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Injustice 2: Legendary Edition (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 01.04.2018

Review for Injustice 2: Legendary Edition on PlayStation 4

When Injustice 2 originally hit the shelves last year, it released as a highly polished, feature-rich brawler, packed with a diverse and interesting roster of characters. Unsurprisingly, it proved to be a critical success right across the board that ended up getting nominated for nearly 50 awards and was even given the prestigious 'Fighting Game of the Year' award by no less than 13 different organisations. The lengthy list of accolades were entirely justified as NetherRealm had succeeded in delivering a satisfyingly robust package that tightened up and expanded on pretty much every aspect that made its predecessor so great. A season's worth of downloadable content materialised in the form of ten additional characters and, as is now the norm, these have been bundled together with the main game and re-packaged as an expanded Legendary Edition, with a handful of bonus premium character skins thrown in to further sweeten the deal.

Back in 2013, NetherRealm Studios unleashed the DC Comics affiliated brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us onto an unsuspecting public, which took place in an alternate universe where Batman and Superman had become sworn enemies. While it's an unlikely scenario, a division between the normally chummy crime fighters was crucial to driving the story forward, as well as providing an explanation as to why a cast of generally do-gooder characters were so willing to batter the living daylights out of one another. The factional rift, and ensuing conflict, was very much an indirect result of pledging allegiance to either Team Batman or Team Superman, although, for the sake of balance, there were also a selection of villains tossed into the mix. The alternate universe version of Superman comes across as an embittered bad guy, no doubt as a result of falling for the Joker's ruse that not only saw him killing Lois Lane but inadvertently detonating a nuclear device in the process that wiped out Metropolis, along with the lives of millions of innocents. It was a pretty dark story from the DC stable that spawned an accompanying graphic novel franchise, which helped establish a canonical background story that was used to expand upon details where necessary.

Injustice 2: Legendary Edition picks up five years on from where the first game left off with [minor spoiler] Superman still being held captive by Batman under the debilitating rays of a Kryptonian red sun generator, which prevented any attempts to escape by sapping his normally superhuman strength. The main protagonist of the piece is introduced via a prologue that flashes back to the final hours of Superman's home planet, Krypton, in which he plays an instrumental role in its destruction. Brainiac is a collector at the mercy of a neverending quest for knowledge, which he pursues forcefully by shrinking and bottling other planets and civilisations like an over-zealous pickling enthusiast, destroying all remnants in the process. The baby Kal-El (who later grows up to become Superman) escapes the doomed Krypton courtesy of his quick-thinking parents who have a vehicle prepared for such an emergency, although he's not alone in doing so as his cousin, Kara Zor-El (Supergirl), also manages to evacuate successfully. It will be many years before they are reunited.

Back to the present and Batman is slowly patching up the aftermath of the recent conflicts and has made some fairly unlikely allegiances in the process, the most notable being Harley Quinn, who appears to be a reformed character in the wake of the Joker's murder at the hands of Superman. It's not all plain sailing, though, as Batman is still having to deal with Superman loyalists that are intent on freeing their leader and these seem to be intrinsically linked to an increased number of incursions by new faction of villains led by General Grodd, the guerrilla gorilla. It soon becomes apparent that these emboldened bad guys are covertly working at the behest of Brainiac, who has discovered Superman's whereabouts and is orchestrating his release for his own nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, having spent quality time on Earth, while attempting to track down Krypton's favourite son, Brainiac predictably takes a shine to it and decides that it's worthy of his collection. It seems that Batman has no choice but to turn to his captive nemesis and ask for his assistance in dealing with this new threat before he gets the chance to make good on his plans.

Screenshot for Injustice 2: Legendary Edition on PlayStation 4

NetherRealm has very much set the standard with its story campaigns, knowing first-hand how to craft a well-structured and compelling narrative, as evidenced by the two most recent Mortal Kombat titles, as well as its DC Universe crossover, and it's a blueprint that even Capcom attempted to clone for its Street Fighter V story mode (but failed miserably). Where the traditional, long-serving brawler campaign usually goes the route of picking a character, taking on and beating a sequence of contenders in a variety of scenic backdrops, only to be rewarded with a short cut-scene at the end pertaining to that character's fate, Injustice 2: Legendary Edition plays out like a fully-fledged movie, with each cut-scene punctuated by a bout of fisticuffs. Story progress halts until the relevant battles have been won and, on the occasion where multiple characters are involved, the player is offered the choice of what fight they want to participate in, giving the impression of a forked path. There are a total of 28 playable character in the vanilla package (obviously the Legendary Edition also bundles in all the DLC characters… more on those later) and NetherRealm has pretty much managed to weave all of them into the campaign somehow, which does occasionally make for a few fairly tenuous appearances. Swamp Thing's brief emergence, for example, does feel puzzlingly out of place, as does the very youthful-looking (if ever so slightly deceased) Joker, who appears as a Scarecrow-induced halluciation. With that said, though, if there's no Joker... there's no party.

There is a decent, well-rounded selection of heroes/villains available straight off the bat, including a lot of lesser known individuals (Captain Cold, Cheetah, Blue Beetle, Black Canary, Firestorm, to name a few) to counter some of the better known characters that were expected to make an appearance (Bane, Catwoman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman). Lex Luthor, however, is conspicuous by his absence. This time around, NetherRealm has included a levelling-up system for each individual character, which, besides encouraging persistent play, also ties in well with the Multi-verse mode and the new loot system. Yes, Injustice 2: Legendary Edition features a very comprehensive loot system that operates in a similar fashion to an MMO in that there is a constant drip of new gear incoming (split between legs, torso, arms, head, weapon) that range from Common to Epic in value. Some items are purely cosmetic, others can enhance certain individual attributes, some can only be equipped once the fighter hits a specified level, and all can be regenerated or sold for the in-game currency to buy Mother Boxes (loot containers that are also earned by completing tasks). Not only does this bring a high level of unique customisation to the table, but successfully collecting full armour sets can actually provide particular advantages/defences against particular types of attacks or individuals (Kryptonite armour anyone?). The only downside to this, of course, is the same old affliction that affects all other loot-centric titles, such as Diablo or Borderlands, in that ten minutes of admin is required at the end of each session just to sift through and equip every new item in the hopper. Multi-verse world problems.

Screenshot for Injustice 2: Legendary Edition on PlayStation 4

Anybody that's played Mortal Kombat X will notice straightaway that Injustice 2: Legendary Edition shares a lot of similarities with its fight mechanics, menu layout, control mapping, and generally dark, gritty tone. While the DualShock 4 probably isn't the greatest controller for fighting games, it still feels very responsive, with both the left stick and d-pad providing alternate movement options, although obviously a dedicated fight stick or pad will always be the preferred choice for those more serious about laying down the hurt. The move-set is simple enough to get to grips with but provides enough depth to reward those willing to sink the time into training and button mashing practitioners will always get embarrassingly shown up when they come up against an opponent with skill. Mortal Kombat-style fatality moves aren't part and parcel of the Injustice franchise, however, the interactivity with background items and transitional punches into other nearby areas remain and always look very cool when pulled off successfully. Regular play charges up a power meter, which, when full, can be used to deploy a character-specific special move that tends to highlight their powers in a spectacular way; however, these moves can be blocked/avoided, so it's all about the timing. The meter can also be used to activate clashes between the two combatants, which offers the instigator the opportunity to win a chunk of health back, providing they wager more bars than their opponent.

One of the main criticisms that was thrown at Street Fighter V upon its release was its lack of inclusive content, although Capcom has at least gone to some lengths to remedy this of late. Thankfully, this isn't an accusation that can be levelled at Injustice 2: Legendary Edition, which enjoys a full feature set and boasts a plethora of modes that cater to fans of both single-player and multiplayer alike. For solo practitioners there is the excellent campaign, of course, as well as self improvement options such as 'Practice' and 'Single Fight,' which are essential for those eager to find competition in the online section. The Multi-verse is probably the biggest time sink for those that aren't in the mood for a social slap down and it's not dissimilar in execution to the Towers in Mortal Kombat X. Here, there are a selection of different alternate universe planets at any given time, each of which offer a variety of missions; some open for any level fighter and others possibly restricting admission to a specified rank but would likely pay out better dividends. It's not unusual to find that a lot of the missions might have a mutator active to alter the gameplay in some interesting or radical way; for example, falling snow balls that temporarily freeze whoever they land on, or a health bar that starts at zero and slowly increases until the opponent has landed the first punch (that's a tough one). All of the Multi-verse events are timed and switch out regularly only to be replaced with another, and some may even only make an appearance for an hour or two at a certain time of the day. It's surprisingly more-ish and a great way to grind for new gear.

Screenshot for Injustice 2: Legendary Edition on PlayStation 4

Of course, Injustice 2: Legendary Edition also caters to lovers of multiplayer gaming, both local and online. As might be expected, the local options involve the traditional Versus mode, which is a simple one-on-one scrap, yet there is also an AI Battle Simulator that allows the creation of an AI-controlled team that can challenge other players for rewards. For those times where there just aren't any mates available to be pummelled, then the Internet comes to the rescue, with a very stable online option that's quick in match-making and seems both lag-free and responsive. There are the now obligatory Ranked, Unranked, and Private matches available, as well as King of the Hill rooms that operate on a 'winner stays on basis,' while the other occupants spectate (and jeer). Guilds can be created that allow up to fifty members to join and fight on behalf of the same cause, as well as providing a good opportunity to earn exclusive Guild-specific Mother Boxes.

As specified earlier, the addition of the ten DLC characters that were added post-release boosts this up to a Legendary Edition and it's pleasing to see that NetherRealm continued to dip into the pool of lesser known DC Universe inhabitants when deciding who needed to make an appearance. Darkseid, Red Hood, Starfire, Black Manta, Enchantress, and The Atom all feel like unique additions to the fold, with the size-changing Atom, in particular, being a real hoot to play as. Mortal Kombat is represented by the looming presence of both Sub-Zero and Raiden, with the bonus roster rounded off nicely by a pair of external licences in the shape of Hellboy and the pizza-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Technically, the Turtles equate to having four characters in one, as each has its own customisation options and fighting style that can be selected individually by creating separate loadouts for each of their specific weapons. Cowabunga, baby! The character skins that were originally included in the Ultimate Edition of the game have also been thoughtfully bundled in and help create unique character versions of Power Girl, Reverse-Flash, Grid, John Stewart Green Lantern, and Black Lightning, which also happen to enjoy the benefits of having had additional voices and dialogue recorded for them. NetherRealm is all about supporting and improving its product, too, as evidenced by a very recently released update. This included a much improved Learn Hub that makes it easier to train each character's move-sets, the addition of a ton of new gear items to collect and equip for all the characters, as well as raising the level cap to 30. Given that this update is available to the entire player base, it should be reason enough for any lapsed Injustice 2 players to jump right back into the fray.

Screenshot for Injustice 2: Legendary Edition on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

If there are still any fans of high impact videogame face-punching left out there that are yet to try out Injustice 2, then there really is no better time to jump on board and pick up a copy of Legendary Edition now. Solo and social brawlers alike will find plenty to love with NetherRealm's dark journey into the heart of the DC Universe, whether it be the compelling campaign, the expanded hero/villain roster, the addictive Multi-verse events, the extensive raft of competitive modes, or its unmatched level of character customisation. Put on the mask, don the cape, grab that fight-stick, pick your side, and commence to laying down the hurt!

Developer

NetherRealm

Publisher

Warner Bros

Genre

Fighting

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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