If you’re still reeling from the bad taste of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, rest assured that a much better DC Comics cinematic experience is on the way in the form of Injustice 2.
I got my hands on the upcoming comic-book brawler’s story mode, and if the first chapter is any indication, DC fans seeking a twisted new take on some of their favorite characters are in for a treat when the game is released May 16 for PS4 and Xbox One.
Injustice 2’s story picks up right after the events of the original game, set in an alternate universe in which a tragic event turns Superman into a tyrannical, murderous leader. At the start of the game, Superman pays a visit to Arkham Asylum to take out some inmates before they can commit their next crime, and Batman and Robin are out to stop him.
This sets the stage for some of the most stunning cinematic images that developer NetherRealm Studios have made — which is a high bar for anyone who’s played Mortal Kombat X or the original Injustice. The characters looked scarily lifelike, the dialogue was punchy (largely thanks to iconic Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy), and the thrilling action scenes rivaled what you’d see from a big-budget movie.
As with NetherRealm’s previous titles, the cinematic sequences transition seamlessly in and out of the game’s playable battles, keeping you constantly engrossed. I spent the entirety of the chapter as Batman, who, like much of Injustice 2’s returning cast, feels very similar to his Injustice 1 iteration, but with a few extra tweaks.
Since Injustice takes place in its own separate universe, NetherRealm has had no reservations about offering wildly different versions of established characters — and killing them off mercilessly. That seems to still be the case in the sequel. Within the first 20 or so minutes, I found myself staring at the screen slack-jawed as I watched the kind of shocking death scene you’d expect to see midway through the game.
Aside from sampling the story, I also got to play around with some of the newer fighters announced for Injustice 2. The just-revealed Doctor Fate looks like a keep-away player’s dream, as he can summon all types of projectiles and spells that can lock down an opponent from afar. Swamp Thing is a slow, bruising brawler who can snatch up the enemy from the other side of the screen and do big damage up close.
MORE: PS4 vs. Xbox One: Which One is Right For You?
Suicide Squad star Deadshot seems to offer a healthy mix of long-range firepower and damaging melee combos, while the nimble Black Canary looks like a perfect fit for folks who like to overwhelm their opponents with rapid close-quarters attacks and defensive parries.
NetherRealm also provided a closer look at the game’s Gear System, which will allow you to customize favorite DC character with a variety of neat-looking pieces of armor that unlock upgraded stats and new powers.
You can equip up to two unique abilities per character, meaning that your Batman might be uniquely capable of electrocuting enemies with his batarangs, or that your Supergirl can toss her opponents an extra-long distance through the ground. According to NetherRealm, you’ll be hard pressed to find two similar variations of a given character once the game’s been out for a few days.
In addition to unlocking gear pieces through playing battles, you’ll also be able to spend in-game currency on “Mother Boxes” that offer a full crate worth of goodies. Fortunately, Injustice 2 isn’t a pay-to-win game — there’s no way to buy currency with real money, and there will be a separate “tournament mode” for hardcore players who want a balanced playing field with no stat bonuses.
Injustice 2 is shaping up to be a fantastic follow up to one of the better fighting games of the past few years, building on the original game’s tight gameplay and unique universe while exuding the same level of polish that made 2015’s Mortal Kombat X so special. I can’t wait to beat up some more bad dudes as my very own Batman when the game launches on May 16 for PS4 and Xbox One.