Thursday, July 25, 2024

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Review: Rocksteady’s Looter Shooter Shoots Itself in the Foot

Long before the Suicide Squad went on to try about killing the Justice League, it dug its own grave. The action-adventure shooter from Rocksteady was born with the burden of living up to the lofty standards set by the studio’s beloved Batman: Arkham games. Then, it stepped on a rake when last year’s gameplay reveal confirmed that the game would be an always-online, live service looter shooter — a departure from Rocksteady’s repertoire of narrative-focussed single-player experiences. And when it finally came out in early access ahead of its February 2 release, the developers had to pull it offline due to a bug that led to full story completion just as players logged in to the game for the first time.

Just like that glitch, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League seems to have reached its fated end before it even got a change to begin. The co-op shooter, perhaps by little fault of its own, has become the flagbearer for the failings of live service titles. Repetitive, grindy gameplay meant to stretch out player engagement; in-game store selling items, weapons, and skins at exorbitant prices; and a promise of post-launch seasonal content — Suicide Squad has all the markings for a Fortnite imitator built to culture microtransactions.

But its live service perception obfuscates a lot that works well in it, too, smearing the entire game with a singular, slightly unfair brush. Between the exhausting grind of its missions and the banal way you go about doing them, Kill the Justice League can also be fun. The combination of chaotic shooting and frenetic traversal often hits just the right spot; the game sets up an interesting premise for its story, even if it loses its way towards the end; and its playground recreation of a Metropolis in crisis offers plenty of creative distractions to keep you coming back. But Rocksteady’s co-op shooter also cannot help itself from demolishing its own foundations. There are ideas in Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League that could have helped lift the game above its many flaws, but its baffling design choices, mundane mission structure, and unclear identity end up working against its strengths.

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In its early moments, Suicide Squad sets up the pieces on the board quite well. We’re introduced to the would-be members of the squad, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark and Captain Boomerang. The four are freed from Arkham Asylum by A.R.G.U.S. director Amanda Waller, who deceptively plants miniature bombs in their heads. With her finger on the detonator, Waller forces the four criminals to do her bidding as part of Task Force X. Metropolis is under siege from Brainiac, a superintelligent alien from Colu intent on invading Earth and terraforming it to his own liking. Sounds like just the job for the Justice League, right? Except the league has been compromised — brainwashed by Brainiac and now running rogue and evil. The Suicide Squad’s next orders: kill the Justice League.

It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and the squad knows it. You can’t just kill the Justice League; it’s suicide. Any single member of the superhero group could obliterate this hastily assembled and moderately motivated team of goons without sweating. And the game acknowledges that. So, the four antiheroes then go about recruiting new friends — a who’s who of DC delinquents, who help them find the Justice League’s weaknesses, equip them with weapons of the superhero-killing kind, and upgrade their gear pieces. There are no real surprises in the story here; the game serves pretty much what the title promises. But the narrative shines early on because of the unhinged chemistry between the squad. The quippy back-and-forth between the principal characters can sometimes be Joss Whedon-esque, but it also often works because of their deranged dynamic. The writing never rises above what we’ve come to expect from superhero films, but it also never dives into cringe territory.

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The unhinged chemistry between members of the Suicide Squad shines through
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games/ Screenshot – Manas Mitul

The rogue Justice League heroes stand out, too. They retain their familiar personas, but it’s distilled through a comically evil filter. Superman’s infallible morality takes the shape of an inflated god complex; brainwashed Batman truly puts the dark in Dark Knight; and evil Flash, perhaps the best of the lot, is still the comic relief but in a very psychopathic kind of way. The Suicide Squad itself is a colourful, chaotic bunch. It would be easy to paint them all as crazy, but their identities and motivations are distinctly established. Harley Quinn brings the lunatic energy of her ex-boyfriend; King Shark embodies the big endearing idiot, channeling Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy; Deadshot brings the smarts and the sanity; and Captain Boomerang brings the Bushman vibes. The four constantly bicker and blather, but over time you see them actually become a team as their differences somehow bring a collective harmony even as they sing their individual tunes.

As you take on missions from Waller at the Hall of Justice, now the base of operations against its former occupants, the main story unfolds through well-crafted cutscenes and well-timed narrative beats. But the story loses steam before it reaches its final stages as Suicide Squad struggles to bring to the table anything beyond what the title promises. There are some narrative moments meant to provoke, subverting what’s sacrosanct for the sake of shock. And while these aren’t entirely unmerited, they often feel like the game is trying too hard.

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Superman’s infallible morality takes the shape of an inflated god complex as he goes evil
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games/ Screenshot – Manas Mitul

The main story is also a short one. If you stick to it, you could perhaps see the end credits in a dozen or so hours. As a result, big narrative moments don’t get the time and space to breathe. Batman: Arkham games, in comparison, felt deliberately slow, allowing players to truly settle inside the cape and the cowl. Suicide Squad, on the other hand, always feels like its rushing you to your next target, like the story is a mere formality to warm you up for the post-launch seasonal content. As you check heroes off your kill list, you are eventually funnelled to a thoroughly unsatisfying non-ending. And while the credits roll, the game leaves you with more meaningless stuff to do to maintain its live service mirage.

Just like its story, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League’s gameplay cripples itself with critical missteps, too. At its core, the game is a third-person shooter with fast-paced traversal systems to navigate its open world. And when its kinetic combat and movement systems work as intended, they can be really fun. The shooting itself isn’t very tight or responsive, but the generous auto-aim and chaotic encounters keep it enjoyable. The combat is built around sustaining long combos with help of your guns, grenades, melee weapons, traversal attacks, and special abilities. The game creates accessible links between its different systems, too. For example, both you and your enemies — the myriad minions of Brainiac now roaming the streets and rooftops of Metropolis — have shields that soak up damage before the HP starts taking a hit. You could shoot at enemies, try and get headshots and trick shots while in the air or when sliding on the ground to get critical hits in. But if you aim at their legs, you open them up for a shield harvesting melee attack opportunity. This not only knocks back enemies and deals massive damage to their shields, but also drops pickups that replenish yours.

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Chaotic combat and zippy traversal systems stand out in Suicide Squad
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games/ Screenshot – Manas Mitul

Like any looter shooter, there are a ton of guns in Suicide Squad, spread across heavy weapons, sniper, assault rifle, SMG, shotgun and pistol categories. All guns are tiered based on their rarity — the usual colour codes of green, purple, gold and more. And they come with augments and stat bonuses that affect aspects like critical hit chance, reload speed, damage output and more. Guns can also be used to “counter” enemies with an alternative fire mode that interrupts enemy attacks and stuns them for a little bit, opening them up for a follow-up attack. But oddly weapons categories are tied to specific characters. For instance, only King Shark and Harley Quinn can wield a heavy weapon, while only Deadshot and Captain Boomerang can pick up a sniper. This ends up limiting equip options, restricting you from utilising rarer quality weapons as you want.

Over time, you recruit DC villains as members of you support team. Penguin upgrades your guns and crafts new ones, Poison Ivy applies elemental afflictions to your melee weapons and grenades, and Toyman rejigs your weapon augments. The problem is that the game’s multiple weapon customisation menus and methods often leave you jaded. I found it was best to stop caring about the statistical minutiae and stick with the weapons that feel best to use.

The same applies to talent trees, too. Suicide Squad comes with individual skill trees for each of its antiheroes, but all of them are built to reward grind. Very few skills upgrades unlock meaningful abilities that would actually help you in Metropolis. Most function as incremental boosts dependent on combos. It’s truly a headache to even read the descriptions of these skill upgrades. Sample this: “At 30x combo and higher, Melee Kills and Critical Hit Kills have a 100 percent chance to cause the enemy to Explode and deal 25 percent of their maximum health as damage to enemies within 10 metres.” Every skill upgrade hits you with similar mathematical mumbo-jumbo to the point where you stop caring and just pick your talents at random.

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The shooting isn’t quite as tight and responsive, but frentic encounters keep things fun
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games

The chaos of the combat in Suicide Squad can be fun, especially if you keep switching between squad members. While guns work the same across characters, the way you combine the shooting with the traversal abilities of each squad member keeps things fresh. Harley Quinn is light-footed, quick with jumps and dodges, but her grappling hook and swinging mechanic pales in comparison to her colleagues. Deadshot has a jetpack with a limited cooldown that lets him fly around. But the highlights here are King Shark and Captain Boomerang. The former banks on his Atlantean powers to jump and pounce long distances across the skyscrapers of Metropolis, while the latter utilises his boomerang, infused with Flash’s Speed Force powers to zip across the skyline of the city. Shark and Boomerang are easily the most fun to control in both combat and traversal and I ended up maining the two throughout my playthrough. The verticality of Metropolis lends itself to the traversal, too. It’s not just a flat slab of buildings you can glide over without thought. You have to climb up skycrapers, jump off and find your next landing point on the go before your traversal abilities run out of juice, and then recharge and take off again.

But all the fun stuff ends up vaporising because of how Suicide Squad chooses to structure its missions. If you want to upgrade your arsenal and add new gear to your inventory, you will have to engage with support quests. These are mind-numbingly repetitive. If you’ve done four or five of them, you’ve done them all. You’re sent to a location on the map and told to save civilians or defend Poison Ivy’s toxic plants or be guinea pigs for Toyman’s unhinged experiments. The way you go about them all, however, is the same. And if you chose to ignore most of the support quests and stick to the main missions, you’ll miss out on a few important gear upgrades. Even when the combat and traversal is fun, the rinse and repeat nature of the side quests ends up wearing you down and turning the one of the game’s biggest strengths into mindless drudgery.

IMG 4288 1 side quest

Repetitive side quests choke the fun out of the game
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games/ Screenshot – Manas Mitul

And it’s not just the side quests; the marquee main missions, where you take on members of the Justice League one by one, are the worst culprit. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League features some of the worst boss fights I’ve ever seen in video games. You’d imagine going toe to toe with the likes of Superman, Batman, Flash and the Green Lantern would be the highlights of a game that has ‘Kill the Justice League’ in the title. Instead, these showdowns are its nadir. Suicide Squad’s boss encounters are unimaginative, lazy, and downright offensive. Narratively, your squad gets a piece of tech or a trinket that specifically acts on the weaknesses of each member of the Justice League. For Flash, Lex Luthor builds you a Speed Force thingamajig; for Superman, you hoard up on Kryptonite; and for Green Lantern, you get yourself a Yellow Lantern Battery that weakens his will. But mechanically, you go about each boss encounter the same way.

You use the alterative fire to counter Justice League heroes when the counter signal flashes over their heads to fill up a meter. The meter dictates the amount of damage your guns will deal to the hero. And once the meter is full, you just jump around a closed arena and shoot at them until their health bar crawls down to zero. You can’t really get close to them and use your special abilities or traversal attacks, thus turning boss encounters essentially into target practice. These monolithic fights are also framed and choreographed in shockingly inept ways, almost as if designed to draw your ire. There’s no lock on, of course, but Flash and Superman keep zipping around the area at invisible speeds. Half the time you’re struggling to centre the camera on to them. And when you do, you barely get a few shots off before they zap away. These encounters thus become a cat and mouse chase, where you’re not even sure if you’re the cat or the mouse. And if you needed any proof about how much effort went into these, the final boss fight — the last encounter of the game — is exactly (and I mean exactly) the same as the first one against Flash. It’s like the game got tired of itself at the final hurdle and copy pasted its own old homework to get it over with. It’s not only baffling how Rocksteady went about designing these boss fights, but also just simply sad to see a once reverred studio care so little about its own craft.

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Suicide Squad’s boss encounters are unimaginative, lazy, and downright offensive
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games/ Screenshot – Manas Mitul

When it comes to the visuals, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a vibrant presentation. The particle effects explode on to your screen in a million colours during combat and Metropolis’ embodies an imposing visual identity that always left me impressed. But the game also constantly clutters your screen with persistent HUD elements, effects, mission objectives and markers. While in combat, your screen drowns in garbage indicators, damage numbers, and combo buffs that blindfold you with inessential information. I also couldn’t help but feel a sore lack of atmosphere while playing Suicide Squad. The lightness of the visuals matches the tone that the game is going for, but Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games excelled in creating a Gotham that felt depressingly real. The dark alleys, the constant rain and snow, and the neon taking a ghastly glimmer in the fog made for an immersive, heady, and intoxicating Gotham. And while I get that Metropolis reflects the unstained aura of Superman, the Brainiac invasion could have been an opportunity for Rocksteady to present a city yet unseen.

Character models, especially for the squad and for the Justice League, on the other hand, are detailed, with realistic animations that bring them to life. But it’s the voice work here that truly shines through. All squad members are not only distinct in tone, but the dialogue delivery and the comic timing from all four is almost always on point. From the Justice League, special praise must be reserved for the voice work for evil Flash, which channels just the right amount of deranged and dangerous while being funny. But, of course, the highlight here is the late and great Kevin Conroy’s voice for the Batman. In his final turn as the Caped Crusader before he sadly passed away in 2022, Conroy delivers a masterclass. While I have my own reservations with how the game treats the Dark Knight, Conroy’s voice finds the soul of Batman even when he’s gone evil.

On the PlayStation 5, the game runs well in performance mode, delivering 60fps mostly stably. The framerate does take a dip during intense combat sections, but not to a point where it spoils the experience. I also experienced some stuttering during cutscenes and a couple of hard crashes. More annoyingly, the game’s last update brought in more issues for me than it fixed. Suicide Squad froze right after mission completion on three occasions for me, leaving me stuck with a ‘Loading Metropolis’ message. I also had trouble logging in to Warner Bros. servers a couple of times. While I didn’t experience any major bugs or visual glitches, a litany of smaller issues persisted throughout my playthrough. These, however, should be fixed in subsequent updates.

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Suicide Squad’s Metropolis is visually imposing and features impressive verticality
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Games/ Screenshot – Manas Mitul

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League seems to be plagued with a crisis of identity. Caught between trying to be an effective live service looter shooter that can keep players hooked long term and attempting to craft a Rocksteady-style narrative that delivers a satisfying story, it ends up in a limbo where neither approach works. These are two inherently incompatible models that require total commitment. The recently released Helldivers 2 is the perfect example of how an online live service shooter could distinguish itself in an oversaturated genre. And Suicide Squad need only look at 2021’s Guardians of the Galaxy to see how a squad-based superhero action game can deliver a memorable story.

Perhaps the most baffling fact is that it took Rocksteady, a famed developer whose past games are considered undeniable classics that are being played to this day, took nine years to make a game that falls abysmally short of the studio’s own high standards. Suicide Squad isn’t a terrible game — some of the negative attention could perhaps be attributed to marketing misfires, and some of the criticism is perhaps too harsh, even if not unwarranted. But it constantly pales in comparison to Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games in every aspect that matters. There are seeds of ideas, systems, and story here that could have delivered a legitimately fun and distinctly unique shooter. But as the self-destructive game that it chooses to be, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League only shoots itself in the foot.


  • Fun traversal
  • Interesting story premise
  • Likeable cast of characters
  • Chaotic combat
  • Kevin Conroy’s Batman


  • Repetitive missions
  • Grindy gameplay
  • Live service fatigue
  • Unimaginative boss fights
  • Unsatisfying story

Rating (out of 10): 6

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League released February 2 on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X.

Pricing starts at Rs. 4,999 for the Standard Edition on Steam and Epic Games Store for PC, and Rs. 5,299 on PlayStation Store for PS5 and Xbox Store for Xbox Series S/X.

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