Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Released: January 30th, 2024
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Systems: PC, PS5 (reviewed), Xbox X/S
I find most action sequences in contemporary comic book movies to be audiovisual gibberish - an anarchic blur of computer animations and hyperactive editing that my brain simply stops trying to follow after a while. I can say one thing about Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League - they nailed the modern notion of “cinematic” action.
Suicide Squad is another offering of open world busywork drowning in “looter shooter” elements. Between its repetitive gameplay, equally repetitive objectives, and a merciless flood of loot, upgrades, modifications, and crafting bullshit, the overall experience is thoroughly numbing. This is the kind of game that pours gloss over one’s eyes as it gambols into a compulsive but ultimately unfulfilling cycle of killing and inventory sorting.
Suicide Squad does a lot of stuff in the name of aggression, and it does so... indulgently.
There’s a shield harvesting system that copies Doom Eternal’s. You can unlock all sorts of combo buffs and special moves that require constant jumping around. You swing or teleport or rocket boost or whatever it is your character does with whatever buttons an overtaxed control scheme has for you. You have guns, grenades, melee attacks, counter attacks, all of it working in a standard fashion but nonetheless competing with a dozen other things the controls are trying to do.
I mean, you slide by first jumping and then clicking the left stick, not just clicking the stick like normal, because simply clicking it is how you dodge. Between its various systems and attempts to blend them all together, Suicide Squad’s default controls are a smashed porridge of Doing One’s Best, and the worst thing is it probably is doing its best. When trying to remap the dodge button among all the other commands, I found that there really was nowhere else for it but the stupidest place possible.
As I said, combat is a fucking mess. It all “works” as it should - controls are ridiculous but responsive, guns feel punchy and effective, and nothing's inherently broken - but fights absolutely fill the screen with lasers, explosions, warning signs, sniper lasers, and explosions. Meanwhile, enemies are running and jumping rapidly, teleporting at various heights, and spawning 360 degrees around players in any given mission.
The camera is pulled back just far enough that enemies can be hard to spot, especially as the environment was built with verticality in mind. In this regard, Rocksteady has done an admirable job of each Squad member’s unique method of environmental navigation. It took some getting used to, but the different handling methods are pretty fun.
Harley Quinn emulates Batman’s techniques in the classic Arkham games, able to swing from a rope and grapple to nearby ledges for quick coverage. Captain Boomerang uses, if you can fucking believe it, his boomerang, tossing it in the air before speeding to its location. Deadshot has himself a nifty little jetpack, and King Shark simply jumps really high and far like the player character in Crackdown. God, I hate that Crackdown 3 was such wank.
If you tend to stick to one character more than others, switching over will mess with your muscle memory, but that's this game all over - a total "fuck off" to your sense of coordination. If you can get used to all four traversal styles, however, you'll find each one handles surprisingly well given how radically different they are.
The game never forces you to pick different squaddies outside of a handful of sequences, but doing so is occasionally incentivized by giving specific characters a power and XP boost for set objectives. Sometimes it even makes narrative sense - can you fucking believe that Captain Boomerang is particularly into fighting The Flash? When it's not thematically appropriate, however, it's simply a contrived way to encourage variety.
Oh, I guess I better do the story bit. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is about the Suicide Squad killing the Justice League. They’ve gone naughty, Metropolis is a shit dump, Brainiac is the big bad, Riddler is still gluing trophies to ceilings because he has no sense of priority, and Amanda Waller has coerced Harley, Boomerang, Deadshot and Shark into doing shooting for a bit.
It’s a well worn premise, and not very interesting. It’s a shame that after years of games set in Gotham, the Metropolis we get to play in is an empty wreck populated only by boring alien drones who lack personality. To its credit, the script does actually have a few genuinely funny moments, and it does a good job of conveying just how terrifyingly powerful a rogue superhero is to shit-tier villains such as the Squad.
That said, however, plenty of the humor misses, and one story element in particular makes the game grating - the aforementioned Waller. A great comic book character, her cold and contemptuous leadership makes for engrossing reading or viewing, but as your Mission Control for hours and hours, her constant barrage of threats, insults, and reminders of one’s own deserved expendability can grow really tiresome, if not offputting. This is on top of all the other characters treating Harley and pals like shit.
Atmospherically, the result is similar to playing Gollum. Being any game world’s version of sentient refuse is a hard thing to make entertaining for more than an hour.
Speaking of which, Kill the Justice League follows in the footsteps of far too many other “live service” loot ‘em ups in that most of the content is a small selection of recyclable missions repeated across a map that feels less like a city playground and more like a voided playpen. The objectives of each mission type hardly matter - they all boil down to killing loads of generic mutants and occasionally pushing some contextual buttons. For hours.
Well, that’s not strictly true - for a meager sense of variety, many missions have extra restrictions that are supposed to make them tougher but really just make them the biggest hassle possible. Almost every restriction makes enemies immune to all but one type of damage, such a grenades or critical hits. The game was balanced around chaotic, semi-mindless combat and not battles in which almost all of its features are rendered useless.
Resulting battles become horrible adventures in resource management and desperately farming drops amidst the usual unending maelstrom of indecipherable violence. Considering most objectives are already long-winded and tedious, these stipulations are fucking horrendous, and what's worse, they’re everywhere.
Perhaps not quite as everywhere as the heaps of weapons Suicide Squad sprays all down your face like so much piss at a lemon party. Between them, the team can equip pistols, SMGs, shotguns, assault rifles, mini guns, and sniper rifles, because mainstream game development still thinks bog standard COD guns make for great “loot.” Suicide Squad's guns behave exactly like normal guns in any normal videogame and feature the usual obligatory tiers of rarity with random stat boosts.
A few special weapons, particularly those themed around other DC characters, are a little more quirky, such as the Black Mask guns that mark and explode targets, but they’re still fundamentally the same selection of mundane bang-bangs you’ll have been using for a long time prior to their emergence.
Between missions you get to sit through loot boxes opening, results screens detailing pointless crap, and long dialog sections where you can do nothing but walk on whatever rooftop you’re confined to, unable to even pause, until Waller or Rick Flag are done yapping. This is after every story mission, and it absolutely kills the game’s own momentum.
Then again, pacing overall is not this game’s strongest aspect. Not when it offers a climactic battle with Superman hours before the story ends and offers nothing afterwards except padding upon padding to drag out the final battle with Brainiac. In a cutscene, the Suicide Squad more or less admit they're in a pointless "AAA" videogame, celebrating that the post-Superman work is just an excuse for them to swing around Metropolis mindlessly collecting loot forever.
Look, it’s not a terrible game, it’s just… another one.
There are so many of these bloody games on the market now, all vying for attention, all doing the same thing, and none of them doing enough of anything good. This is just one in a line of flimsy “service” games, light on original content but plenty heavy on microtransactions. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League has its moments of messy fun, but those moments are entrenched between gulfs of numbingly inane “looter shooter” nonsense.
I'm just over it.