PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
February 2, 2024
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League reminds me of the discourse surrounding the release of Forspoken last year. Like then, here is a game that made such a terrible first impression that it was panned by audiences and critics alike, months before it even came out. It doesn’t help that Suicide Squad adheres to the much-maligned live service model of online games. Many already made up their minds that this was bound to be a forgettable title like Marvel’s Avengers, Anthem, or the contextually similar Gotham Knights. While the game does invite those comparisons, it tries to elevate its live service model in interesting ways, and for the most part, succeeds. Taking the DNA – and lore – from the Batman Arkham games that preceded it, Suicide Squad brings satisfying gunplay, one of Rocksteady’s best open worlds, and a gripping story, though there are some obvious growing pains at launch.
The game takes a fantastic premise and builds on it: the alien Brainiac has turned Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern evil, with no hope of turning them back. They rule over Metropolis like tyrants, slowly turning the population into alien stormtroopers, soon to colonise the world. Though they were not turned, Wonder Woman and the Flash are missing. To stop Brainiac’s lieutenants, the ruthless Amanda Waller forms Task Force X, consisting of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and King Shark to – as the subtitle says – Kill the Justice League. The four of them are dumped in Metropolis to obey Waller’s every command. Being villains themselves, they don’t care about saving the world, but they don’t have a choice.
I was surprised by how much Suicide Squad prioritises its narrative. The opening hours are slowly paced, much more eager to set up the major beats than to throw loot boxes at you. There is an excellent early mission where you are hunted by Batman, exactly how a stealth segment would play out in the Arkham games, replete with the same sound effects when he manages to catch one of you. The Squad shares a rich rapport with each other, and all feel differently about Waller and the members of the League. The character writing and performances are all stellar, particularly the late Kevin Conroy returning as Batman and Debra Wilson as Waller (one of the few video game actors you can recognise by their face in-game.)
You quickly get access to enemy comms, letting you overhear what your enemies say to each other. The most entertaining part about the Justice League turning evil is that they all no longer trust or like each other. Listening to their bickering is a delight as you swing, fly, jump, and teleport across Metropolis. Even after the game eventually unlocks XP and skill trees, it remains a guided experience. You’re encouraged to stick to the story missions as much as possible, only going off the path if you want to, or if the game wants to introduce new mission types.
Metropolis is a huge, multi-tiered wonderland that rewards you for exploring it. The Riddler returns from the Arkham Games, giving you more hidden trophies to collect, riddles to solve, and traversal challenges to complete. There’s also a plethora of deep-cut references to DC comics, now that Rocksteady isn’t just playing with Batman anymore. To explore it, each member of the Suicide Squad has a unique traversal ability that is fun to use in their own way. Harley has stolen Batman’s grapple gun, Deadshot has a jetpack, King Shark can super jump, and Boomerang has my favourite, as throwing his boomerang lets him copy the Flash’s speed force, letting him essentially teleport a short distance, but with a silly animation of him speed jogging every time. You can switch characters whenever you want, but sometimes one will become “Psyched Up” before a mission, meaning their XP and damage are significantly boosted if you play as them, so you’re encouraged to not stick to a fave. Best of all, you can play the game with up to 3 pals, which I wasn’t able to do for this review, but in some ways, the game seems designed around multiplayer.
“I was surprised by how much Suicide Squad prioritises its narrative.”
During the early hours of the game, I felt that the gunplay was frustrating. After playing some more, I realised the guns weren’t my problem, but what I was shooting with them. The different gun types are sound and distinct, and you are almost always swarmed by rapidly spawning enemies in missions, which is par for the course for a game this chaotic. Most enemies can be shot, but some enemies need to be melee attacked to remove their shields, and some enemies need to be countered (shoot them with a special bullet when lightning flashes above them), and it is always to your detriment if you need to do it all at once, from multiple battles.
Countering is vital to take down snipers who deal high damage and temporarily shut down your movement skills, but too often they’ll be too far away for you to aim at them properly, especially if you’re getting bombarded by other enemies offscreen, or if the sniper happens to teleport behind a tree or car which you don’t have time to aim around, you’re getting hit. Worse so if you’re facing multiple snipers at once. Similarly, the boss fights are easily the weakest part of Suicide Squad, where you’re required to aim your counters at tiny you-sized enemies from far away when you’re not scrounging for ammo and shields in a tight environment. At least the cutscenes before and after them are amazing.
When the game eventually introduces the repeatable type of missions common in live service games, it does a good job of avoiding repetition by introducing modifiers to keep things varied. Most modifiers are “enemies can only be killed by X damage types” (such as grenades or Harvest kills which grant shields, like Glory kills in Doom), which achieve their aim for the most part. These missions can turn dull if you’re, say, out of grenades and struggling to gain more, but they’re still able to be completed. Side missions are also generally not filler, most of them unlocking new gameplay elements like effects to be randomised into future loot.
But I encountered a mission where enemies only take damage from critical attacks, and other attacks heal them. Headshots aren’t a guaranteed critical, so I didn’t know how to get through it other than shooting at an enemy and hoping it’d randomly die. I eventually got a grenade mod that deals critical damage by default, but it shouldn’t require a randomised loot effect to get through a basic side mission. Some timed missions asking to kill specific enemies might have random enemies spawn in the middle of it, so you no longer know who the right enemies to kill are before time runs out. I hope frustrations like this will be updated and clarified in future updates, because currently, the missions are not on par with the expertly crafted story around them.
Other than the mission design, the live service elements mostly keep to themselves. There is an in-game store where you can spend real money to get “LuthorCoins”, but you can only spend them on outfits and emotes (for now at least). Loot boxes are only received as mission rewards, and while future seasons will add more loot, there is currently no way to pay to get better weapons (which I personally think is a good thing). The biggest problem for me was the requirement to always be online, even in single-player mode. My crappy suburban wi-fi kept cutting out on hot summer days, and I found it a struggle to log back in even when it was restored. But Rocksteady has stated that the ability to remove this will arrive in a future update. Time will also tell how the game evolves as Season 1 begins in March, introducing a new location to explore, new bosses and story content, and a new playable character in the Joker.
- Fantastic writing and characters
- Movement abilities are always fun to play with
- Metropolis is a treat to explore
- Plenty of references for Arkham and DC fans
- Enemy and mission design can be frustrating
- Connection issues stemming from always online requirement
Thanks to the way Suicide Squad – and every game following the live service model – is structured, this review will probably be obsolete a year from now. The current (base?) version of the game is pulling its punches for now, to dole them out seasonally over the coming months and years. Based on player retention, there’s no way to know if it’ll be worth your while in the long term to jump into Suicide Squad at launch. But there’s the kicker, you can get a lot out of it already, just not in the ways live service models are known for. A genuinely compelling narrative, a huge city to play in, and the prospect of playing with friends are a solid foundation to grow from, even if the repeatable mission design needs some work.