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e3 2016

Injustice 2

Talking New Additions And Long-Term Vision With Ed Boon
by Brian Shea on Jun 15, 2016 at 07:14 PM
Platform PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer NetherRealm Studios
Rating Teen

The 2013 DC Comics-focused fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us proved to be a smash hit with players and critics. The compelling story that pitted heroes and villains alike against a maniacal alternate universe Superman was an obvious highlight, while the fight mechanics that NetherRealm introduced with 2011's Mortal Kombat were further refined and tweaked to deliver a great game for fighting game fans and fans of the DC Universe. With injustice 2, game director Ed Boon and his team at NetherRealm Studios hope to bring even more innovation to the genre with a more ambitious project.

The story of Injustice 2 continues the narrative of the first game. Superman is in prison after the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us, but a new threat has the heroes debating whether or not they should release the Man of Steel from his imprisonment to help them battle this new, unknown threat. 

Boon says that while crafting the story is a task done in-house at NetherRealm, the process is very much a collaborative one with DC. "They’re a great asset in terms of making sure we’re consistent with the characters, like ‘Batman wouldn’t say that’ or ‘Superman wouldn’t do this’ and keeping us consistent with things," he says. "With Injustice breaking off into our own alternate universe – which is so great about the whole multiverse thing… you can come up with anything – while we wanted to do that, we kind of wanted to jump outside of the box where Superman becomes this dictator and he actually has killed somebody and really serious stuff like that. DC’s very accommodating in letting us do stuff we want outside of the traditional presentation of the characters."

If you enjoyed the fight mechanics of Injustice: Gods Among Us and Mortal Kombat X, you will feel right at home with Injustice 2. Just as Injustice 1 felt like a more refined version of Mortal Kombat (2011), Injustice 2 feels like a slightly more refined version of Mortal Kombat X. The action is familiar, with the returning characters playing similarly to how they controlled in the first game, and the new characters being very easy to pick up and play thanks to the simple input schemes and patterns the team at NetherRealm implemented.

The super moves – Injustice's version of Mortal Kombat's brutal X-ray attacks – return, giving players an ultimate, damaging way to take out a significant chunk of their opponent's health. Whether you're using using Batman's myriad gadgets and vehicles to blast your opponent away, or flooding the arena and feeding your adversary to a massive, prehistoric-looking fish as Aquaman, the super moves look to be more impressive than ever.

According to Boon, the process for designing these massive displays of power is nearly identical to creating the fatalities and X-ray moves of the Mortal Kombat games. "It’s a meeting… anybody who has ideas," he says. "Some people communicate by standing up and describing, some people write a little paragraph, some people illustrate stuff. I still illustrate all my ideas. Sometimes we’ll take something as-is perfectly, and sometimes we’ll take the core of this some and combine them with this one. It’s a collaborative meeting of the minds type of thing."

The major addition that we're seeing with Injustice 2 is the introduction of gear. As you level up, you unlock gear for your fighters, which can be used to customize the characters for the different modes. Each piece of gear not only looks different, but has distinct attributes that boost the skills of the character wearing it. The drop system rewards you at the end of fights with gear of differing rarities. Though I found several pieces of legendary gear with high stats during my few matches that I played, I'm told that the drop-rate for legendary gear will be significantly turned down for the retail release. 

The idea of gear is meant to make it so players are imbalanced, which as any fighting game fan will tell you, violates several of the genre's rules. Boon tells me that it's not about balance, but rather putting unique twists on the genre. "The whole function of it is constant improvement, so it’s not like we want everyone to be balanced from the standpoint of using the gear – that’s the whole purpose," he says. "Where balance comes into play for me is when you’re talking about tournament play or you’re playing with your buddies on the couch or some kind of scenario where you want an even playing field. We are obviously going to be including an option to go into ‘tournament mode’ or ‘regulation mode’ or something like that. To us, the fun part is going to be, ‘oh you beat me and I’m at level 20 and you’re at 18’ or something so I have motivation to get cooler gear and come back at you with my better version of my Batman."

Though most of the gear I got when I was playing as Aquaman was for him, I did find some components for Supergirl and Batman as I smashed my way through the super-powered characters. Once I acquired several pieces, I backed out and customized the characters. I could change each piece of gear individually – I changed Superman's cape, chest plate, and head gear, while leaving the rest of him as he was – as well as swap out the color palette for the characters. Once I had the characters exactly how I wanted them, I was able to save the designs and designate which mode it's for, essentially allowing players to create their own skins.

Injustice 2's arrival is still many months away, but Boon is open about the ambitious post-release plans for the fighter. "With Mortal Kombat 9, we had four DLC characters, Injustice had six, Mortal Kombat X had eight," he recalls. "We are definitely, with every game, trying to extend that DLC even longer. As a matter of fact, Mortal Kombat XL, which had the additional four more, that reached out so far that we’ve announced our next game Injustice 2 and we still had a tournament last week with Mortal Kombat XL. We certainly plan to extend it even further than we did in the past."

Boon also reaffirms his love for introducing guest characters from outside of the universe by way of DLC, which he attributes in part to the popularity of the past guest characters. "I always think there’s a novelty to it and there’s a certain amount of people who think that when they see a guest character that it took the slot of a DC character that they wanted to have," he says. "But you know, Scorpion in Injustice was the most downloaded of all the characters. There was a coolness and a novelty factor to seeing the mixing of the things. Alien and Predator in Mortal Kombat X were the most downloaded of those, so I would be surprised if we didn’t do any of that."

When Man of Steel released in theaters, players were able to download skins from the film for Superman and General Zod. Boon says he wouldn't be surprised if we saw something from the films crossover into Injustice 2. "We would love to, he says. "We haven’t made any kind of concrete things; the game doesn’t come out until 2017, but I think it would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t do like a Wonder Woman movie skin or something like that."

Injustice 2 is set to release in 2017 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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Injustice 2

PlayStation 4, Xbox One
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