Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a new beginning for Rocksteady. After dominating the superhero game genre for the Xbox 360 and PS3 era, it had a fairly quiet last generation, with only 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight to its name, many expected the studio to move on to something entirely new, away from the genre that made their name.
While rumours of a Superman game persisted, the team stayed quiet, with almost no information coming from the studio after the final DLC for Arkham Knight was released. That was until August 2020 when a single image of Superman was released, but instead of starring the Man of Steel, the new title would instead focus on the Suicide Squad, and Superman and the rest of the Justice League would star as the villains.
The game is set in the Batman: Arkham universe set some years after the events of Batman: Arkham Knight. With Batman seemingly dead, the Justice League continues in his absence, consisting of Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash. However, when Brainiac invades and takes control of the whole team apart from Wonder Woman, it’s up to Amanda Waller to assemble a team of ‘earth’s crappiest heroes’ in order to take the Justice League and Brainiac down.
Visually, the game looks fantastic, with the facial expressions from all of the characters looking significantly better than that of the Arkham games. The game’s also significantly brighter, with the saturation on all aspects of the visuals seemingly turned up to eleven. This is a good choice.
There’s only one way to go with the Suicide Squad and it’s this, trying to down them down to a monochrome seriousness that was more in line with the Arkham games is exactly how you end up with 2016’s Suicide Squad film, and no one wants that.
The game is set in an open-world Metropolis. The city is in ruins following the invasion of Brainiac at the fact that the Justice League are roaming around destroying anything that so much as enters their eye line. Whether or not players will be able to explore areas from Superman’s iconic past is unknown, but we wouldn’t expect a reverent trip to The Daily Planet or a stroll to S.T.A.R. labs, unless, of course, to blow them up.
The open world is also key to giving players enough room to experiment with the new types of gameplay that are central to Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
Harley Quinn, King Shark, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot are all playable, with each of them featuring their own distinct gameplay. While you can play the game alone, it also features a four-player online co-op mode. Players who decide to take on the Justice League alone will be joined by AI companions.
Harley Quinn appears to have a grappling hook that she can use for traversal, as well as guns that can be used to take down enemies. It’s unknown whether or not the game will use the “Arkham combat” that was so popularised by the original games, but it seems very unlikely that it would be left out, especially with a hand-to-hand character like Harley Quinn.
Deadshot is shown using a jetpack to traverse and his combat is a third-person shooter setup, something that is completely new for the Arkham universe of games. Captain Boomerang combines super speed and fast traversal with lighter weapons, and up-close attacks.
“Whether or not players will be able to explore areas from Superman’s iconic past is unknown, but we wouldn’t expect a reverent trip to The Daily Planet or a stroll to S.T.A.R. labs, unless, of course, to blow them up.”
King Shark, who is certainly the most unique of the four in terms of body type, is able to scale buildings quickly by running up them at high speed and taking great leaps off of them. He also deals a huge amount of melee damage for players who are interested in taking the direct approach.
It seems that while the characters will have somewhat similar gameplay styles, some of the anti-heroes will specialize in some types and be less effective at others.
For example, with Harley, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot are all shown using guns, King Shark has a machine gun strapped to his back, perhaps hinting that his long-range attacks are powerful, but slow meaning players have to combine up-close melee and long-range covering fire. Later in the trailer, Deadshot can be seen floating above the action, sniping enemies far below.
But, by the same token, the sheer number of enemies that King Shark is able to take down in melee combat isn’t going to be matched by Captain Boomerang or Harley Quinn. But, both of them are much faster.
Will Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League live up to the Batman: Arkham series? In many ways, it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to. It’s more light-hearted, it’s far more adventurous in its combat focus and it feels like it is prioritising telling a wholly different kind of story.
While Arkham was so laser focussed on Batman that references to the wider DC comics universe were few and far between, this game introduces characters like Superman, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern, all of which deserve (and in Wonder Woman’s case are getting) their own game, so there’s going to be a lot of lore to explore, and we think that’s how Rocksteady are going to set this game apart.
Not to mention the fact that instead of the methodical chess game of Batman: Arkham’s counter system wherein players could take down whole groups of goons simply with perfect timing, the brief anarchic look at Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League seems much more focusses on evolving that legacy of incredible feeling combat and expanding it in multiple directions.
Whether or not this will stick the landing, particularly with the introduction of shooting mechanics, we’re not as sure, but if there was a developer to totally revolutionise the way superhero games are made again, it would be RockSteady.