Red Hood makes me hopeful for Injustice 2’s long-term prospects

Number 1 with several bullets

I’ve been playing with Red Hood off and on for the past few weeks since his release and he’s… odd. I still can’t figure him out. I can’t tell if he’s an amazing character, or a dud. I can’t even tell if he’s supposed to be played like a zoner, a rushdown monster, or something in-between.

And that makes me pretty excited for the future of Injustice 2‘s DLC characters.

Red Hood is a funky character. He has a pair of guns, a bunch of throwing stars, and an explosive mine, all of which you’d think would make him a killer zoner, right? But, he also has great high/low potential, some devious set-ups, and a parry move that makes him feel equally at home right next to the enemy. So is he an in-your-face scrapper then? Well, yes and no.

The truth is, Red Hood doesn’t do anything quite as well as the characters that specialize in those areas. He’s neither the keep-away monster that is Deadshot, or as suffocating up-close as someone like Batman or Black Canary. What he can do though is float between the two playstyles effortlessly. He can hang back and pester like a zoner, or move in for pressure. In fact, one of his core moves is a dive that can either be used to retreat or to tackle the enemy – a bi-polar move for a bi-polar vigilante I suppose.

Even his trait, the ability to use the electrified butt of his pistols as a pair of tasers, is a little unorthodox. When it was demonstrated in pre-release trailers, I assumed (like many) that Red Hood would be a stance character, similar to Batgirl from the original, or Blue Beetle now. That switching between the two modes would emphasize either a rushdown or keep-away game. In practice, the tasers are very different.

With the tasers ready, Red Hood can’t move forward, backwards, or jump. His only options are to put the guns away, cancel the stance into a quick gunshot (a favorite of online Hoods) or enter into a single specific combo string that can end in a variety of ways (high, low, side-switching throw, etc). It’s all a little clunky and weird.

I like that. I like that the first DLC character out of the gate for Injustice 2 is a bit of a weirdo. That his place in the metagame isn’t quite clear. That his trait does something different from all the other characters in the game. That it’s been a few weeks and there is still no clear consensus on whether we’ll be seeing Red Hoods sweeping the tournament scene, or placed on the endangered species list right next to Swamp Thing.

Fans of Red Hood hoping he would be a merciless noob-destroyer like Deadshot who would trample other characters into the dirt for easy wins might be disappointed, but I take his release as a good sign for the future of Injustice 2‘s DLC roster. Both in terms of mechanics and balance.

NetherRealm has a bit of a nasty history when it comes to DLC characters. Take a look at the final tier lists for the original Injustice and you’ll see what I mean. In many lists, the DLC characters dominate the upper echelons of the game. Martian Manhunter, Zod, and Batgirl still haunt the troubled dreams of former Injustice players (Zod essentially terminated the online life of my boy Lex.)

Even Mortal Kombat X had this problem. Characters like Predator, Alien, Tanya, and Triborg all dominated when they were released. Sure, they’d receive different levels of “normalization” down the road, but most would still settle into a comfortable upper-mid to high-tier existence at the end of the game’s shelf life.

The marketing tactic at work here was not subtle or particularly nuanced – DLC characters were blood money characters. Throwing a few bucks at the game meant you had access to above-average characters, and players knew it. This was especially true for those first few months after release, before balancing patches had a chance to bring them back down to earth (usually just in time for the next wave of DLC fighters, coincidentally enough).

Red Hood finally, mercifully, breaks this trend. He isn’t a lame duck, but he’s not instantly shuttering lobbies like Tanya or the Martian did back during their heyday. He’s an honest character (or as honest as any character gets in Injustice 2) and it will take honest time and play to figure out just what he can do.

The fact that he is another Bat-family character with a bunch of Bat-family gadgets that somehow manages to play completely different from all the other Bat-family characters is cause for celebration as well. Red Hood could have easily ended up as a mash-up remix of Batman and Deadshot, or a glorified reskin of Batgirl from the original. Instead, he ended up as his own, unique, bomb-chucking lunatic. It makes me curious what NetherRealm will do with the upcoming Sub-Zero to make him stand out from his MKX version, and what they’ll do with all the other fighters coming down the line.

Maybe it’s a weird phrase to apply to a DLC character, but to me, Red Hood’s release feels healthy. He was added to the game without tipping the whole damn thing on its side, he has a hearty playstyle to experiment with, and he introduced a few new mechanics to boot. Healthy.

Combine this reserved release with NetherRealm’s reluctance to push any major balance changes yet (just a few bug-fixes), and it seems like the studio is being a little more careful with the on-going health of the game than previous titles. Instead of introducing a new apex predator into the waters and issuing major patches to fix him later, NetherRealm carefully expanded Injustice 2‘s eco-system in a way that added to what is already thriving.

If Red Hood’s release represents a taste of what’s to come, I have a good feeling about the ongoing life of Injustice 2.

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Nic Rowen
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