What is the "sweet spot" in gaming? A balance between accessibility and complexity, or maybe between story and gameplay? Or, could it be finding the place between fan service and appeal to novices unconcerned with lore? Whatever your definition, Injustice 2 hits multiple sweet spots. It's a precisely tuned fighting game that can be easy or demanding as needed, it has a well acted and incredibly well animated story, and whether you're a DC Comics fan or couldn't care less about men and women in outlandish outfits, I guarantee you'll play through the game's 6 hour campaign with a silly grin on your face.
Less deliberately dark in tone than 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us, the sequel's story brings the fractured Justice League together to defeat Brainiac's plan to destroy the Earth. Along the way, alliances are formed and shattered and relationships are tested. In truth, it isn't the most nuanced, layered story in the world, but it is crammed with sly asides, inside jokes, callbacks and shout outs to pop culture and DC lore. The story's main purpose is to create as many match-ups as possible, and although these can feel less than natural, the plot has a forward momentum that moves relentlessly onward.
Part of the story's goofy success is that Injustice 2 features some of the best facial motion capture, expression, and lip syncing in recent memory. Pair that with excellent voice acting and an incredible score, and the whole package exudes quality -- far more, in fact, than some of the recent cash-grab superhero films that are vomited to the big screen with some regularity. With DC Comics' blessing, NetherRealm Studios has been given quite a bit of freedom in terms of character and costume design, and most are stunning.
Of course, no matter how well delivered, Injustice 2's story is essentially an extended tutorial, a training ground to prepared players for competitive online ranked matches and other, non-story modes, including the expected single matches vs AI, and an ever-changing series of linked matches in "The Multiverse," which neatly avoids any lore conflicts by assuming endless parallel universes where anything is possible.
Beyond the campaign there is a nearly endless amount of content to explore, including an impressive roster of 29 starting heroes, including newcomers Black Canary, Gorilla Grodd, Cheetah, Poison Ivy and Supergirl. Additionally, Injustice 2 has a Gear system that constantly and generously rewards the player with collectibles for completing matches. There are purely cosmetic items, of course, but also some significant gear and ability upgrades, which moves the game into an RPG-like progression mechanic. The loot is plentiful and fun to collect. Some items can be purchased with real world cash but it seems totally unnecessary to ever do so.
Like Injustice, the sequel's fighting mechanics are fine-tuned and can be enjoyed by casual gamers as well as super precise, frame-counting fighting game experts. Movement speed has been increased, allowing a faster paced experience and less time approaching the enemy. As before, there is a meter that fills to allow an over-the-top, cinematic Super Move that is a deliciously brutal finisher.
There are heretics for whom superhero culture holds no appeal or understanding, but I wager that Injustice 2 will captivate even these skeptics. With responsive fighting mechanics, an engaging and fast-moving campaign, a generous roster of characters and top-drawer presentation, Injustice 2 will make everyone at least a temporary fan of the genre.