Be the Batman? Nah. Build the Batman. That's the overall idea behind Injustice 2, the upcoming sequel to NetherRealm Studio's Injustice: Gods Among Us. The follow-up builds on the sturdy foundation of its predecessor, which allowed players to act out their most exciting hero-vs-hero-or-villain fantasies. I got hands-on with the game at E3 2016, and while it feels familiar enough for fans of the original - or even just fans of fighting games in general - there are some major changes.
The biggest addition to Injustice 2 is the incorporation of a gear system - items, and even moves and abilities, that are unlocked for your fighters as you progress, all with varying rarities. Win or lose, you will be earning gear, and each individual piece can be mixed and matched - along with the ability to swap color palettes - allowing for thousands of different customization options. Every piece of gear is beyond cosmetic (although it does help you look even more badass) - each different piece changes the stats, perks, or abilities of your hero, with individual attributes that can increase your strengths as an offensive, defensive, or more rounded character.
Every hero has multiple areas where they can equip gear, with a variety of head gear, chest plates, belts, and arm and leg pieces, and for some characters, more. Every single hero is a blank slate, and the player has the ability to craft their ideal fighter.
The gear you receive won't always be for the character you are actually playing as - during my run as Batman (because the internet taught me that, if you can be anyone, be Batman) I picked up a new cape for Supergirl, and while playing as Superman (because unfortunately, you can't always be Batman) I grabbed an item for Aquaman. Gear for the character you are playing as can be equipped immediately, or you can back out and customize the characters prior to your next match.
We're also seeing a roster of 28, although only a handful of these characters were available during the demo. One of the most exciting additions is Gorilla Grodd, who uses a combination of close and ferocious moves with some (literally) mind-bending telepathic abilities. Atrocitus also makes an appearance, with significantly bloodier attacks. Combat is quick-paced and fluid, and the controls have enough similarities to the first title that it's easy to pick up and jump right in.
Each character also has an individual Super Move - Superman will punch his opponent into the sky, using his speed and strength to attack above the clouds, while Supergirl goes a bit higher, flying her foe through asteroids and then eye-lasering them back to Earth. Aquaman summons a massive fanged fish, because, well, he's Aquaman - he needs all the help he can get. Without speculating on how someone - especially the mortal characters - would be able to get up and continue the fight after these moves, it's a glorious spectacle in line with what many fans have come to expect from a NetherRealm title. The combination of the Super Moves and the specialized trash talking adds a fun cinematic element without sacrificing what you came here for - the ability to pit two iconic characters against one another.
Injustice 2 is a silly, challenging, interesting, over-the-top fighting game that was difficult to walk away from. Every battle will be different, every character will be constantly evolving - with moves, strengths, and appearances. Customization, even during my brief time with the game, added a fun strategic element that I could easily see myself sinking hours into. Because the only thing better than being Batman is being the Batman you built.
Injustice 2 is set to release in 2017 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.