Do­ing jus­tice to DC

A deep game that hits hard in three key ar­eas: fight­ing, story and col­lect­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By ANDREW REINER

THE CAPED Cru­sader and the bil­lion­aire. The last sur­vivor of Kryp­ton and the re­porter. Most of DC Comics’ he­roes lead dou­ble lives, all in an at­tempt to blend into so­ci­ety as seem­ingly or­di­nary peo­ple who don masks when trou­ble arises.

NetherRealm Stu­dios’ 2013 fight­ing game In­jus­tice: Gods Among Us also bal­anced du­al­ity, and found suc­cess as a fun fight­ing ex­pe­ri­ence cou­pled with a pop­u­lar story.

In­jus­tice 2 once again de­liv­ers knock­out blows with its story and fight­ing, but finds a third way to en­ter­tain through an ad­dic­tive col­lect­ing com­po­nent.

In­jus­tice 2 doesn’t reach same level of nar­ra­tive in­trigue as its pre­de­ces­sor, but is nearly as en­joy­able for an en­tirely dif­fer­ent rea­son. Al­though penned as a di­rect con­tin­u­a­tion to the orig­i­nal game, no mo­ment is as shock­ing or pro­found as Su­per­man rip­ping out the Joker’s heart.

This se­quel in­stead takes the more cliched an­gle of unit­ing he­roes and vil­lains to stop an in­ter­ga­lac­tic threat. Brainiac, a space trav­eller in­tent on de­stroy­ing Earth, can con­trol any­one’s will, and has forged his own army of fa­mil­iar capes and masks.

The lurk­ing fear of Su­per­man be­ing freed from his prison is a nice plot thread that adds a layer of mys­tery to a story that can ba­si­cally be sum­marised as “ev­ery­one fights ev­ery­one”.

NetherRealm de­liv­ers dumb fun in this story, which un­folds through lengthy se­quences that are as beau­ti­ful as they are epic. The level of de­tail in the char­ac­ter mod­els is im­pres­sive, as is the fram­ing of the ac­tion – par­tic­u­larly a se­quence that pits The Flash against Re­verse Flash.

The story breaks are as fun to watch as the game is to play, but never wa­ver from be­ing any­thing but a bom­bas­tic as­sault on the senses. You won’t find much to think about in this story other than why Green Ar­row’s jokes are down­right

aw­ful.

Power play

The fight­ing is once again a ridicu­lous show of power. At any given sec­ond a hero could be punched through a pyra­mid, thrown into space, or mauled by Har­ley Quinn’s hye­nas.

This is noth­ing new for In­jus­tice, but the danc­ing that oc­curs be­tween these cat­a­strophic strikes of­fers a higher level of strat­egy and flu­id­ity.

The small touch of in­creas­ing the walk­ing speed of each char­ac­ter goes a long way in mak­ing each bat­tle more fran­tic.

Matches are no­tice­ably faster in pace, and play­ers have more op­por­tu­ni­ties to turn the ta­bles on their op­po­nents thanks to the in­clu­sion of ae­rial re­cov­er­ies that al­low you to pop out of jug­gle com­bos, and eva­sive rolls that can give you dis­tance or close the gap on a foe.

Spe­cial me­tre man­age­ment also of­fers new dy­nam­ics, and no longer hangs so heav­ily on bank­ing seg­ments for a po­ten­tial Clash or su­per move in the fi­nal round. The new eva­sive moves de­plete seg­ments of the me­ter, as do pow­er­ful new of­fen­sive at­tacks. Each arena is still filled with en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ac­tions and arena tran­si­tions.

He­roes re­born

The game feels tighter and faster, and the re­turn­ing char­ac­ters all feel new again, for bet­ter or worse. I en­joy Bat­man’s tech­niques more in this se­quel, but found Su­per­man to be strange and un­der­whelm­ing in both ap­pear­ance and func­tion­al­ity.

The ros­ter, while lack­ing some heavy hit­ters for nar­ra­tive rea­sons, of­fers a nice va­ri­ety that pulls equally from DC’s gods and ti­tans as the vig­i­lantes, such as the Bat fam­ily and Sui­cide Squad.

Su­per­girl, Go­rilla Grodd, and the al­waysquirky Doc­tor Fate are ex­cel­lent ad­di­tions to the ros­ter, al­though no new char­ac­ter shakes up the foun­da­tion. As elab­o­rate as some of the fin­ish­ing moves are, many strug­gle to feel epic out­side of their length.

For ev­ery amaz­ing fin­isher, like Swamp Thing pulling an op­po­nent un­der­ground for a thwack­ing of roots, a char­ac­ter like Bane does lit­tle more than pile-drive an op­po­nent.

Ex­plor­ing the game’s deep well of strate­gies is one rea­son to keep play­ing, but I think most play­ers (like my­self) will feel the pull tied to loot.

Hit the moth­er­lode

Win­ning a match feels great no mat­ter what, but the game am­pli­fies that sen­sa­tion with a show­er­ing of re­wards, rang­ing from two dif­fer­ent forms of ex­pe­ri­ence points (for you the player and the char­ac­ter you used in that bat­tle), and the chance of get­ting gear (cus­tom equip­ment that can change char­ac­ters’ looks and at­tributes).

You may also earn per­for­mance re­wards such as some­thing called a Mother Box, which is In­jus­tice 2’s form of a blind box hold­ing gear for any given char­ac­ter.

The gear won’t ex­cite in the open­ing hours, most of it do­ing lit­tle more than giv­ing your

char­ac­ter a slightly dif­fer­ent look along the lines of dif­fer­ent pointy ears on Bat­man or an em­blem-free cape for Su­per­girl.

Ex­ten­sive play leads to more ex­otic loot that can com­pletely change the look of your char­ac­ter, such as Hal Jor­dan’s Green Lan­tern look­ing al­most ex­actly like Kyle Rayner’s Ion. The high-end gear also pro­duces per­for­mance bumps such as strength in­creas­ing by 200plus or abil­ity by 150-plus.

In ad­di­tion to gear, you can earn new abil­i­ties, two of which can be equipped at any given time. The ben­e­fits are dif­fer­ent for each item, but should you re­ceive some­thing you don’t need, you can sell it to earn cur­rency for more Mother Boxes.

The bonuses tied to gear don’t en­hance your char­ac­ters for ranked matches (out­side of look), but do come into play in a new mode called Mul­ti­verse, which re­places STAR Labs from Gods Among Us.

Meet your match

Play­ing off of the idea that DC’s uni­verse has an in­fi­nite num­ber of earths, your he­roes face off against al­ter­nate ver­sions of them­selves, some stronger and oth­ers with un­fore­see­able pow­ers. Mul­ti­verse is a beau­ti­fully de­signed av­enue of play fea­tur­ing daily, weekly, and monthly chal­lenges, each test­ing your skills in dif­fer­ent ways, all in the hope of unlocking more loot.

Mul­ti­verse matches play with the fight­ing me­chan­ics. In one tour­na­ment, I couldn’t jump. In an­other, the sun was fad­ing out, which turned the screen pitch black for a split sec­ond or two. The events are al­ways chang­ing, but I haven’t seen any­thing as zany as STAR Labs’ goofy side con­tent such as con­trol­ling Cat­woman’s kit­ten, Isis.

While no co­op­er­a­tive play is of­fered, play­ers can team up in a guild to earn guild-spe­cific ex­pe­ri­ence points and, you guessed it, unique loot. The omi­nous op­tion to spend real money on in-game cur­rency is here, but its pull isn’t that strong, as high-end gear re­quires char­ac­ters be level 20, which can only be ac­com­plished by play­ing the game.

End game

In­jus­tice 2 is a huge game, of­fer­ing a lengthy story-based cam­paign, a great fight­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and a nearly end­less sup­ply of no­table loot. The small tweaks to com­bat go a long way in cre­at­ing a more dy­namic flow, which res­onates well in mul­ti­player matches.

I ran into a lit­tle lag in a few on­line bouts, but the game ran smoothly for most of the time. Even if you don’t en­joy the com­pet­i­tive as­pects of the fight­ing genre, this is a game you can dive into for an en­joy­able su­per­hero story.

No, this isn’t a game that makes your char­ac­ters go crazy when but­tons are mashed, but on the eas­i­est dif­fi­culty, you should have no prob­lems mak­ing progress in the story, given you at least take the time to un­der­stand what makes it tick.

With DC’s cin­e­matic uni­verse un­der­per­form­ing, In­jus­tice 2 is the best way to see just how pow­er­ful and di­verse these he­roes are. — Game In­former Mag­a­zine/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

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