Comic book adaptations in video games have notoriously placed players in the role of iconic heroes. Both Batman and Spider-Man have each found tremendous success over the last few decades and countless other superhero titles such as Gotham Knights, Marvel’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy have all featured the player in a classic good guy versus bad guy role. Enter the Suicide Squad and thanks to Warner Bros. Games I got to take on the role of some infamous villains and take on the Justice League.
Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and King Shark star in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League and as the title suggests, their intentions are less than honourable when it comes to the eponymous Justice League. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern all feature, as would be expected, though these heroes are the villains to our playable squad of convicted criminals. Enlisted by Director Amanda Waller, the head of A.R.G.U.S, the Suicide Squad are brought together as Task Force X against their will to put a stop to Braniac’s invasion of Earth and the corrupted members of the Justice League that stand in their way.
Boasting punchy gameplay, energetic sound design and comedic banter as the group tackle the high stakes task at hand set in the critically acclaimed Arkhamverse by developer Rocksteady Studios, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is positioned to succeed in the looter shooter, live service genre that the likes of Marvel’s Avengers and other non-comic book properties such as Anthem failed to achieve and competently proves it’s good to be bad.
The premise of pitting a playable group of criminals against beloved, iconic heroes is an interesting shift in the dynamic that we’ve become accustomed to. A game featuring Batman and Superman would naturally lead the average player to assume they’d be donning capes, gadgets and super-powers rather than criminal records and profanity-laden vocabularies.
It’s the subtitle “Kill the Justice League” that initially offered a level of ambiguity. Maybe that’s the mission the Suicide Squad are given but instead they’ll need to enlist the aid of the heroes to overcome Braniac’s invasion. Perhaps they’ll have a change of heart and risk their own lives for the greater good in a moment of desperation and sheer hopelessness. Rocksteady could have gone a million routes but the route they’ve chosen, to literally kill the Justice League, is an absolutely refreshing change of pace and type of experience to keep the wildly popular, nearly one hundred-year-old comic book publisher DC Comics at the forefront of evolution in video games. It may not be a popular decision to all, but to players looking for something different from the world of superheroes, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is here to scratch that proverbial itch.
Five in-game years have passed since the events of 2015’s Arkham Knight, originally believed to be the end of Rocksteady’s Arkhamverse, and Metropolis has fallen after the arrival of Braniac and his sinister plot to terraform Earth. Injected with bombs in their necks to detonate should they disobey Waller’s commands, the Suicide Squad steal equipment from the Hall of Justice, the base of operations for the Justice League, that once belonged to the fallen heroes that give them some of their abilities.
Captain Boomerang’s boomerang is imbued with the Flash’s Speed Force to allow him to travel short distances extremely quickly by throwing and catching up to his boomerang. Harley Quinn has a grappling hook that can attach to one of Batman’s drones to traverse more effectively. Deadshot takes a jetpack from Gizmo while King Shark relies on his own super-strength as a Demi-god to get his dirty work done. Each character’s abilities and unique traversals are a lot of fun to experiment with as each offers a distinctly different gameplay experience.
The story itself is relatively short and can be beaten in less than 9 hours on the standard difficulty. Despite its brevity it feels steadily paced and wraps it all up before overstaying it’s welcome. Tasked with killing the Justice League, the team go toe to toe with Brainiac corrupted Flash, Green Lantern, Batman and Superman in varied encounters that ultimately feel underwhelming considering the iconic stature they’ve achieved through decades of multi-platform storytelling. The climax of each encounter is however rewarding and plays out in chaotic fashion as one could expect from an unhinged group of misfits and these encounters play out as the title of the game suggests.
The beloved heroes that have graced the pages of comic books, video games and countless television and film adaptations have become corrupted by Braniac, irredeemable and therefore, in many ways, not themselves. How the Suicide Squad handles business isn’t pretty, it isn’t classy and isn’t meant to be depicted as some kind of heroic last stand that see the villains get the unexpected win. They’re killers and criminals. In this authors opinion, THAT particular in-game moment that was spoiled for many ahead of the games actual launch, is not a case of disrespect. It’s a narrative decision that makes sense within the confines of the game and in the context of the relationship between the characters involved. It’s raw, quick and fitting.
The showdown with Braniac introduces new mission types and in-game resources that act as a tutorial for the endgame and future content that’s to come. The multiverse aspect that has flooded the superhero genre over the last few years opens up possibilities, characters and locations that are truly limitless within the DC universe. Rocksteady delivers a solid campaign that, as a whole, set the player up for the real game, the end game, and what’s to come via free Seasonal content updates.
Complimenting the unique abilities of the squad are weapon loadouts, with some types of weapons only usable by certain characters. Harley Quinn for instance can’t equip an assault rifle, sniper rifle or shotgun like Deadshot but she can use the heavy machine guns that King Shark can. This encourages players to explore different loadouts without simply having all four members of the squad rocking an assault rifle and shotgun, which would lend to a rather repetitive gameplay experience. Capitalising on each character’s unique abilities, customisable loadouts and diverse elemental effects that come to play via augmentations and gear mods keeps the combat constantly enjoyable, evolving and dynamic. When playing solo with bots to fill out the squad, the challenge isn’t overwhelming thanks to their competent performances.
Via the social menu, players can add friends and even other players from leaderboards to their bot squad, adopting their respective loadouts and cosmetics. To make this feature even cooler, if a player uses another player as one of their bots, that other player will receive a cut of the XP, resources and loot when they load in next. This is an incredibly well thought out concept that lets players feel as though they’re playing with “the squad” even when playing solo. It’s fun to see your “friends” fighting by your side even though they’re not even there.
Cosmetics are another layer of player customisation that feels fun, with players able to kit out not just their current playable character, which can be switched at any time outside of a mission, but also the outfits and loadouts for the rest of the squad. Some new outfits are unlocked via story progression and others as rewards or via purchase from the in-game store. In addition to styles, trinkets that can be attached to their weapons are also available as are player banners to further personalise their favourite criminal. Via the talent tree new skills can be unlocked that reward the player with special moves that truly highlight the individuality and character behind each of the playable criminals, showcasing their personality through moves that make sense to them. Deadshot has some incredible, raw firepower moves that stand apart from King Shark’s heavy hitting area of effect attacks or Harley’s flashy style.
Once a character hits level 30, the current level cap, any additional levels earned as that character award the player a Squad Point. This can be spent on one of a significantly larger number of skills that apply to all characters such as additional XP, extra critical damage and more shield. This large number of upgrades encourage players to continue beyond an individual character’s level cap and be rewarded with points that the whole team get to capitalise on, including current and yet to be added characters. This incentivises players to play for more than loot, showing that the game respects their time and will always reward them for their efforts in some capacity.
As would be expected from a looter shooter, the gear is available on tiers from common to legendary, and even Notorious and Infamous tiers which are themed around iconic DC characters, dropping as loot from slain enemies, bosses or as mission rewards. Each piece of gear has a varying number of passive perks dependent on how high quality the gear is and is tailored to multiple different playstyles that lets the player create different builds to fully experiment with the characters available. Seasons will focus on specific villains and gear sets that come with a number of epic perks that encourage players to seek them out and craft new variants with randomised augmentations. Loot is a critical component of a live service title and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League has launched with an impressive variety right out of the gate.
There are a decent variety of missions available that can be played on various difficulties, each offering differing XP and loot percentage bonuses, with an assortment of rewards on offer outside of XP and resources. New gear is perhaps the greatest incentive and tackling the missions on offer is an enjoyable challenge, especially on harder difficulties, that minimises the repetitive nature of live service titles by constantly adding incentives and modifiers to keep the brief excursions action packed and rewarding. With new mission types and enemies on their way via the free, regular content updates there is plenty of reason to grind out a solid build to prepare for the content that’s to come. Iconic characters from the DC universe appear throughout the main campaign and some find their way to the games hub, the Hall of Justice, and offer services such as weapon enhancement and crafting. As well as providing access to new types of gear they also have their own unique Squad Support mission chains that further reward the player with an assortment of upgrades.
Visually, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a genuine treat, with stunning character models for the core cast of titular characters and their supporting co-stars. The environment looks great too though it and the enemies that occupy it don’t reach the same level of visual fidelity as the main characters but explosive set pieces, action packed firefights and constant smaller scale encounters keep the action looking great throughout the campaign and beyond.
The cinematic presentation is incredible throughout the campaign’s cutscenes and are as well presented as they are written. The performances of the cast are top notch, from top to bottom. Each member of the titular group are well realised, witty and believable. The strength of the supporting cast is not to be ignored either, rounding out an impressive array of talent with performances that fuse fun, silliness and seriousness at the flip of a switch.
Review by Games of DAYNE
Games of DAYNE’s written works can also be found at his website HERE.
* A digital code for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League was kindly provided by Warner Bros. Games for the purpose of this review. *
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is an exciting entry to the live service genre, delivering an epic campaign set within the legendary DC universe that tasks players with killing the very heroes they’ve come to love. With an incredible amount of loot, skills and customisation to experiment with dynamic builds across an exponential roster and a multiverse of narrative beats to explore, playing solo or with a squad of four is an absolute blast, reminding us it’s good to be bad.
- Awesome, well-paced campaign
- Solid performances
- Stunning visuals
- Enjoyable gameplay loop
- Wealth of customisation and rewards
- Online requirement when playing solo is frustrating with server issues
- Lag when playing long co-op sessions