Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League – dead on arrival? (Picture: WB Games)
GameCentral details its first half-day with the long-awaited follow-up to Batman: Arkham Knight, which swaps superheroes for supervillains.
We’ve played Suicide Squad for around seven hours so far and we can conclusively say that… we don’t hate it. We may end up hating it, because it’s already starting to show shines of considerable repetition, but this is not a Lord Of The Rings: Gollum situation, where it’s going to end up on Worst Games of 2023 lists (well, it probably will but it shouldn’t). From what we’ve experienced so far, it seems clear that Suicide Squad is not a bad game. But neither is it a good one.
What’s even clearer is that it was absolutely not worth the wait. It’s been eight years since Batman: Arkham Knight, to which this is nominally a sequel, and while it’s not entirely clear when developer Rocksteady started work on Suicide Squad this smacks of a game that was designed during the previous generation, if not the one before.
Internet rumours suggest that the game was initially imagined as a microtransaction and lootbox filled monstrosity, which would track perfectly with the time it was originally conceived – shortly before the greed of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 made the concept untenable. From there it seems to have changed direction, into a more modern live service game with a lot of very obvious similarities to Marvel’s Avengers, before it was pulled back again to be something closer to Destiny 2 with superheroes.
Despite having played the game for several hours very little has happened so far in terms of plot, with no sign of main villain Brainiac or any explanation for why the Metropolis skyline is dominated by a giant metal skull; one that has transformed the populace into biomechanical monsters and brain-washed Batman and Green Lantern.
At the start of the game, Flash and Wonder Woman are still active, while Superman’s fate is unknown, but while we know who Brainiac is – because we’re nerds and have played a lot of video games – we imagine everyone else is going to be very confused as to what is going on.
Not even the role of the titular Suicide Squad is clear. The ‘squad’ consists solely of supervillains Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and King Shark, none of whom have any superpowers. In typical fashion they have bombs injected into their heads and are told what to do by a shadowy government agency, but how a man who throws boomerangs and a half-crazed woman with a baseball bat is meant to combat an 8 million strong army of alien invaders is never explained.
The opaque plot creates a bad enough first impression but the very first thing you experience in the game is some of the most offputtingly drab tutorial levels we’ve ever suffered through. There’s a series of them and they give the distinct impression that they were put together at the last minute, when someone realised they never actually explained the controls.
They are relatively simple though and while each character has their own special abilities (but interchangeable weapons) the basics are all essentially the same. Suicide Squad is a third person shooter, with the most direct comparison in terms of gameplay being the Crackdown series. The gunplay is very solid and while it’s not quite Destiny quality it has some very satisfying headshots and fun, if unoriginal, weapons – everything so far has just been shotguns and assault rifles, with no sign of ray guns, shrink rays or anything else more comic book-y.
Deadshot is just a guy with really good aim (Picture: WB Games)
The Crackdown comparison is apt because at the very start of the game the quartet steal ex-supervillain gadgets from the Justice League HQ, which allow them to leap tall buildings with a single bound, or something close to it. Deadshot gets a jetpack, Harely Quinn steals a grapple gun and a drone she can swing on, King Shark works like the Hulk and can jump really far, and Boomerang is able to use the Speed Force to essentially teleport long distances.
We’re not quite sure we caught the excuse for why they can all run vertically up any straight surface but they can, and we’re not going to argue the point. Obviously, there was no gunplay in the Batman: Arkham games but alas the combat in Suicide Squad is nothing like them either. There’s just a single melee button and apart from holding it down for elemental attacks, like freezing enemies, it never gets any more complicated than that.
The movement system is nuanced enough that you can parkour your way almost across the whole city, without ever stopping, but none of the traversal is anywhere near as satisfying as the web-swinging and gliding in Spider-Man 2. In theory, Harley’s movement is quite similar but it’s not only far less enjoyable than Spider-Man it’s not even as good as Batman, despite her using his equipment.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for gameplay mechanics, with no sign of any puzzles yet, since all the Riddler challenges so far have been checkpoint races and collecting trophies in hard to reach places. Maybe they’ll have the optical illusion ones as well, but the open world is, for the fourth time in a row for a Rocksteady game, completely devoid of normal civilian life.
Although you’re not playing a superhero this time, and so saving people from getting mugged isn’t really a factor, it robs the city of all verisimilitude. Spider-Man 2’s New York City felt like a real place, at least to some degree, but Suicide Squad’s Metropolis just looks and feels like a contrived, and very empty, video game world.
That artificiality is becoming increasingly evident in the mission design, which at first gave the impression of a reasonable amount of variety but is starting to become overfamiliar. There’s the one where you have to defend one or multiple locations from enemies until a timer runs out, one where you have to catch civilians in off-brand pokéballs and transport them to an equally unofficial Battle Bus from Fortnite (we are not making that up), and another where you have to destroy crystals that the monsters are defending.
Almost everything that made the Batman: Arkham games interesting is gone and the end result is worryingly similar to Square Enix’s Avengers game. In fact, it may end up being worse, as while the gameplay is somewhat more enjoyable it doesn’t have the strong story element provided by Ms. Marvel’s sections.
Both games make the same mistake of having faceless, robotic enemies, although weirdly the ones in Suicide Squad do seem to have limited personalities, with strange cartoon voices that are almost amusing in how unthreatening they are – although their visual design is painfully generic and uninteresting.
It’s depressing how Suicide Squad blunders into all the same mistakes as Avengers, including not properly leveraging its source material, which is all based around fighting weird and charismatic opponents. Presumably the Justice League are meant to fill that role here, but all the Flash and Green Lantern have done so far is taunt us, while the most dangerous enemy boss has been a walking artillery cannon that doesn’t talk.
Captain Boomerang is the most fun in terms of abilities and character (Picture: WB Games)
Although the game does have four-player co-op, the majority of the time we were playing solo, which works fine with AI bots taking control of the other three characters and you able to switch control to any of them whenever you want. Although usually one will be ‘pumped up’ to take on each of the different missions, giving you a small boost that encourages you to switch characters often.
We’ll get into the character customisation and weapon loadouts, and more specifics about the combat, in our full review, once we’ve seen how everything shakes out, but you can see the skill trees from the start and nothing seems terribly interesting – especially as we’ve seen no evidence so far, that King Shark is going to eat anyone.
There is an in-game store in Suicide Squad but as far as we can tell (not all of it is fully populated yet) it’s just pointless cosmetics that we’re not sure we’d use even if they were free. There are also a few references to a battle pass and while that hasn’t been announced yet, we imagine it’ll follow the usual seasonal structure of most other live service games.
So that’s Suicide Squad, or at least the first seven hours of it. From rumours we’ve heard, it sounds like the story is going to go places that are not currently hinted at, but we doubt the same can be said for the gameplay. Co-op makes anything fun, and in that capacity, at least, this will offer some entertainment, but otherwise the length of time it’s taken for the game to arrive feels like it will be inversely proportional to how quickly the gaming world forgets about it.
Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Release Date: 2nd February 2024
Age Rating: 18
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