Rocksteady clearly cares for these characters and world, but the open-world and looter shooter conventions chosen don't serve the story or gameplay well
After years of anticipation, Rocksteady's Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is finally here. I played it, I finished it and while the game has its fair share of major issues, I still feel like there is still an enjoyable adventure to be had with a few caveats.
Set in the same universe as the Arkham games, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League sees the members of the Justice League mind controlled by alien warlord Brainiac. Tasked with stopping the ravaged heroes are Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark and Captain Boomerang - more commonly known as the Suicide Squad. Right from the start, Rocksteady impresses with its character designs.
Each Squad member looks absolutely fantastic and are brought to life through stellar performances. The character models are meticulously designed and probably the best I've ever seen rivaling the works of Naughty Dog and Santa Monica Studios. There's an insane level of detail to their costumes and the rendering of the materials is, again, probably the best we've seen so far in a game. The same can be said for their facial animations, it is truly next level stuff.
It's immediately clear how much love they put not only into each squad member, but also the rest of the fairly large cast of characters. Wonder Woman looks absolutely fantastic. The same can be said for Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Penguin and so on. They all look ridiculously good during the extremely cinematic and well thought cutscenes.
But the main squad, man, I absolutely adored them, the banter and interaction between them, the genuinly funny jokes and their reactions to whatever crazy shit was happening in front of them or about to happen was delightful to see. Captain Boomerang is absolutely hilarious in the game, taking shots at everything and everyone around him. This rendition of Harley is the best she's ever been portrayed not only in games, but in all types of media, as she teeter tots between endearing while interacting with Poison Ivy and Wonder Woman and batshit insane the rest of the time. I loved the portrayal of DeadShot, stoic at the beginning yet starting to crack a few smiles the more comfortable he grew with the rest of the squad. And King Shark non understanding sarcasm makes for some hilarious moments during the story.
The game's story, while taking familiar turns, remains engaging throughout its 10 hour campaign. It's in the title of the game and you will absolutely do just that. Now, there has been a lot of discussions online about how this game kinda pisses all over what Rocksteady themselves have built before with the Arkham series and while there's some truth to that, once the game started, I turned off my thinking part of the brain and just enjoyed the crazy ride. Cause if you go and think about it, there's no way in hell that a ragtag team of non-powered villains, apart from King Shark, can kill of the Flash, Batman, Green Lantern and well, Superman using assault rifles, shotguns and miniguns. Yes, the game offers narrative explanations about how you are able to do so, like using speed force dampeners to take down the Flash or using Yellow Lanterns to diminish the Green Lantern's will and even Gold Kryptonite infused bullets to take down Superman and I just accepted it and went with it. And I have to say that, even though it will sound weird, I sorta enjoyed killing them... sorry!
I say that cause I think I helped put an end to their suffering. Being the world's greatest heroes under mindcontrol, they did unspeakable things to the very same people they swore to protect. Batman never kills, yet in this game we see him obliterate people, we see Flash straight up remove a beating heart from someone, we see Superman kill his dear friend. We see them do truly despicable things. So when you end up killing them, it's not glorified in any way, apart from what happens after Flash is killed which was totally uncalled for and straight up weird, there's no big climax, they just well, die. Now I am sure that we will see a ton of 1-hour video essays on YouTube ranging from how Rocksteady ruined their own legacy to maybe expanding more on my take, we will see.
To me, this is a really interesting story and I am really glad I got to experience it myself. Could Rocksteady have done a better job at how they handled the whole killing the Justice League part? Yes. Could they have included a major plot twist that might have made you not feel bad about killing them? Possibly, but I accepted this story and went through with it and I still enjoyed it.
Now, about the gameplay... it's complicated. Leaping, flying, phasing and swinging across Metropolis is effortless, delightful and extremely satisfying. Each of the four characters has a unique traversal mechanic where DeadShot can fly using his jetpack, Boomerang can launch his boomerang and phase to it, Harley has a grappling hook she can use in combination with a drone and King Shark can leap and dash through the air. Metropolis offers a lot of verticality with tall buildings that allow for enjoyable movement and is a stunning city filled to the brim with tiny details and a shit ton of easter eggs, but while you are zipping around bouncing between combat arenas, you will not pay attention to any of the afore mentioned details.
During combat, you are always moving and shooting at a breakneck disorienting speed cause if you stop, you die. As you shoot at the enemies, throw grenades at them, hit them with your melee attacks or even unleash your ultimate abilities, your screen will become a particle, VFX and color vomit fest making it hard to spot the enemies let alone glance at the intricate details of this open world. There's way too much stuff happening at the same time during combat and while I know that you can turn off some of these effects in the Settings, it didn't have to be like this. The gameplay didn't have to go this hard or this fast, this is not Vanquish, you play as a humanoid shark with a minigun, tone it down please.
The characters, apart from their traversal mechanic, during combat they all operate and feel practically the same. King Shark can have a minigun which makes sense, but so can Harley? DeadShot can use a sniper and pick enemies from afar, but so can Captain Boomerang? Guns make sense for DeadShot as he is a master assassin and I will accept Harley using a big iron, but why is King Shark not a straight up tank melee focused character and why not give Captain Boomerang, I don't know, like a shit ton of different types of boomerangs? You see, it is easy for me, or everybody else for that matter, to judge and comment how they should have approached the gameplay design in hindsight from the comfort of my home, so I will just stop and, again, accept the game for what it is.
Having said all that, overall I still enjoyed the gunplay. Shooting feels great and there's a lot of cool min/maxing you can do with your weapons, gear and talents you can acquire as you play through the game. Experimenting with different loadouts and being able to change what squad member you main on the fly outside of being in an actual mission is still a lot of fun. The early guns are forgettable besides numerical buffs, lacking creative DC flair, but the later ones you unlock, the Notorious types, offer up a lot possibilities.
Missions show little imagination, consisting mainly of simple objectives repeated ad nauseam. All of them, and I do mean all of them, play like the public events from Destiny. You zip around the map, go to the combat arena and you have to either kill enemies while saving a couple of civilians, kill enemies to collect data or kill enemies and destroy some alien incubators. That is basically what you do for 10 hours straight. There are no real epic linear missions where you are confined into a limited space. None of that, it's always just go somewhere, zip around and shoot everything in your sight. To "spice" things up, these encounters all have unique modifiers like enemies can only be hurt with grenades or critical hits, but they don't really add anything to experience. In fact, they hinder the experience and if any Rocksteady developers are reading this review, please remove the "Only Critical Hits" nonsense modifier.
After you are done with the main story, that's when the endgame begins. The post-campaign "Incursions" mimic recycled missions with no story beats or goals to aim for. They are still fun to tackle either solo or with a squad of friends, but only for like the first time or two. Then the repetitiveness starts to show off. Future seasons promise more, with a version of Joker coming as the first new squad member, but the core gameplay loop needs revitalizing for fans to stick around. More varied mission types, more memorable missions and sequences, cooler and crazier guns would help a lot, but will we ever get those? I don't know and right now, based on how the internet is reacting to the game, I find it hard for Rocksteady and WB to even stick with supporting the game long-term. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the game go free to play in the near future.
Rocksteady clearly cares for these characters and world, but the open-world and looter shooter conventions chosen don't serve the story or gameplay well. The campaign alone provides enjoyment for around 10 hours, but its current endgame won't keep you engaged long-term. Maybe with a lot of refining of its core design, Kill The Justice League might rise to its full premise, but now, it's kinda dire. I can't recommend the game at full price, but if the game goes on sale, consider picking it up. Or you can wait until the game eventually goes free to play. Thanks for reading!
The game was reviewed on a PS5 using a review copy provided by CD Media. Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is available now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series and PC.