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Injustice 2 Review | Injust Kombat

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When Injustice: Gods Among Us released in 2013, fans of DC’s superhero universe and NetherRealm’s iconic Mortal Kombat series could not wait to get their hands on the revolutionary new superhero fighting game. Receiving positive reviews from both critics and fans, Injustice raised the bar for fast-paced action and dramatic storytelling. As the highly-anticipated successor to 2013’s critically-acclaimed fighting game, Injustice 2 not only meets but exceeds the excellency standard set by its predecessor. Sporting phenomenal graphics, an intriguing story, fluid mechanics, and heart-pounding audio, Injustice 2 is an addicting experience that offers countless gameplay hours.

Injustice: Gods Among Us was praised for its superior graphics and animations. Injustice 2 furthers the first game’s stunning visuals, making full use of the improved components inside current-gen platforms. Every stage in the game offers unique glimpses of the DC comic-book universe, from the moist vines in the swamp to the fire, smoke, and battered objects littering city streets and buildings. Even the minute facets, such as the electricity swirling around The Flash when he moves and characters’ believable facial animations, are detailed to the point of awe. Indeed, players will find looking away from the screen challenging for fear of missing out on any of Injustice 2’s picturesque features. No expense was spared in ensuring Injustice 2’s appearance met gamers’ expectations, a feat not easily achieved in a market where everyone is a critic, but NetherRealm Studios succeeds in doing the game’s settings and characters justice.

However, remarkable graphics are only the first step in creating a polished product. To successfully develop a quality product, NetherRealm needed more than pixels that are easy on the eyes. To that end, NetherRealm dug deep and crafted a well-written story that, while relatively short, remains consistent with the plot from the first Injustice. Players embark on a level-based story in which they take control of some of the most popular superheroes, villains, and antiheroes from DC’s comic books. At times, users can choose one of two fighters to control for certain encounters, and the story’s dialogue will change accordingly, if only slightly. The plot is a typical one: gamers must fight a series of battles to stop a threat putting the world in danger of being decimated. During their journey, players will find the line between friend and foe is blurry, often pitting participants against villains that normally serve as heroes in the comic books, movies, and television shows. The dialogue is convincing, and the cheesy phrases only add to the authenticity of Injustice 2 revolving around DC Comics’s superhumans.

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Naturally, Injustice 2 could not be such a success without smooth gameplay. Injustice 2’s mechanics are river-fluid, with characters’ fighting combinations easy to blend into short or lengthy movements to overwhelm opponents. The interactive environments, from knocking enemies through walls and into new areas to bashing opponents over the head with explosive barrels, are immersive factors that make users feel involved with their characters. Moreover, the new Gear System adds some fresh strategic elements to the world of fighting games. By playing through the game’s story, the Multiverse—a game mode in which players fight various AI opponents and complete different objectives of various difficulties—and unlocking Mother Boxes, participants will obtain new gear pieces for the game’s roster. These gear pieces increase characters’ stats (strength, ability, defense, and health) and also provide certain bonuses, such as doing more damage to heroes in Multiverse mode or earning more credits (in-game currency used to buy Mother Boxes for gear pieces) from winning fights and completing objectives. Gamers can earn “shaders” for their characters to change the color of their outfits as well, adding some aesthetic options to the game. While the Gear System can be frustrating due to the randomization of gear pieces users receive at any given time, the system is still a refreshing take on fighting games in that the mechanic gives gamers the chance to outfit their favorite characters in a way that reflects the gamers’ respective playstyles. Even if players obtain gear pieces that do not hold favorable stats, they can always use regen tokens—earned by completing challenges and objectives in the Multiverse—to basically regenerate that same gear piece, giving them the chance to attain the desired stats and also upgrading the gear piece to their character’s current level (maximum of twenty). Additionally, the AI difficulties are varied enough that competitors of all skill levels can participate in Multiverse challenges and guild battles. The harder difficulties are intense and fast-paced, and finding the right strategy, coupled with impeccable timing, are key to defeating the hardest opponents. For gamers who thrive on the most challenging fights, Injustice 2 is a phenomenal place to test both their skills and their patience.

Another important aspect of Injustice 2 is the inclusion of guilds. Guilds can be comprised of up to fifty members, and joining one provides more opportunities for gamers to earn gears and outfits for their characters. As part of a guild, everything the player does contributes to the team’s weekly and daily challenges, whether those challenges are defeating bosses, completing certain objectives in Multiverse mode, or performing a certain amount of particular attacks (light attacks, medium attacks, heavy attacks, jump attacks, etc.) in fights. Being part of a guild has few drawbacks, unless users would rather do everything solo, but doing so will force them to miss out on certain Multiverse events that only guilds can access. With Multiverses expiring and refreshing every few hours, new challenges and objectives to complete are constantly made available to keep the game alive and interesting.

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All the aforementioned factors come together to create a superb experience. That experience is further enhanced by the game’s audio, which serves as an adrenaline-pumping motif. Featuring impactful fight noises, such as fists connecting; objects exploding; debris crumbling; metal clanging; and characters grunting, screaming, and growling, Injustice 2’s audio reflects the high-quality NetherRealm Studios has put into their Mortal Kombat series. Furthermore, the voice acting is professional, delivered by actors who do well with capturing the essence of each iconic superhuman. Batman is dark, enigmatic, and always concerned with proper justice; Harley Quinn is eccentric; and The Flash and Green Arrow offer some of the game’s wittier banter. In addition, the game’s music does well to reinforce the emotions players should be feeling in the storyline, from despair to excitement.

All-in-all, Injustice 2 is a polished experience, one that highlights the professional and well-practiced craft of NetherRealm Studios. The developer takes their Mortal Kombat experience and gives Injustice 2 all they have in their arsenal. Astonishing graphics, flexible mechanics, quality story, and fitting audio make Injustice 2 riveting and addicting. If NetherRealm continues to put forth this much effort into future titles, such as any possible upcoming Mortal Kombat installments, the company will achieve heights far greater than they already have. Players who love fighting games and DC Comics fans will find coming across a better game almost impossible. The game’s well-rounded roster and fresh Gear System cater to different playstyles, and the ever-changing Multiverse, along with upcoming DLC, will keep Injustice 2’s heart beating for quite some time.

HIGH DISTINCTION

Review

The Sinking City Review — Sanity is Optional

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Video games based on tabletop games seem to be in vogue at the moment. With Vampire: the Masquerade — Bloodlines 2 and the announcement of Baldur’s Gate III generating a lot of hype, the time seems to be right for The Sinking City, an atmospheric horror-themed investigation game. Based on the lesser known Call of Cthulhu board game, The Sinking City sees the player taking the role of Charles W. Reed, a private investigator and veteran of the First World War as he travels to the fictional town of Oakmont, Massachusetts to seek reasons why he is plagued by horrific visions. Reed quickly discovers that the citizens of Oakmont are also troubled by the same visions, as well as other threats of a sinister and supernatural nature.

The game is set in the 1920s and unashamedly embraces the hard-boiled themes of that era of fiction while blending in a strong dose of creeping, Lovecratian horror. The city of Oakmont absolutely drips with ambience, from the murky lighting to the semi-constant rainfall and the looming, old-fashioned New England architecture. The graphics are extremely impressive, and the animation is very fluid. Even the horrific monsters are fascinating to look at. Getting caught up in the many mysteries lurking about the beautifully well-realised town leads to quick and easy immersion.

The town itself is half-inundated after an otherworldly event known only as The Flood. This means that many of the streets need to be traversed by boat. Doing so can be a little awkward at tight corners, of which there are many, but the other option is swimming in waters infested with any number of nasty things, so taking the time to learn how to steer is worth the extra effort.

At times, the player may need to don an old-fashioned diving suit and take a trip underwater. These are some of the most unsettling sequences in the game, as the ambient sounds, underwater lighting effects, and the shadows of things twitching just beyond the edge of vision give a profound sense of claustrophobia and helplessness as the player lumbers slowly towards the destination.

The main gameplay elements recall other investigation or detective games, such as L.A. Noire or developer Frogwares previous work on the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series. The developer has used that experience to good effect, as the outcome of the quests depends on how well the player has managed to pick up on various clues hidden in the crime scene and evidence. The developer has said the goal in each investigation can be reached in multiple ways, so if the player gets stuck at any point, they have the freedom to move on to a different quest. Sometimes, evidence for the problem quest will pop up, or the player will have a sudden epiphany on what to do next.

The visions experienced by the protagonist have a gameplay application as well, as Reed can use his visions and investigative powers to reconstruct crime scenes and gain insights into the events. However, doing so costs Sanity. Some disturbing scenes or monster encounters can also drastically cut the player’s Sanity, and this, in turn, can affect perception of the environment, causing the player to overlook or completely misinterpret what actually happened. Total Sanity loss is fatal, as the protagonist descends into suicidal insanity.

In addition to conserving Sanity, players need to also conserve ammunition. Though encounters with supernatural creatures often involve the need to unload a gun into them, bullets are also used as currency in Oakmont, as bullets are more valuable than gold in the nightmare-infested town,. The player can barter for useful tools or weapons, but will need to remember to keep some bullets aside for those inevitable run-ins with tentacled horrors.

The result is a balancing act with the player trying to conserve Sanity and ammunition while delving into the secrets hidden within the town. The Sinking City has many layers, with much to be unravelled in the dark, dripping streets.

The Sinking City

The setting is well-served by the music, which is mostly subdued and ambient, serving the mood well. Of particular note is the voice acting, which is great, particularly on the part of the protagonist. Reed’s voice actor does an excellent job of portraying his various moods, giving a convincing performance of a troubled, world-weary war veteran.

The Sinking City is one of the best Lovecraft-inspired games available and, despite some slightly awkward controls in places, the game is brilliantly crafted. Fans of horror will love its atmosphere and those who enjoy investigative games will quickly become absorbed in the depth offered by the gameplay. Those who loved L.A. Noire or Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, and players of the tabletop game, should definitely give thought to picking this title up.

OnlySP Review Score 4 Distinction

Reviewed on PC. Also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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