Injustice 2 Sets the Standard for Fighting Game Stories

first_imgStay on target The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Kick Some Serious Shell in Injustice 2Game of the Year: Jordan Minor’s Actual Games of the Year (2017) I don’t think Injustice 2, the latest DC fighting game from the Mortal Kombat sadists at NetherRealm Studios, is a perfect game. I’ve already gone over how I think the gear system adds questionable aesthetics and unwanted microtransaction RPG elements that threaten to unbalance the game. And in a post-Batman v Superman world, the game just has too much dickish Superman for me to handle. The Justice Lords episode of Justice League is still evil Superman story to beat.But now that I’ve been playing the full game for a while, I do think Injustice 2 is a great game. The fighting has never been more fluid, rewarding, or entertaining. The roster, while filled with strange omissions, has some awesome picks like Swamp Thing, Black Canary, Gorilla Grodd, Darkseid, and famous Get Out victim Firestorm. It’s a beautiful game, too, full of moody lighting and exquisite facial animation. And of course, the spectacle of the super moves more than makes up for the game’s inability to show severed limbs or blood erupting from neck stumps like its cousin franchise’s fatalities.However, the most impressive part of this latest NetherRealm game is that the studio has somehow managed to top itself again when it comes to fighting game single-player options. Injustice 2’s playable tale of warring superheroes and supercomputers sets the standard for fighting game story modes, and frankly, it’s a farce more competitors aren’t following its lead.For a long time Mortal Kombat games followed the traditional fighting game arcade model of playing a character in a series of fights, toppling a boss, and getting a brief character ending. Weird side modes like the Konquest action RPGs tried to add more depth, but they were mostly ignored. Things started to change, though, with 2008’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Along with planting the seeds for NetherRealm’s later work with DC characters, this inexplicable crossover presented us with the first real version of a new model for how to tell the kind of crazy stories previous fighting games relegated to background lore. And it was better than it had any right to be.Players picked either the DC or Mortal Kombat faction and played a campaign that let them try out a handful of characters in succession. Along with providing a range of perspectives for telling the broad and ludicrous story, these sections acted as stealth tutorials letting you figure out the ins and outs of a new character before moving on. It’s like how most campaigns in first-person shooters like Call of Duty are really just for preparing you for the online multiplayer that’s the real point of the package.These campaigns are far from throwaway, though. Over the years and across games like the Mortal Kombat 2011 reboot, Injustice 1, and Mortal Kombat X, we’ve seen NetherRealm continue to refine and build on the formula. The writing gets better. The visuals improve. The setpieces become more elaborate. Players have more choice over where to take the story. The transition between cutscene and gameplay is now so seamless it blends together into one beautiful interactive narrative about shooting intelligent apes with arrows. This is how to treat a fighting game as something on par with any other AAA release. That Warner Bros. budget certainly helps.So why is everyone else still struggling to catch up? Why isn’t literally every other fighting game using this terrific template? Super Smash Bros. Melee tried something similar with its adventure mode, and Nintendo expanded it in Super Smash Bros. Brawl with the ambitious and cinematic, if polarizing, Subspace Emissary mode. But the most recent Smash games have significantly pared down their single-player offerings.Street Fighter V added a story mode after launch very much in the NetherRealm mold. But between long load times and random playable characters breaking up the flow, along with character models that simply don’t look good at all outside of the fighting, it just made me appreciate NetherRealm’s polish even more. The upcoming Tekken 7 seems to have a more fleshed-out story mode, and if any series has lore crazy and amoral enough to rival Mortal Kombat it’s Tekken, but we’ll see if it’s any good. The same goes for Injustice’s comic book fighting game counterpart Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite.But seriously, all fighting games should be taking inspiration from this. Arms should explore its lore this way. PlayStation All-Stars could have left an actual impression with a deeper campaign. Dead or Alive has a character named Fame Douglas. Where’s the story mode explaining his whole deal?Honestly, any game that’s primarily about multiplayer but features lore could probably make good use of this formula. Just weave a campaign by stitching a few dozen matches together with cutscenes as transitions. Imagine a Dota or Overwatch campaign that worked this way, that actually taught you how to play the characters in crafted scenarios while presenting the plot in a way most players can easily see without reading some wiki or erotic fan fiction.Like I said, I have some issues with Injustice 2. The perfect DC fighting game would combine some elements of it and its predecessor while dropping others. But overall I’ve been very impressed. And the game’s most impressive attribute is its single-player campaign that one has managed to surpass. No one even comes close.Now that it’s finished, though, it’s time for NetherRealm to apply their talents to a new franchise, and there’s only I can think of that would benefit for their patented mix of slick fighting, bombastic storytelling, and love of the absurd: Def Jam.Purchase Injustice 2last_img

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