Injustice 2 is a truly impressive release: featuring some of the best facial animations seen in a fighting game and some insane over-the-top super moves bolstering an ambitious single-player mode, developer NetherRealm Studios confirms the use of Mortal Kombat X's engine - a customised Unreal Engine 3 - has a big role in improving its visuals since the last Injustice title. Disappointingly, there's no PC version of the game available at launch, but analysis of the PlayStation 4 Pro release gives us some idea of how this impressive engine scales up on more capable hardware.
Among the main improvements over the first Injustice are improved effects work, reworked character models, and a push for more destructible physics to background objects. However, despite the substantial improvements, console gameplay is still tightly tuned for 60fps gameplay, though non-controllable intro sequences and super-moves are locked at half-refresh 30fps instead. The switch between these two refreshes is certainly jarring - a point we'd hoped a prospective PC version might address - but outside of very occasional, mostly unnoticeable tearing, the performance metrics are faultless during actual combat. Occasional stutter can kick in during online play, but for the most part, the experience is rock-solid.
Article Continues Below
So which version offers up the best experience? As ever, visuals differ between PS4, PS4 Pro and Xbox One in order to sustain that crucial 60fps and PS4 Pro inevitably ends up with the greatest benefits. Chief among them is resolution: Xbox One runs at a native 1600x900, PS4 sits at 1920x1080, and finally PS4 Pro pushes out 2560x1440 while outputting to a 4K display. For those on older 1080p displays using PS4 Pro, pixel counts are a mixed bag; half of our test shots reveal super-sampling from a higher resolution in effect, while the other half shows a pixel structure closer to 1080p. In either case, image quality is clearly improved next to a regular PS4 outputting at the same resolution, and we're very happy with the final image.
Between PS4 and Xbox One, the rest of Injustice 2's visual design is on par, saving for a boost in texture filtering quality on Sony's machine. The more exciting upgrades are reserved for PS4 Pro, where the team at NetherRealm Studios states we can expect "much better shadowing, motion blur and texture resolution".
Bundled together with the lift to 1440p, these enhancements show PS4 Pro support is going strong here, though outside of direct head-to-head comparisons, the differences are subtle. Easily the biggest upgrade is in motion blur. Every jump, swipe and roll from Injustice 2's roster produces a visible blur trail, but the quality of the effect falls a little short on PS4 and Xbox One. It's an approximated form of the effect, creating a visible dither artefact on moving edges - something PS4 Pro greatly improves. Each edge is smoother and clearer on Pro hardware, blending samples from the previous frames of movement to create a more filmic result - and one that's appreciable in play.
Article Continues Below
The boost in texture quality is a neat plus on PS4 Pro too, something that works in two ways. On the one hand, texture map quality is increased in spots across certain stages, while on the other, there's an uptick in texture filtering quality, allowing for a clearer presentation of surfaces. In general, these texture differences are often hard to catch during a side-on view for regular gameplay, but at least works well in tandem with PS4 Pro's higher resolution 1440p window.
Shadows are also updated here, though not in the way we at first expected. Regular dynamic shadows from characters use the same resolution between PS4 and PS4 Pro - but it's in ambient occlusion quality that we enjoy some gains. In this case, PS4 and Xbox One apply an approximated form of shading that creates a thicker shade in the background. It's a symptom of less taxing forms of the effect, like SSAO, and by comparison PS4 Pro offers a more precise approach. A matching frame of Joker's intro sequence, for example, shows subtler pockets of shade forming across the Jungle City stage with a more natural result.