Rocksteady's Arkham series will go down as one of the greatest in video games. It gave one of pop culture's most recognizable heroes a definitive video game trilogy, it redefined melee combat for an entire generation, and it remains a shining example of what can be done with a licensed property. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a tough game to review, because it should be judged based on what it is and not on what it isn't. It's definitely not an Arkham game, despite Rocksteady repeatedly hammering throughout the story that this is that series' official conclusion. It's not a stealth game, it's an action game. Unfortunately, after making clear what it isn't, that leaves what it is, and that's a slurry of dull, repetitive missions in an uninspired open world with an inconclusive ending for the benefit of a live service model. It's basically a lot of gaming's worst impulses realized.
The Waller Directive
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League's story is a fairly simple one. The world has gone to heck with Brainiac leading an alien invasion and brainwashing members of the Justice League to serve him and raze Metropolis into an unrecognizable world of rubble and brown textures. That shifts the scene to Arkham Asylum. Three of its prisoners (Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang) are teamed with a giant shark man out of Belle Reve Penitentiary for a special task. Don't ask why hardened criminals Deadshot and Captain Boomerang are locked up in Arkham Asylum, which is an institution meant for the insane, because that's the least of this game's problems. After the four inject bombs into each other's brains in a ridiculous opening scene, they're at the service of Amanda Waller and are tasked with helping stop the Brainiac invasion. They'll eventually come to the conclusion that the only way to do so is to kill the Justice League.
The main ensemble takes some getting used to, especially Boomerang. The constant barrage of barbs, one-liners, and eye-roll-inducing punchlines is grating at the start of the game. While the dialogue's constant pace never lets up, the team does start to grow on you after a few hours. Rocksteady does a good job of illustrating character growth over the course of the story. You even come to love ol' Boomer by the end, who goes from a one-note joke of a character to someone whose outbursts are rooted in a genuine sense of loneliness. It's a big leap from that dumb opening scene where these four are stabbing each other with needles to the jovial band of friends at the end of the game and Rocksteady pulls it off capably.
Much of that is because of just how expressive these characters are. The character animation in this game is top-notch. Character renders are gorgeous, facial animations are incredible, and the manner in which these characters can convey their emotions or engage in physical comedy is like few other games on the market. Visually, this game is a technical marvel.
The development of the main four characters goes a long way towards making up for the rest of the story's shortcomings. It's silly not to go into a game called "Kill the Justice League" and not know what you're in for. Even with that in mind, Suicide Squad's narrative feels particularly cynical. It's made clear at the start of the game that the heroes are brainwashed and there are scenes where Flash tries to reach into his friends' inner heroic selves to try and get them back. It doesn't work, but the whole crux of being a hero is never giving up. That's part of what makes Wonder Woman's character in this game so admirable because she knows she has to fight to protect the innocent, but she's also fighting for her friends. If anything, this game made me pine more for that Wonder Woman game that's in development. The players, on the other hand, are presented instead with the "shoot first, ask questions never" route, mainly for the sake of ascertaining power for the game's puppet masters. The heroes don't even go out in any kind of heroic (or even memorable) manner, they just get snuffed out as brainwashed husks. It's totally possible to do "Heroes-turned-villains" stories well. We've seen the Injustice series excel at that. Suicide Squad's story, unfortunately, isn't able to hit those heights.
On top of that, there's a constant question of who's on whose side, who's planning to betray whom, and an overarching sense of subterfuge between Waller's ARGUS organization, Lex Luthor (both of them, which is something players will discover), and various other characters. All of it is aching for a payoff, but it either never comes or, worse, is teased for a future update. Believe me, this game is all about setting up for the future out of a desire to keep people coming back for more. With that said, it's time to rip off the bandage and discuss the rest of this game.
The best way for me to describe Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League's gameplay loop is that it's a chore. It wants to be a third-person shooter, one that works in the vein of first-person shooters like Destiny and Borderlands, but the actual mechanics are often clunky. The main idea is to shoot enemies, but players can only refresh their shields through Shield Harvest attacks, which involve shooting an enemy's feet and then moving in for a melee blow. Counters are tied to more than one shoulder button, and the timing for those hits varies to a frustrating degree.
Combat wants to have a smooth flow to it, but it never really happens. That's because there's almost always something trying to hit you, whether it's a distant sniper (which moves if you get too close to it), a brute that shoots off explosive rounds, or a stray helicopter that just happens to get in the mission area and starts firing off freezing rounds. There's no chance to settle into any kind of groove, which is unfortunate when the game tries to utilize the same type of combo chaining system that made the Arkham games so good. It doesn't take long to realize that combo chaining during a gang fight in Arkham Asylum and doing so against multiple moving targets that love to shoot from a distance in Suicide Squad are two totally different animals.
Speaking of combo chaining, the HUD in Suicide Squad is nearly every symptom of a bad Destiny clone on full display. A meaningless cacophony of numbers, particles, and pulsing lights litter the screen at nearly all times during battle. Keeping tabs on a target is nearly impossible, thanks to a constantly-moving camera, an issue exacerbated when there are multiple control points to monitor. There's so much going on at all times that it's impossible to settle into any kind of flow and it sometimes reaches a point where you're just mindlessly moving around and lose track of what you're even supposed to be doing at all.
Mission objectives are banal at best and an active annoyance at worst. Some objectives involve simply shooting lots of aliens until they fall, others involve controlling certain points in a "king of the hill" fashion, and, of course, what would a game like this be without escort missions? If these missions were merely boring, that would be bad enough. Instead, Suicide Squad will sometimes go the extra mile and attach modifiers. If brutes and snipers are too easy, wait until the missions where only critical hits count and all other hits heal them. These missions are made worse because there's no option to switch characters (in single-player) or change loadouts mid-mission. It's just the worst when Deadshot leaves his critical hit-buffed sniper rifle in his other pants.
Suicide Squad's four main characters are distinct, but when the action begins, the guns start shooting, and the neon-colored numbers start filling the screen, everybody starts to feel the same. Their main differences come through their traversal mods, which allow each of them to explore Metropolis in different ways. King Shark's mighty leap, in particular, is fun, letting him swim through the skies and cover great distance, like the Hulk.
That's where the differences end. Firearms are mostly interchangeable and feel the same, which leads to Suicide Squad's other core problem. After a while, it feels like there's less story progression being made and that missions are being done for the sake of collecting new color-coded loot and gear, each with minimal stat differences that don't feel like they're actually any different. Before long, the Epic Purples and Legendary Yellows start to pile up while the Common Grays and Uncommon Greens start to take up space, same story as every other live service game of this kind. Suicide Squad even started to introduce new rarities like Notorious and Infamous and, by that point, I couldn't be bothered to care which was which.
What's most frustrating about this pivot to the live service model is that there are signs of a good game in here. The boss battles against the Justice League members show flashes of Rocksteady brilliance. The fights against Flash and Green Lantern take good advantage of the open world design and make the most of their powers. The confrontation with Batman sets a chilling atmosphere and is easily the most creative sequence in the game. Superman's fight suffers from some of the game's inherent issues, but it takes advantage of the game's scale to put together an intense throwdown with the Man of Steel that does fit his power set.
Sadly, any goodwill from the Justice League battles are quickly undone by the lead-up to the final confrontation with Brainiac. Up until the final hours, the big bad is kept behind the scenes, so when he comes out, it's supposed to feel like a big deal. Instead, players are thrust into more grinding missions with the same boring objectives. That's supposed to open the door to one final confrontation. Except it's not. It's designed like a repeat of a previous boss fight and all it leads to is an inconclusive ending that's basically an ad for the upcoming DLC seasons. It's been a while since the credits rolled on a game and I had this feeling of emptiness and total dissatisfaction, but Suicide Squad pulled it off.
Playing solo in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, players are allowed to switch between characters in most instances. The only time it's not allowed is during missions, which can be an annoyance. Characters get three revives in every mission and if they fall too many times, it's a mission failure. There's no option to switch to another character and even if everybody else is alive, if you use up your three revives and die, the mission is a failure.
Characters in single-player need to be leveled up individually, which is just another way that Suicide Squad unnecessarily pads out its story. There are certain missions where specific characters can be "psyched up" and get experience bonuses, but having to take extra hours to level up each character and unlock their various attacks and gear slots was a total slog.
With that said, it's entirely possible to play through this entire story alone. That's why it's so irritating that Suicide Squas is always online. Are the servers down for any reason? Too bad, because there's no option to play through the story until they go back up. Even if you're playing by yourself, you have to wait for the servers to go live again. There's no real reason for this, either, because the game's multiplayer function is an option that has to be toggled.
There was a point where I was ready to squad up with other players. Who wants to face Superman alone, right? This is where Suicide Squad really sputtered for me. Having public matchmaking on in the background often slows menus to a crawl. In several instances, I'd hit the end of a mission only for the game to find somebody ready to jump into my session. That caused the menus to go haywire, leading to the game nearly soft locking on the results screen for over five minutes at a time. I eventually gave up and just went the rest of the way solo.
Hell to Pay
Imagine somebody takes the world of the Arkham series and makes a massive Destiny/Borderlands clone out of it. No, you don't want to do that because it sounds awful? Well, that's the core of the Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League experience. Get used to the same missions, for the same color-coded loot, fighting the same guys, and all to drag out a story across a full year that will have players doing more of those same missions, for the same color-coded loot, and fighting the same guys.
I feel sad more than anything, because buried underneath the live service slop, there's real potential for a good Suicide Squad game in here. The boss battles show the game's potential. Now imagine more varied missions, different enemy types, and a more interesting gameplay loop that makes the most of this license. Above all else, imagine a better Rocksteady game. Instead of being trendsetters, like with the Arkham series, this studio is now reduced to being trend followers.
And I thought the DCEU was bad.
This review is based on a PlayStation code provided by the publisher. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is available now on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S for $69.99 USD. The game is rated M.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
- Story that gets better as it goes on
- Characters grow on you
- Boss fights show this game's potential
- Character models and animations are incredible
- Story ending is inconclusive ad for DLC
- Uninspired open world
- Repetitive missions and enemy types
- Loot system isn't fun
- Always online even in single-player
- Characters don't level up together in single-player
- Matchmaking can be a mess
- Some characters really do deserve better
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League review: Task Force Dreck
Sounds like exactly what I expected. Another game ruined by live services and greed. I can't believe a new Rocksteady game is dropping and I won't be buying it. Especially after this many years in development. What a waste.
It legit pisses me off this is how their Arkham verse ends.
I plan to play it when it goes on sale.
Suicide Squad is terrible I actually returned it, I am not sure what they where thinking and how badly they where influenced on their work from others. I think Steam DB says it all and it's GG -> https://steamdb.info/app/315210/charts/ "5,071" in game and the charts show the peak of sales has passed and it is downhill from here, oof. Granblue Fantasy: Relink is at "57,154" and rightfully so it is mega fun and well thought out -> https://steamdb.info/app/881020/charts/
I refuse to believe this was Rocksteady Studios's idea and they wanted to make a live service loot shooter and the way it is, maybe those rumors that the original team had left are true. It's a terrible loot shooter, not fun and traversal mechanics are not consistent/don't feel good and on top of that the loot system is bad.
So much potential for a popper Suicide Squad and they flushed it down the toilet.
Gotham Knights is > than Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, if they just copied Gotham Knights it would have been a million times better, just saying.
Task: Forced reck.