'Injustice 2' Hands-On Gameplay Preview: Superhero sequel shows tons of promise

'Injustice 2' Hands-On Gameplay Preview: Superhero sequel shows tons of promise

There's a ton of DC Comics multimedia happening right now, but the problem with things like Batman: Arkham Insurgency and Justice League is the superheroes are just too nice to each other. Wouldn't it be more fun if Aquaman was commanding giant sharks to eat Batman?

Enter Injustice 2, the powered up sequel to 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us. The fighting game from the developers of Mortal Kombat pits heroes against each other in an alternate universe where Superman went and became an evil dictator. I had the opportunity to play the PS4 version of the game yesterday and came away looking forward to the full release, even as someone who doesn't care that much about fighting games or comics.

Injustice 2 hands-on: You got Diablo in my fighting game

Injustice 2 has all the features you'd expect from a full-priced fighting game in 2017. A cinematic story mode picks up where Injustice left off, with Batman's rebellion continuing to take on Superman's Regime. Robust local and online multiplayer modes will be the main attraction for fighting game fans. It's all there and, if the first game was any indication, it'll all be fine.

By far the biggest new addition to the game is a deep loot system modeled after games like Diablo and Destiny. Each character has gear slots for tops, pants, shoes, hats and accessories. You'll unlock gear from playing single and multiplayer modes, as well as coins to buy Overwatch-style random loot boxes that contain gear. 

Don't worry, the developers are very emphatic about the fact that there is no way to spend real money on loot in Injustice 2

Anyway, pieces of gear are color-coded by rarity and they offer different stats. They can buff your character's strength, abilities, defense or health. High-level gear even has augments, such as an epic Batman cowl I saw that gave him 20% extra environmental damage. Each character also has two ability slots that allow you to equip perks. These perks can range from passive bonuses to giving you new attacks in battle. The most powerful abilities will take up both slots instead of just one.

Yes, to answer the most important question, the gear does change your character's appearance. Theoretically, no two Batmen you encounter in online play will look or behave the same. You'll even unlock new shaders à la Destiny to completely change your favorite character's color scheme. If you want Doctor Fate to wear all white, Injustice 2 is here for you.

Fighting games are inherently competitive, perhaps more than any other game genre. As such, dedicated players are obsessed with balance. Obviously, adding a loot system like this and enabling it in online multiplayer could severely throw off the balance. The good news is that there will be a ranked match mode that turns off all stat bonuses, while maintaining your customized appearance. If you're extra serious about your fighting games, that's where you'll want to go.

Injustice 2 hands-on: Accessible and spectacular fights

When I actually got to play a handful of matches, I was reminded of how much fun Injustice is. It's a four-button fighting game with buttons for light, medium and heavy strikes and a button dedicated to each character's special ability. Combos are easy to string together and there's no need to memorize tricky directional inputs like Street Fighter.

I played as Black Canary, Supergirl, Deadshot, Superman and Aquaman. Supergirl ended up being my favorite, as her quick movement, air dash ability and eye lasers made her viable from range and able to close in and back out quickly. As someone who thought the original Injustice was a bit stiff, I was able to jump in and execute right away in this game. It looks and feels good.

That's all there is to say about the actual fighting in Injustice 2, really. It builds upon a solid foundation and its biggest new addition doesn't change much about how the fighting works from a control perspective. The ability to tune your mains in specific directions (and make them look rad in the process) is enticing, as is the ability to turn that off if you don't want to deal with it. 

Injustice 2 launches on May 16 on PS4 and Xbox One.

More fighting game news and updates

While you wait for more Injustice 2 character reveals, read more fighting game news on Mic. Find out more about Super Smash Bros. for Switch, the Injustice 2 roster, the Tekken 7 console release date, what to expect from Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and the Evo 2017 lineup.