Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League is Rocksteady’s long-awaited follow-up to the Batman Arkham series. The game is an action-adventure shooter with live-service ambitions. Suicide Squad is a drastic departure from Rocksteady’s acclaimed Arkham formula. Despite initial trepidations, I was surprised to find a deep and engaging gameplay loop.
Developer & Publisher // Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros. Games
Platforms // PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date // $69.99, Feb 2, 2024
Reviewed On // Xbox Series X
A Simple, Yet Engaging, Narrative with an End That Sputters
Despite not releasing a game in nearly 10 years, Rocksteady still has that magic in producing compelling narratives and characters. Granted they have a formidable DC universe catalog to choose from, but the studio does them justice (pun intended). From the onset, you are immediately gripped by Suicide Squad’s world and the high stakes of their mission.
The story told in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is spread across 7 chapters and for the most part, it hardly misses a beat until the later chapters. Five years after the events of Batman: Arkham Knight, A.R.G.U.S. agent, Amanda Waller, travels to Arkham Asylum and releases Deadshot, Boomerang, Harley Quinn, and King Shark from imprisonment. She coerces them into joining Task Force X (TFX) – also known as the Suicide Squad – by implanting nano-bombs in their heads.
Waller then deploys the Suicide Squad to Metropolis for a secret mission. The city has been attacked and is under the control of supervillain Brainiac. He has brainwashed a majority of the city’s population under his control, yes including some members of the Justice League. Brainiac’s goal is to restore his home planet, Colu, on Earth. However, the Suicide Squad is there to put a stop to the invasion. But to do so, they have to kill the Justice League.
Certain parts of the story just captivated me. For example, early on in the game, players are taken to Metropolis’ Batman Experience Museum. Let’s just say if you ever played the Arkham games, you’ll be on the receiving end of the stealth predator treatment…
Cameo Support Cast for the Suicide Squad
Along the way, TFX will have to employ traditional DC villains to help in the fight against Brainiac and the corrupted Justice League. Villains such as the Penguin, Toyman, Gizmo, and more will offer their expertise in the Suicide Squad’s mission. Superhero games sure do love their cameos, and Rocksteady fully loaded that part with the support villains cast. Needless to say, Suicide Squad relies heavily on its DC roster to engage players for its simple plot. However, towards the end, the narrative gets messy.
Setting Up the Endgame at the Expense of Pacing
The plot starts out strong by pulling you in with its formidable world-building but by, chapter 6, the narrative takes on a new whole dimension.
It is clear that chapters 6 and 7 were designed to prepare players for the end game. These chapters in particular have a completely different vibe to the early and mid-story content. The story felt concise and was building towards a brisk and satisfying conclusion. The last part of the game’s narrative threw a big curve ball for the sole purpose of providing context to Suicide Squad’s live-service aspects by introducing Elseworlds.
Elseworlds are to DC to what the Multiverse is to Marvel. What was a straightforward narrative takes a whole different turn to set up its live service concept. Don’t get me wrong, having context for end-game content is an important part of having players care to continue playing. Though, it feels like a disconnect from the tight narrative up until chapter 6. Not to mention certain characters undoubtedly have plot armor thicker than tanks to ensure they are around to move the plot forward.
Suicide Squad World-Building At Its Finest
Rocksteady does an immense job in bringing Metropolis to life. The city is littered with easter egg references to DC properties. For instance, you will come across a theatre that’s promoting a Zatana magic show. Or Star Labs, the company behind Cyborg, buildings throughout the city. There’s even Peacemaker graffiti on walls across the city. It’s that attention to detail that creates an immersive and connected world that Rocksteady is known for. And I love the fact that it’s still present in Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League.
A.RG.U.S. setting up shop in the Hall of Justice just oozes with atmosphere and intrigue. I often loved just to explore the surroundings because there were a lot of trinkets and easter eggs to uncover. For instance, in the museum section, you’ll find different paraphernalia used by different DC villains, like Riddler’s famous green top hat. Seeing these easter eggs is exciting and the fact this Rocksteady tradition lives on in the Suicide Squad is always welcome.
Unique Traversal For Each Member of the Suicide Squad
Traversal is an important characteristic of any superhero game. In fact, it can make or break a superhero title. Games such as Spider-Man 2 absolutely nailed the web-slinging mechanic. While the Arkham series did the Dark Knight justice in replicating his overall movements, traversal, and mannerisms. Luckily, Suicide Squad kept that same energy and excelled at creating a unique experience with each squad member.
Each character had its own unique traversal method that is also tied in with some lore. Harley Quin uses Batman’s grapple gun and drone, while Captain Boomerang relies on Flash’s Speed Force.
At first, it was difficult to grasp the traversal controls. Using the A button along with the RB/LB button made the controls a dexterity exercise that felt odd at first. Especially when switching between characters because each one has its own unique traversal method.
Though Some Are Better than Others
Captain Boomerang had the most enjoyable traversal method to use because it was unique and easier to get a grasp of compared to other characters. While Deadshot’s jetpack is the most straightforward and tactical. However, not all traversal methods felt viable.
Harley Quinn’s grapple traversal made her the most unpredictable and least tactically viable compared to her squad mates. The grappling hook often requires looking around for a ledge or waiting for the grapple drone to cool down. Naturally, this sometimes gets in the way of shooting down opponents. It felt like a step back from previous Arkham games, which is surprising because Arkham games nailed grapple methods. Perhaps it was the inclusion of gunplay that made it feel out of place.
Tight Gunplay and Combat Systems
Like a lot of people, I was completely thrown off when Suicide Squad was introduced as a looter shooter. I thought Rocksteady missed the plot entirely and this was likely a corporate decision from the Warner Bros higher-ups. Despite my initial – yet warranted – skepticism, the game once again took me by surprise.
I was not expecting Rocksteady to nail the shooting. Gunplay was satisfying and felt impactful. Each weapon has a unique handling and feel to it. The mini-gun is like a wild restless bronco that kicks but you try to maintain it. While the revolver has an oomph to it when fired. It called to mind the best of hand canons from Destiny 2.
Arkham Counters Are Back… Sort of
One aspect of combat that caught me off guard was the return of the famous Arkham-style counters… well, sort of. Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League features countershots. If enemies are lining up shots on you, you can press RB to countershot them and break their shot. It worked well and was always satisfying to pull off. Once again, there’s a bit of nostalgia seeing that counters are still a thing in SSKTJL.
Other mechanics like Shield Harvesting require you to switch your melee weapon to replenish your shields. While grenades can help clear out hordes of enemies in a sinch. These mechanics added variety to the game’s tight combat.
Mission Types Bring Variety, But Frustration
Suicide Squad Kills the Justice League has a few different mission types for players to engage in. There’s the typical protect the vehicle mission as it moves from point A to B similar to Overwatch 2. Other mission variety includes recusing people and bringing them into a hovering bus ala Fortnite style. There are even vehicle missions where the squad can control Gizmo’s hovercar equipped with a machine gun turret and rocket launcher to dish out the hurt. Additionally, another mission variant includes protecting terminals from being overrun by Brainiac baddies.
Higher-level missions will also have restrictions that add elements to the gameplay. For example, some restrictions specify that only critical attacks damage enemies, and other attacks will heal them. Although these kinds of restrictions kept things fresh, eventually some of them became a nuisance. Especially during terminal mission types where at times, the game wouldn’t register if a terminal was cleared despite no enemies being around the terminal causing you to fail the mission. These instances made this particular mission with restrictions a drag and sucked out the enjoyment.
Side Missions and the Riddler is Back
Side missions are centered around the support cast and unlock useful rewards. This includes additional contract slots (think of Destiny 2 Bounties or Projects from The Division 2), crafting recipes, and more.
There are even random world events you can complete in Metropolis. In addition, Riddler trophies make a triumphant comeback. Here players can collect trophies that are littered across the city and time-sensitive traversal challenges. No doubt the Riddler trophies and challenges help change things up if you feel you want a little mini break.
During the story missions, players will, surprise surprise, take on the Justice League in boss fights. Though as cool as it sounds, most of them felt lacking. Perhaps that could have been remedied with multiple phases a la Dark Souls style. My favorite fight was the Green Lantern, because I love seeing all the different weapons and items Lantern would conjure up during the fight. But for the most part, the boss fights were rather trivial.
Loot to Your Heart’s Content
Suicide Squad is a looter shooter. There are guns and gear with tiers and gear sets similar to Diablo. Tiered loot goes from the usual green common tier to pink Notorious weapons and red-tiered Infamous gear sets. Of course, the higher the tier, the more attributes the gear will carry. This includes additional critical damage and affliction duration types of buffs. While gear attributes include buffs toward special attacks and passive benefits.
Notorious weapons (pink) and Infamous (red) gear sets are based on DC villains. For example, Black Mask’s Notorious weapons are focused on critical strikes with flame damage as well. While Bane-related gear impacts the crazed affliction – makes enemies attack one another – which is a nice homage to the character. There are even villain synergy bonuses for players to experiment with between pink and red gear. It’s these synergies that help flesh out build diversity and experimentation in the SSKTJL.
No Gear Score, No Problem
One thing that Rocksteady nailed down from the jump is the lack of gear score. This makes weapons have more value instead of chasing that weapon with 1% better rolls. Best of all, if there’s a particular weapon you love, you can always take it to Penguin to overhaul it and reroll its stats. It’s a very flexible and well-thought-out system overall.
However, the weapon design does start to get boring and repetitive after a while. There are only so many designs for assault rifles, pistols, and mini-guns before they just all blend together. While the Notorious and Infamous gear sets have somewhat unique designs and aesthetics, there is ample opportunity for more. The DC universe is rich with eccentric characters. Rocksteady should seriously go all in and create weird and unique weapons to make the game stand out more similar to the Borderlands series.
Suicide Squad has three primary skill trees for levels 1 to 30. These trees focus on combat, traversal, and additional skills and buffs up to the player’s choosing. Everything is laid out clearly to alleviate any confusion.
Every skill upgrade even notes what kind of playstyle it complements. Captain Boomerang will have skills suited for hit-and-run or ranger play style. These notes were extremely helpful in focusing on specific builds. Best of all, players can respec at any time. It was one of the most user-friendly upgrade paths I have seen in a long time.
Once players reach past level 30, players can continue investing their skill points into Squad Talents, which are shared between all the characters. This is pretty much par for the course for live service games but its implementation is solid right out of the gate.
End Game Is Where the Game Begins?
Rocksteady admitted that a lot of the focus went into designing the Suicide Squad end-game content. Once you complete the main story, the game opens up immensely and Task Force X will make its way to different Elseworlds to battle Brainiac and his forces via Incursion Missions.
Incursion Missions are challenging and modifiable missions in the Elseworld. Players can customize their difficulty and add enemy mutators for more rewards. There are time limits as well and completing them increases your Finite Crisis rank. However, I noticed that some Incursion missions would glitch out. I was stuck in the same loop for minutes at a time, not knowing how to progress. There was no indication that you had to move to a certain part of the map to cue up the mission’s progress. In addition, enemies would freeze in place.
Incursion Missions are fun and challenging and provide decent rewards to motivate you to increase the difficulty for better drops. Rewards include Notorious and Infamous loot drops. There is some variety in Incursion Mission objectives. However, since we are in season 0 at the time of writing, I feel that the current state of the end game is simply an appetizer of things to come. This game will evolve and change over time. Its bedrock is already solid, and now the question is how future updates will pan out.
More End Game On the Way
Each of the twelve planned seasons will have 2 episodes and Rocksteady already confirmed that 4 new playable (and free) characters will be released during year 1. March will see the release of Joker from a different Elseworld in conjunction with season 1. On paper, this sounds great. The current state of SSKTJL sets a good foundation to build upon. However, it needs additional mission variety, new enemy factions, and a raid-style mode that involves intricate cooperation to overcome puzzles and adversities.
I played Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League during the early access period and let’s just say that online matchmaking was rough. The game was laggy and disconnects were frequent. However, right around the official launch of the game on February 2, the online was much more stable. Now, it’s relatively easy to connect with other players to raise some mayhem. However, some connection issues still persist from time to time.
When playing with other players, there are individual scores and players compete with each other. Whoever wins, becomes Squad Leader and can select the next mission to undertake. It’s a nice little system that adds some extra motivation to outdo each other. There’s even a global leaderboard to see who are the top Suicide Squad players in the world.
Clan For You, But Not For Me
Players can also create clans and invite their friends to join. Though for some reason, there’s no clan search option available at this moment. You can only be invited to join your friends’ clans. So, unless you want to create your own clan, you can’t join random clans. This is honestly an odd decision that seems like a basic feature in live service games. Hopefully, it will be added down the line.
Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League is a Looker
One of the immediate things that stood out to me was the graphics. Like Rocksteady’s previous games, Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League looks incredible. Each character is meticulously detailed down to the tee. A lot of care went into sculpting the different members of the Suicide Squad. For example, Harley’s default skin has a lot of flairs and you can get a glimpse of her forearm tattoo.
In addition, the Justice League members had just as much love put into them. Best of all, characters like Superman and Green Lantern retain that signature Arkham beefy character models. They wouldn’t look out of place from previous Arkham games. In contrast, the different Brainiac soldiers looked generic for the most part.
Generic Looking Enemies
After a while, the enemies became quite repetitive and looked indistinguishable. Though Brainiac troops come in different sizes and have different types of equipment and vehicles, in the end, it all becomes a little bit same-y. This is where the lack of additional factions is painstakingly noticeable.
Performance and Animations
On the performance side of things, I was shocked. The game ran at smooth 60 FPS on the Xbox Series X. Even when traversing around Metropolis, the game’s framerate held up beautifully. There were some minor dips here and there, especially when combat became thick and frantic. More specifically, towards the end-game, where enemies are plentiful and bullets and lasers are flying. To add, the game crashed on me once during my 16-hour playthrough. But overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how the frame rate held up. Especially given the game’s high visual fidelity.
The animations were fluid and well-captured. There were even some subtleties that were impressive. For instance, if you turned the character in a different direction, the character would lightly jog in the new direction before completely turning their body towards it. It was subtle but helped keep animations as smooth as possible.
Suicide Squad excels in the audio department. Everything from the gunshots to movement sound effects was on point. Especially the weapons that had reverberations to them. For instance, you can tell how powerful shotguns are just from their sound alone. While King Shark’s Atlantean drop felt impactful and powerful largely due to the profound sound it produced.
The game’s dialogue was spot-on for the most part. Hearing banter between the squad mates was always fun and added to their personalities. Especially King Shark, who is often the butt of many jokes has a hard time understanding human sarcasm.
There were even lines that made me laugh out loud. Early on in the game, King Shark tries to warn his TFX squad member by saying, “Our enemies come again!” While Harley quickly fires back, “Worst dirty movie I ever saw”, just had me in tears.
A Fitting Official Soundtrack
The soundtrack consists for the most part of rock tunes and mash-ups that have a messy and sort of mishmash vibe to them. For example, the game’s trailer is a mash-up of the Gorillaz’s Clint East and remixed with other musical styles. It beautifully reflects the motley crew nature of Task Force X. While cutscenes have more traditional orchestral pieces to hit home the solid performances of the game’s characters.
Impressive Dialogue and Voice Actors in Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad has phenomenal voice actors thanks to its star-studded cast. Debra Wilson’s take on Amanda Waller is absolutely perfect. Tara Strong did an amazing job of Harley Quin. But my personal two favorites were Samoa Joe, who voiced King Shark, and Daniel Lapaine, Captain Boomerang. Those two were hilarious and their performances were standouts in an already impressive cast. In addition, the game also paid respect to the late Kevin Conroy, the long-time voice of Batman. It was a touching moment for a legend in the industry.
Suicide Squad In-Game Store, Prices, and…
Of course, it wouldn’t be a live service game without an in-game storefront. The premium currency starts at $4.99 and nets you 500 Luthor Coins, while $9.99 gets you 1000 + 100 extra.
All of the store micro-transactions are cosmetics. There are skins, banners, emotes, weapon trinkets, and more. Prices on skins range from around 1000 LC (or $9.99). While bundles can cost up to 2000 LC. However, say if want to get every customization option for Harley Quinn’s classic look, it can easily cost up to $40 since it is split between two bundles, which is a rip-off. One positive note though is that players can purchase previous battle passes as they like. Essentially, eliminating FOMO.
Final Thoughts on the Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League
It’s clear a lot of love and attention to detail that went into creating Suicide Squad. Despite some narrative shortcomings, the game has that tried-and-true world-building and characters that Rocksteady is known for. The moment-to-moment gameplay is phenomenal and feels great with a performance to match. The end game seems promising and has a solid foundation. Though some technical issues persist, mission/enemy variety and interesting loot and designs will only propel the game further. With a clear year-one roadmap already established, Suicide Squad is undoubtedly Rocksteady’s most ambitious and deepest game to date.