilities that help keep them feeling fresh. Harley Quinn might have lost her bag o’ tricks, but she makes up for it with two attack hyenas you can call out at any time to give your opponent a savaging.
MANAGE THAT METER
These Hero Powers help extend combos, keep you out of danger, or set up on-screen traps for your opponent to avoid, but you don’t need to built up any meter to use them. They constantly refill over time, so you’ll want to use them as often as you can.
There’s still a familiar super bar, of course, and while it’s satisfying to save it all up to land a round-turning attack, it’s useless if you die before you can pull it off.
Sacrificing some on a block escape, roll escape or air escape can help keep you in the fight. These mechanics add some welcome extra depth to the gameplay, letting you escape from the corner when you’re under pressure, or break out once your opponent has you in a long combo.
It’s a system that’s been adapted from Mortal Kombat X, and it works well here. Button-bash your way through the story and you won’t find much use for them, but these moves are invaluable at higher levels of play. When you come up against a Deadshot player that insists on an infuriating long-range zoning game, they are absolutely critical.
Injustice is a combo-heavy game, after all. The inputs might be simpler than Street Fighter’s mess of quarter circles and charge motions, but you’ll still need to memorise them, and get your timing down to stand a chance against real opponents.
Then there's the Clash system, which forces you and your opponent to second-guess each other, betting a portion (or all) of your meter. Guess right as the defender and you'll some precious life back; guess right as an attacker and you'll deal extra damage. Guess wrong, though, and your enemy gets the bonus - and you lose however much meter you committed to the Clash.
Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough to think about, you’ve now got your character’s gear to worry about as well.