Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Photo: Suicide Squad-Source Rocksteady Studios:Warner Bros. Games.png

When you sit down to write a review for any game, it’s expected that you, the author, have at least played the game to its completion, or at least have made enough progress to hit the halfway point. You try to give any game — regardless of genre or the studio behind it — a fair shot. However, after spending just a few hours with Rocksteady Studios’ “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League,” I could not take it anymore. Why? Because players should respect their time enough to not waste it on a game like this.

After Rocksteady Studios capped off their saga of Batman games with 2015’s “Batman: Arkham Knight,” the gaming public wondered what the critically acclaimed studio would be up to next. After years of speculation about Rocksteady working on a video game adaptation of DC Comics’ Suicide Squad, it was confirmed in Aug. 2020 that Rocksteady’s next game was indeed a game about the Suicide Squad, set for release in May 2023.  

Despite the excitement, warning signs began popping up: the game was in development hell for nine years, Rocksteady’s co-founders left during mid-production in 2022 and the game was delayed twice. Warning signs which, right up until this January with the game’s preview, turned out to be well-founded.  

“Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League” is a live-service, third-person shooter that sees players take on the role of members of “Task Force X” (aka the Suicide Squad), a black-ops program of the US Government that uses super-villains as cannon fodder in top-secret missions. Set years after the events of “Batman: Arkham Knight,” the squad is inserted into Metropolis where it’s revealed that the extra-terrestrial super-villain, Brainiac, has invaded the city and mind-controlled the members of the Justice League for his eventual conquest of the earth. After setting up shop in the Hall of Justice as their base of operations, the squad is given their standing orders by their commander, Amanda Waller: kill the members of the Justice League!  

With a stirring premise like that, it sounds like an easy pitch for a wonderful and exciting gaming experience, right? But the writing and the gameplay mechanics exist only to serve the live service, Frankenstein’s monster that is “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.” 

Despite this, there are elements of the overall experience that demonstrate the arduous work that went into this game from many of the people who worked on it. The graphical presentation of the game is remarkably eye-catching. The character animations are smooth, the character models are expressive and the environments are all lovingly detailed. Adding on to that, the voice acting is authentic and strong. Debra Wilson as Amanda Waller, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Samoa Joe as King Shark, Daniel Lapine as Captain Boomerang and Kevin Conroy, who lent his voice to Batman one final time before he passed away, are clearly giving it their all and inhabit the characters completely.  

However, that is where the positives end. The gameplay of “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League” could be enjoyed as mindless, third-person action, where you run around Metropolis fighting Brainiac’s army of minions and the Justice League, all the while collecting shinier and better weapons and equipment. However, that is only if the player ignores the hot mess that makes up the core gameplay of Rocksteady’s latest title. The user interface (UI) is the poster child for clutter as various head’s up display (HUD) elements constantly distract from the moment-to-moment gameplay. The camera is jammed with damage counts, button prompts, tutorial messages and flashing colors that it all devolves into a chaotic visual mess. Meanwhile, any versatile melee combat and stealth elements, which made the Batman Arkham games so beloved, have been traded in for average third-person shooting, where all the guns are basically the same, except for better stats and different coats of paint. Gone are combo attacks, unlockable abilities or other features of the Batman Arkham games, and instead substituted with bog-standard third-person shooting that has done better in other titles. To make matters worse, many of the missions are the same, with little variation to speak of. 

Even if the core gameplay is gratingly repetitive, then at least the boss fights against the members of the Justice League and Brainiac are memorable, right? Regrettably, this isn’t the case. The encounters against the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Brainiac and even Batman all just involve shooting them until they finally go down, with only slight variations between each fight. It’s a shame because, despite the potential for a series of epic fights against famous comic book icons like the Justice League, it just boils down to the same paint-by-numbers design as the rest of the game.  

Aside from the lackluster gameplay, the writing is a complete, shallow mess. The dialogue — while amusing on occasion — is abrasive a lot of the time as the writers constantly insert bits of dark comedy into almost every scene for fear of letting dramatic scenes play out for too long. The main story itself is a complete afterthought, serving as window-dressing while players are railroaded from mission to mission, with the ending itself being the biggest offender. As alluded to earlier, the confrontation with the main antagonist, Brainiac, is the same as the rest of the boss fights and ends on a cliffhanger meant to sell the live-service future of the game, as the characters will have to fight 12 other Brainiacs from across the multiverse! 

“Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League” is not just a forgettable game, but an indication of a problem in the video game industry. Within recent years, the industry has seen developers who were renowned for making memorable titles, being forced to make soulless, live-service games. Forced, because upper management from the likes of Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Square Enix, ZeniMax Media and now Warner-Brothers Discovery are ordering developers to meet a checklist of current gaming trends for every other project, carelessly disregarding what gamers and critics actually want. 

 


Kelly Baker is an alumnus of West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

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