LAS VEGAS -- For the first time in three years, Dominique "SonicFox" McClean will leave the Evolution Fighting Game Championships in Las Vegas without a title. Upset in the top eight by eventual grand finalist Tim "HoneyBee" Commandeur, the NeatherRealm wunderkind finished fourth.
In the end, Noble's Ryan "Dragon" Walker won the debut of Injustice 2 at Evo with a victory over Critical Reaction's Tim "HoneyBee" Commandeur 3-2.
Overall, it was a mix of usual suspects, emerging faces and the return of a top star at the biggest fighting-game tournament in the world.
The ever-consistent Dragon, Echo Fox's SonicFox and Jivan "Theo" Karapetian made their usual impressive, deep tournament run. But, right there with them was the return of HoneyBee and the breakout runs of Panda Global's Alexandre "Hayatei" Dubé-Bilodeau and Noble's Andrew "Semiij" Fontanez.
Last year's Mortal Kombat XL runner-up, Sayed "Tekken Master" Hashem, made yet another appearance on the Evo big stage -- a testament to his consistency in high-pressure tournaments -- but exited in seventh place. The MVP of the tournament belonged to HoneyBee, however. A top player in Mortal Kombat XL and one of the greatest technicians in the NetherRealm Studios community, HoneyBee had an Evo run nothing short of Cinderella-like. HoneyBee, armed with the Flash, showcased his impeccable pacing and understanding for the whiff-punish system in the game.
The top eight was a great example of the character variety that exists in Injustice 2. While many of the top players did substitute a legacy character (Black Adam, Aquaman, and Batman) to tackle difficult matchups, there were plenty of new faces splattered throughout the tournament bracket. In the top eight, there were 10 characters that made an appearance, showing the diversity of the game at the highest level: Catwoman, Atrocitus, Robin, Red Hood, Aquaman, Poison Ivy, Batman, Black Adam, Brainiac and the Flash.
And, in arguably the biggest upset in Injustice 2's short history, Semiij's Catwoman took down SonicFox. While HoneyBee struck first in the winner's quarterfinals, it was Semiij's flawless performance that sent the three-time Evo champion home. Semiij's breakout tournament ended in the losers'-bracket semifinals, but the highlight of his Catwoman's punishing pressure on defenseless opponents (such as SonicFox) could indicate the beginning of a new top player.
Grand finals: Dragon against HoneyBee
Dragon's secondary character, Aquaman, outlasted the speed and offensive capabilities of HoneyBee's Aquaman and the Flash. HoneyBee almost made the impossible climb from the losers bracket, but the difficulty of taking six games from Dragon was too much. Whether it was Dragon's nose for landing the hit or his stubborn forward-approach with Aquaman, the man was not losing the tournament. The crowd stayed on HoneyBee's side, but the momentum and the ultimate result fell in favor of the champion, Dragon.
More than a character
While some of it could be traced to unfamiliarity, such as the case of recently released Red Hood, many of the mistakes from the play in top eight were due to inexperience to the many play styles that exist in a character. The two best examples exist in Theo and HoneyBee. Theo's zone-heavy and patient approach to Injustice 2 was a thorn to every opponent he faced. He slowed down the pace to such a grind that mix-ups and setups from opposing characters were obvious. As for HoneyBee, his return to the Injustice 2 competitive scene was met with immediate results. His Flash play, while optimal, was intelligent. His use of trait outside of a block string or a confirmed hit allowed him to play with the advantage of fear. He could freely approach his opponents without a linear game plan and executed with the free use of his own meter reversals and special moves.
Injustice 2 at Evo proved that there are different traits to each character and the option to truly create a signature within your choices. It will be interesting to see how the game develops in the pro scene over time.