A lot has been said about game studio Rocksteady in the last few months leading up to the release of their new game, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
The studio famous for its single-player Batman games that had defined a generation of superhero gaming, has taken a different approach in joining the live service genre. We get it, this may have seemed like a great idea a few years ago. Still, due to an over-bloated development time of nine years and negative fan reactions, the overall feeling is that this is generally too little too late.
Fortunately, there’s a rich and beautiful tale to be told here, set in Rocksteady’s version of the DC universe. This game does hold its ties in the Arkhamverse and while the wider aesthetics, characters and setting feel worlds away from the previous three games, there is enough separation to accept this as its own thing. You may not love the Fortnite meets Sunset Overdrive gameplay, but we’d be lying if we said there weren’t some hooks in place to keep you around.
The Maniac’s Mission
Set five years after Batman: Arkham Knight, we find ourselves in Metropolis,as it is invaded by intergalactic bad guy Brainiac. He has also taken control of members of the Justice League, including Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. Head honcho Amanda Waller recruits several criminals to form Task Force X, aka The Suicide Squad. The team in question consists of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark and Captain Boomerang.
Throughout the 12 or so-hour campaign, you’ll build up your arsenal and anti-JL equipment to take on each member of the League before finally confronting Brainiac. This is where the game accelerates with confidence, capped off with some incredible and emotional story scenes that make this crazy premise seem somewhat believable, all while delivering Rocksteady’s standard twists and turns.
The game’s writing is certainly a standout. Having to jump on board with a group of criminals to save the world is not an easy pill to swallow, particularly after the brilliant writing in the first three Batman Arkham games. The writing team have been able to maintain a great blend of humour and comic book antics that keeps things light and fun, while also acknowledging that these characters are criminals and their history with the Justice League members makes it an interesting premise.
As an Australian, having Captain Boomerang use actual Aussie, complete with accurate slang and insults just adds that extra touch that made me appreciate just how much thought went into the writing of this game and the care taken with each of these characters.
Loot, Shoot and… Loot Some More
Gameplay-wise, it is a looter, shooter. You assume the role of a member of Task Force X, as you switch between characters to build up their level and use their different abilities to traverse across Metropolis. The map looks big, but it doesn’t take long to get from one end to the other when you are inside the city. Each character has traversal abilities thanks to gadgets or their natural abilities.
Harley Quinn has a bat grapple that attaches to a Bat drone to assist with traversal. Deadshot has a jetpack that has a cooldown feature when flying, Captain Boomerang has a speed force-infused boomerang and King Shark can naturally jump large distances and charge his jump. It does take a bit to master each character’s traversal, but once you have the hang of it, it is a lot of fun. King Shark was my character of preference. His ability to jump large distances makes traversal easy and is by far the easiest way to get around.
When it comes to how you play this game, it does depend on what you want to get out of it. As a single-player experience, it is quite expansive and offers a fairly concise and contained superhero story that closes out the Arkhamverse, while introducing some of DC’s biggest heroes and villains to be part of this epic story.
There are times when you have to complete various side missions to get enough XP points and weapons to take on the Justice League members, and it is in these moments that the game can feel tedious. The side missions located across the maps are fairly rinse and repeat with the same style. Collect civilians and take them to a bus, Protect these two terminals from being attacked by Brainiac’s army. There are also missions in which you need to shield harvest to hurt enemies or destroy these crawling Brainiac spawn before you can inflict damage on the larger enemies.
Unfortunately, the rinse and repeat of these mission styles do get tedious fairly quickly. The requirement to do them to progress in the story may frustrate some who are keen to get through the story. It will be interesting to see where this progresses concerning the season pass and additional content moving forward.
Look the Part
There are times when I was shocked at the sheer amount of things that were packed into the screen and how well the game (and the PlayStation 5 console) handled it. Swarms of enemies surround you, with everyone firing with neon rays bouncing all around the frame while your character jumps, flies and dodges in and around. Metropolis is a great location for this game, with the city offering up various colours, decent lighting and detailed textures vastly different from the dark and moody shadows of the Arkham games.
The cut scenes are incredibly cinematic. This helped the story come alive and is a large part of what kept me going when the side missions started to feel a bit weary. The characters themselves are beautifully detailed and well-acted. Most interesting is Harley Quinn’s redesign from the previous game. While the game doesn’t really address this, her cheekbone structure bears a very similar resemblance to Margot Robbie’s version in the films, which is a great continuity and could be something we could see in the new James Gunn DC Universe that will connect the movies, TV shows and games. Debra Wilson plays the harsh leader Amanda Waller perfectly. There is a fierceness to her performance of this character that goes toe to toe with Task Force X, as well as having to make some shocking decisions that show the true motivations of this unstoppable character.
For all of the live service talk and complaints about this game, it is refreshing to get to the end of the story and see what the plan is for the rest of the seasons of this game including more playable characters and more stories that will live on through Elseworlds content. Rocksteady has confirmed the only thing to shell out actual money for is cosmetics, and this is great news for those who want to keep playing after the first part of the story is done.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League will feel like a mixed bag for many fans. We can’t really dispute that.
For those who loved the first three Arkham games, it feels strange having to mix in this newer live service element into an otherwise linear and focused story mode. Fortunately, the story itself is incredibly solid. Still, you can’t help but wonder what kind of game they could have made if it was a Justice League game in this rich and beautifully detailed world. The mission styles are very repetitive and can halt motivation to keep playing after the story has finished.
That being said, we feel that this simply doesn’t take away from the experience being a good one, along with how incredibly well it runs and looks on the next-gen platforms. Rocksteady has delivered another solid game with unforgettable characters and a game that will hopefully surprise and entertain gamers as more content is released.
The games as a live service genre is a crowded space, it does feel like this game is perhaps about 3 years too late. Rocksteady has delivered another solid game that will show they understand the superhero genre and what it is about these characters that make them all so beloved.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Engaging and emotional story; Satisfying combat system; Gorgeous new city to play in
Lowlights: Repetitive mission styles
Publisher: Warner Bros Games
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by the publisher.