Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Has an Identity Crisis
Two sides of the same coin.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League hasn’t had the easiest go of things, from multiple delays to facing backlash for an always-online requirement, followed by surprisingly unenthusiastic previews before launch. It’s easy to see why many were worried about the newest title from Arkham series developer Rocksteady. While Suicide Squad is far from a disaster, it’s a game that constantly feels like it gets in its own way, a baffling fusion of ideas both fantastic and frustrating. Over a half-dozen hours in, I’m enjoying parts of Suicide Squad, but I can’t shake the feeling that it could have been more.
Suicide Squad, like the films that bear the same name, follows a ragtag group of villains put together in a last-ditch attempt to save the world. The catch, this time, is that you’re fighting warped versions of the Justice League, who are now committing unspeakable atrocities under the mind control of Brainiac.
Rocksteady has built its reputation on creating compelling twists of classic superhero stories. The Arkham games, especially Arkham City, still stand tall as some of the greatest superhero games ever made. That sense of dynamic storytelling is still alive and well with Suicide Squad, and it’s honestly the most surprising aspect of the game.
It’s a compelling setup that’s made all the better by a strong script that really leans into the personalities of Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, King Shark, and Harley Quinn. These strong personalities play off each other well, and the dialogue successfully manages to thread a needle between charming and aggravatingly annoying, just like any Suicide Squad story should.
At the same time, Rocksteady is doing some truly compelling stuff with the inversion of iconic heroes turning evil. The cutscene direction and character models can honestly be jaw-droppingly impressive, backed up by stellar voice performances across the board. This likely all sounds pretty good so far, but those impressive narrative aspirations feel diametrically opposed to every other aspect of the game.
Mixed into compelling story moments is a healthy dose of tedium. Suicide Squad is a live service game in every sense of the term: you can gather loot, complete a variety of missions, and make character builds. The main story missions and climactic boss battles do a good job of shaking things, but between all those are dozens of generic missions that have you replaying the same objectives over and over. There’s genuinely only a handful of mission types, and you can only save some generic soldiers or defend a position so many times.
This problem is only compounded by the sheer amount of cutscenes and story content. There’s a lot of narrative to sit through, and some environment, like the Hall of Justice, have a lot of interactive areas for extra context and dialogue. That’s all fine for a single-player experience, but live service games are often focused on getting into the action as quickly as possible, especially if you’re playing with a group.
This sense of unevenness is found throughout the core gameplay, which by and large is fluid and enjoyable. Suicide Squad plays a bit like The Division fused with Sunset Overdrive. Each character has their own unique skills and ways of traveling across town, but uses guns like assault rifles, pistols, snipers, and shotguns. The traversal is genuinely a joy and makes bounding over the rooftops of Metropolis seamless, and each character feels nicely varied and unique. However, I was let down by the utterly unimaginative weapons and shooting, which can often make Suicide Squad feel like a rote third-person shooter. This only makes the generic mission design feel even worse, and the novelty of Suicide Squad’s traversal wears off quickly.
I can say the same thing for pretty much every facet of Suicide Squad, and I feel like everything I like about the game is accompanied by a caveat. Each character feels unique, but the leveling system is a mess of stats and numbers. Metropolis is visually stunning and thematically has some fascinating hero-worship designs, but it also feels devoid of life and unique activities. The story is genuinely compelling and well-written, but you have to wade through hours of monotony to see it. I could keep going, but you get the idea.
I can’t help but feel like Suicide Squad is two disparate games stitched together, and both sides suffer for it. There are moments of brilliance that get buried under an avalanche of live service and looter-shooter mechanics, and in that regard, it doesn’t bring anything new to those genres. Suicide Squad isn’t a bad game, but it’s a forgettable one, and I worry about what will happen to this story when years down, the live servers are inevitably taken offline.