Like the first game, Injustice 2 certainly has an eye for the cinematic, making a fight between two inexperienced newbies feel like a galactic clash of titans. When I played through a few rounds at E3, I picked Supergirl and begin working my way through the ladder - eventually fighting newcomers like Gorilla Grodd and Atrocitus - once again coming to grips with the game’s Mortal-Kombat-but-not-really controls. In terms of mechanics, not much has changed, but it's what happens after each match that has me simultaneously excited and worried about the future of Injustice.
Whenever you finish a match, whether you win or lose, you get a random piece of gear you can immediately equip. It's not necessarily for the character you're playing as - while I was playing as Supergirl, I also ended up with a few pieces of armor for Superman. In addition to giving you attack and defense boosts, these armor pieces will give you passive skills (like additional damage with environmental weapons, or more experience points when you win a fight), and they look really cool, subtly transforming your chosen character over several matches into your own, personalized superhero. A lot of these costume pieces pull from all parts of DC's decades-spanning mythology, like Superman's USSR-inspired Red Son suit. You can mix and match these pieces to make something entirely your own, or simply build out the whole set to subtly change your moves' aesthetics to match your suit. You'll even earn additional special moves, which you can use to further customize your heroes to your own playstyle.
It's a fantastic concept, one that can potentially give fighting game fans that same rush Destiny players get when they pick up that rare gun they've been jonesing for. It'll also give them a reason to show off their version of Batman against their friends' and see how wildly different they are from their own build-out. Plus, it'll give casual players a reason to continue to play, even when they're getting their asses beaten down by high-tier experts - even if you lose, you're constantly earning, constantly unlocking, constantly leveling up. In the face of defeat, those consolation prizes can feel pretty good.
But the question then becomes: how do you balance that so players feel like they're on equal footing, when there's a wide gulf between gear levels? Fighting games are inherently skill-based, as players use the same characters available to everyone, study them, and use that knowledge to best their opponents. What happens when you throw a big ol' Batarang into that delicate balance? One piece of gear may boost throw damage by a tiny bit, but throw a few more of those on and suddenly one move becomes ridiculously overpowered - will there be a way to counter this before heading into a match? How will a character with nothing but common gear square off against a player decked out in legendaries? Right now, no one at WB had a proper answer for me, other than mentioning that it's something developer NetherRealm Studios is working on.
It's a Riddler-sized question mark on what is an otherwise fantastic-looking follow-up. Single-player upgrades are one thing, but when you're allowing that level of customizability in multiplayer - including the competitive scene - the prospect of creating that perfectly balanced fighter becomes that much harder. It's difficult to tell how it'll all come together in such a small demo, but I'm hoping we find out more as we get closer to its 2017 launch.
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