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Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a surprise superhero package — but part of me wishes it didn’t exist

 Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League with Superman.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League with Superman.

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I can’t recall an instance of a recent game where so much of the public's perception at launch has been indelibly stained by negative pre-release online discourse. In that regard, I feel some sympathy for Rocksteady Studios’ Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. The initial reaction to this looter shooter back in 2020 was so vitriolic, you’d think it was single-handedly trying to bring back New Coke.

My colleague Tony Polanco’s Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League review is on the way, so it’s not my place to make a definitive judgment on this seemingly ill-fated “games as a service” sandbox on behalf of Tom’s Guide at the moment. Though it’s no secret Tony wasn’t exactly head over heels for this antihero-driven open-world that’s set in Metropolis when he last went hands-on with it recently.

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League: $68 @ Amazon
A live service sandbox game from the makers of the Batman Arkham trilogy, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League lets you play at the titular band of DC villains who are shunted into unlikely servitude on the streets of Gotham as they take on the almighty task of stopping brainwashed, extra evil versions of Superman and friends.  View Deal

At best, I was indifferent about Suicide Squad in the build up to launch"

I completely get his initial feelings … even if ultimately the game largely surprised me last weekend when I spent around 12-14 hours to finish its main campaign. At best, I was indifferent about Suicide Squad in the build up to launch. The first DCEU movie bored me to tears, yet I liked James Gunn’s sequel without having any experience with the comics, meaning this is an IP I went into with no vested interest.

If I was a hardcore comic book fan like Tony is, though, I could easily see myself being furious with some of the game’s creative decisions. I won’t spoil specifics because I think the overall experience is just about good enough to warrant sampling for yourself with fresh eyes when it inevitably gets discounted in the future — heck, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is on sale for $54 on Amazon UK just a week after release. Hasty discounts or not, there’s no question Rocksteady makes story choices that are eyebrow-raising.

Not the hero we deserve

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League

In fact, there’s one moment I find so egregious, it’s head and shoulders more upsetting than any other plot point. So much so, I almost wish Rocksteady hadn’t made Suicide Squad. It’s destined to become Kill the Justice League’s defining, most infamous point of contention. While it makes sense in the overall balance and tone of the game’s story, it still feels massively disrespectful to Rocksteady’s past work.

As much as I hate that single moment, I definitely don’t hate Suicice Squad. Like I said, it actually took me pleasantly by surprise. The biggest compliment I can pay the game? For much of the campaign’s playtime, it does a serviceable job of coming across like a traditional single-player experience in the Batman Arkham trilogy mold. Loot and leveling up rarely get in the way and a few missions are legitimately excellent.

The best setpieces are more bespoke and memorable than I’m used to seeing in the live service genre"

There’s nothing quite at the level of the second Scarecrow encounter in Asylum or City’s knockout ending, but the best setpieces are more bespoke and memorable than I’m used to seeing in the live service genre.

I won’t lie, I also really like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League’s story. I’d even go so far to say it’s one of my favorite video game narratives of the current console generation. For someone who appreciates comic book heroes (or in this case villains), but isn’t obsessed by them, I think each of the four playable antagonists in Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark and Captain Boomerang are both well-scripted and equally well-acted.

Cutscenes are also directed with real cinematic zest and the places Rocksteady decides to place the camera is often Naughty Dog good; the sort of cutscene quality we associate with The Last of Us Part II Remastered and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection. The plot kept me motivated throughout, and it’s probably the only universally enjoyable thing Suicide Squad has going for it. If I hadn’t dug the Squad’s interactions and overall plot to the degree I did, there’s not a chance in Hell I would have finished the campaign.

Squad goals

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay

That’s not to say the actual game is a car wreck. It’s actually a good deal better than I was expecting it to be. Yes, firefights during the overly repetitive missions can drag — there are too many “defend point X/escort this really slow vehicle” objectives — yet combat is far from actively bad. It certainly helps if you turn off some of the overly noisy HUD elements.

Battles are also assisted by how strong traversal feels. As you leap between buildings as King Shark, swing around Metropolis with Harley with the help of a flying drone, zip about while taking control of Boomerang or cruise through the clouds thanks to Deadshot’s jet pack, the link between Suidice Squad’s DNA and the developer’s last title Batman: Arkham Knight can be keenly felt.

For all of Kill the Justice League’s good points, I can’t fully justify its existence"

For all of Kill the Justice League’s good points (and it should be clear by now I obviously think it has some), I can’t fully justify its existence. It all goes back to that incredibly offensive piece of plotting, which is about as unedifying a piece of storytelling as I can remember in any modern title.

This is a game with a horrible sense of timing; like that party guest who cracks open a crate of beer just as everyone else is getting ready to head home. Live service games aren’t exactly in vogue right now, so it’s hard to shake the sense at least partial pressure from publisher Warner Bros. may have been applied on Rocksteady to fit Suicide Squad into a genre it doesn’t need to inhabit — especially in the light of former studio head Sefton Hill leaving late into development. Who knows, though.

To absolutely mangle the lyrics of an Ice T track: “I hate the moment, not the game.”

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