2015's Mortal Kombat X sold a whole load of copies—over five million during its first year on shelves, before its "XL" reissue across all formats. Pretty bloody good. And yet, although the competitive scene around NetherRealm-developed fighting games like MKX is healthy, it doesn't attract the numbers that, say, Street Fighter V does—a game that sold significantly fewer copies in the sales department.
NetherRealm is surely hoping that its DC-licensed, superhero-stuffed fighter Injustice 2, out tomorrow, performs equally well at retail. And to encourage this, the Chicago studio's added something to the mix to tempt fans of wholly different online-multiplayer titles towards its new game, towards fighters, perhaps for the first time.
Injustice 2's "Gear System" allows players to unlock custom pieces of armor for its roster of heroes and villains after every fight. These have various stat boosts and status effects attached to them—some will boost strength, health, or allow you to do things like gain more currency after a match, among other things.
And with the right build complementing your personal play style and character choice, you can truly get an advantage over online rivals. That certain pieces of Gear can wildly alter the look of a character helps, too—you can take your Gorilla Grodd into an online ruck knowing that it's absolutely a unique-to-you version of the character, assembled according to your preferences.
The Gear System is, clearly, Injustice 2's interpretation of the "loot boxes" found in the FIFA series, and Overwatch—and the success of their implementation in those games illustrates that there's an ample audience out there for this kind of lucky-dip reward scheme. It's not ridiculous, at all, to suggest that the long-term fortunes of the Injustice series could be found in this newly introduced mode—casual fans, those into it for the characters and settings more than the competition, might well play, and play, and play to dress their Superman up in just the right way, and send him out powered up just so.
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Obviously, the Gear System is disabled for ranked matches, and for any and all Injustice 2 tournaments worth the fighting game enthusiast's attention. A fancy hat for Batman that, coincidentally, makes him twice as hard to KO just wouldn't fly in a tournament setting. And while NetherRealm's profile in the competitive scene isn't up there with Capcom's, they remain committed to top-level play—as the Injustice 2 Pro Series, starting on May 26th, is indicative of.
The Pro Series is Injustice 2's flirtatious wink towards the hardcore fighting game fan. But as time goes on, the Gear System is going to prove an essential repeat-play attraction for those who care not for razor-sharp balance, happier instead to take their ludicrously powered Swamp Thing into the online battleground. And, just maybe, could propel it to Kombat-akin sales. Nobody complains when you get paired up with someone who has packed a Ronaldo in FIFA—that's just the luck of the draw. I wonder who'll be the equivalent of Lionel Messi in Injustice 2.