How did this happen? And what is wrong with the Suicide Squad that they’re so cursed?
The ragtag crew of villains from the DC universe notoriously popped up in one of the most derided comic book movies of all time in David Ayer’s blockbuster, only to have them remade not long after in a film by James Gunn that also felt like a disappointment to fans (but, for the record, I kind of enjoyed on its own Troma-esque terms). Now, RockSteady, the gaming geniuses behind three great Batman games, have delivered a highly advertised blockbuster of a game called “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League,” and the launch has been problematic, to say the least. Half the time I’ve tried to play, the game servers have been down, and this is a live-service game that requires players to be online to enjoy it. More importantly—because the servers will get fixed—this is a clunky experience from a studio that usually delivers refined games. The very mechanics of playing it can be wildly inconsistent and infuriating, to the point that I kind of dreaded every time I fired it up. Forget the Justice League, this game killed me a little bit.
“Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League” allows you to pick one of four members of the legendary crew (with the enticing option to play co-op with friends taking on the other three): Captain Boomerang, King Shark, Harley Quinn, or my Squad choice most of the time, Deadshot. Aliens have invaded Metropolis and Brainiac have turned the traditional heroes like Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, Batman, and Wonder Woman into his willing subjects. Only the Suicide Squad can save the day from hordes of purple aliens descending on the city. It’s a great idea, right? Imagine getting to actually battle Superman as Harley Quinn. Imagine going head-to-head with a legendary hero with the chaotic energy of the Suicide Squad. And then imagine that with the style and form of one of RockSteady’s “Arkham” games. You’ll have to keep imagining because “Kill the Justice League” is a consistent letdown.
Instead of using this great skeleton to craft a compelling cinematic narrative, the developers at RockSteady chose to make their Suicide Squad game a loot farmer. What that means for the uninitiated is a series of repetitive missions that end with slightly better weapons, skill upgrades, and sometimes cosmetic skins. Over and over again. Across the same boring sandbox of a city.
Now, the funny thing is that I’m a fan of loot farmers. I have played “The Division,” “Destiny” (a massive influence here), “Diablo IV,” “Borderlands,” and more way past the point of sanity for someone with a family. So I don’t mind repetition for the sake of gradual character growth. When it’s done well, as in all those aforementioned franchises, the structure gains an addictive momentum in that every mission gives you a new toy that you want to play with on another mission, which gives you a new toy to test out for another mission, and so on, and so on.
So what happened here? Well, it’s all about refinement. The first thing you notice is that the actual act of moving these characters around the world is clunky. Deadshot has a jet pack, Boomerang throws a boomerang to then teleport to, Harley swings, and Shark jumps. They’re remarkably annoying—I mainly stuck with Deadshot because his jetpack, especially when upgraded, could most consistently get me from point A to point B. A game like this that’s so reliant on doing the same thing over and over again lives and dies on its gameplay mechanics. And “Suicide Squad” is a mess. The button combinations for things like counters and mining shields from depleted enemies never feels fluid. And there’s a notable lack of actual teamwork in the gameplay. It’s a co-op game in which you don’t really need to pay attention to what your teammates are doing.
The game—and this is truly stunning—also lacks the personality of its characters. You may play as anarchic creations like Shark and Harley Quinn, but they’re really just carrying assault rifles out of a game like “Destiny.” The “Arkham” games redefined stealth mechanics and melee—the current “Spider-Man” hits owe them a great debt. So why eschew all of that for such generic shooter combat? It’s telling that “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League” comes to life when it feels like the most like an “Arkham” game in its well-crafted cut scenes or goofy mission objectives.
The end result is a game that feels as chaotic as Harley herself, unsure of what it’s trying to do. The motivation to create a game that could be updated like so many hit live service games is understandable—the market has been moving in that direction for years now—but it’s possible that this is just not what RockSteady does well. It’s also possible that “Suicide Squad” will fix itself with better missions, mechanics, and more as updates are released in the future. It’s happened with games like this before that stumbled on launch and were great a year later. The only question is if anyone will be left in Metropolis when they drop.
The publisher provided a review copy of this title, which was played on PS5. It is also available on Xbox and PC.