Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League preview- being bad never felt so good
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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros Games
Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is an ambitious addition to Rocksteady Studio’s Arkhamverse, which kicked off so many years ago with Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Recently I had the opportunity to play over four hours of Rocksteady’s latest superhero game, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, a continuation of the “Arkhamverse” which started with Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009. While the newest game shares the same world, it’s a very different experience to the stealth-action gameplay gamers will be familiar with but that’s certainly not a criticism; this game is bombastic, larger than life, and full of character.
Watch our preview for Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League below
I also had the chance to sit down and talk with Johnny Armstrong, the game’s Associate Design Director whose credits include Arkham City and Arkham Knight. I was able to learn about the squad, the gameplay, the scenery and the story of Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League.
For the first time ever in an Arkhamverse game, players will leave Gotham City and its caped crusader behind, and instead take on the role of the world’s deadliest hitman, a mad clown, a boomerang-slinging outlaw, and a big shark.
When asked why the Arkham franchise was shifting focus from vigilantes to villains, Armstrong said: “We knew we wanted to do something different. We worked on Batman for so long … It felt like that story had come to an end, we'd have wrapped a nice bow on it.” He went on to say “Working with heroes there's a rigidity to it where you're stuck with a moral compass. Batman won't kill people. But what could we do if we take the DC roster of villains who are less than capable?”
The four rogues Rocksteady landed on were Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang and King Shark, who together form Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squad, an ample description given the team’s mission, kill the Justice League. Make no mistake though, the unlikely team aren’t doing it as part of some evil scheme or plot to control the world, as in this story the death of Earth’s strongest heroes is seemingly the only way to stop the destruction of the planet. Heroes have all fallen under the control of Brainiac, the biggest threat ever seen in the Arkhamverse, who’s turned the world into a warzone leaving nothing but death and destruction in his wake.
You’ll probably be wondering how on Earth these four villains can possibly measure up to the power of Superman, or Green Lantern, or even Batman for that matter, who’s had four games worth of beating up criminals with practically no difficulty. That was the burning question on my mind for the whole duration of my gameplay, and something I knew I had to ask during the interview.
Without giving too much away, Armstrong said it was very much the intention to cast doubt in the player’s mind about whether the Suicide Squad can actually save the day, or if they’ll die trying. He said: “It was one thing giving narrative reasoning for players to get on board with killing the Justice League, but then also because they are then not working of their own volition. (they’re controlled by Brainiac), that, in turn makes them more vulnerable than they would be if they were working as a unit of the Justice League … that gives us an opportunity, albeit even a slim one, to try to take down the Justice League.”
After a quick introduction to the characters, story, and a brisk tour around the Justice League’s base, the Hall Of Justice, the cast is let loose in Metropolis to start their mission and attempt the impossible.
Metropolis’ grand architecture and golden aesthetic is a huge departure from the Arkham games and their depiction of Gotham. While the streets of Gotham City are dark and messy, only illuminated by flickering neon signs and flashing lightning, Metropolis is tall, glimmering and decorated with murals and statues commemorating the Justice League and their adventures. The heroes of Earth are presented as gods, adding further doubt if the Suicide Squad are capable of dispatching them before they tear the world apart any further.
Armstrong said the decision to move to Metropolis was made early in the game’s development, saying the “stark contrast” to Gotham was instantly attractive from a style and architecture perspective, and it complemented the traversal due to its “verticality and scale.”
Traversal is still a huge part of the gameplay loop, though this isn’t Arkham Knight, so a glider and the Batmobile aren’t options this time. Instead, players will need to learn and master the new tools each character receives to level the playing field against the evil Justice League.
Harley Quinn “borrows” a grapnel gun from the caped crusader, Boomerang gets a speedforce gauntlet to move at lightning speed like The Flash, Deadshot gets a jetpack and King Shark gets nothing, as his strength and supernatural abilities allow him to go toe-to-toe with some of the strongest heroes without any assistance.
With these powers you’ll swing, sprint, fly and jump through the war-torn Metropolis streets, as well as utilise them in combat encounters.
Combat is fast-paced, fluid and open to experimentation. Task Force X gets enough firepower to level a small country and they’re not afraid to use it. This includes conventional weapons such as pistols, rifles, SMGs, miniguns, and grenades. Of course, you’ll also be able to use each character's personal weapons, like Harley’s bat and Deadshot’s wrist cannons.. Gear can be swapped out whenever you want, meaning you can put together your own personal builds to compliment your playstyle, whether that be throwing yourself right into the middle of the crowd or picking foes off from a relatively safe distance.
Once you get stuck into a fight, the real fun begins. All the violence is over-the-top like the comics it’s based on and explosions fill up the screen on a regular basis. Swinging over a group of enemies as Harley and dropping a cluster grenade as you soar over them feels satisfying and cinematic, as does meticulously knocking down a line of them with the Captain’s boomerangs before speeding off to find another target.
To pull an example from my own time with the game, while playing as Deadshot my team and I were defending an objective from Brainiac's forces. Things started to get dicey as more and more enemies appeared on the point we were defending, and despite my best efforts sniping at a distance the bodies simply weren’t dropping fast enough. In a scene that honestly could have come out of a film, I began circling the horde with my jetpack, expending all of the ammo in Deadshot’s assault rifle before diving straight into the middle and unleashing an area-of-effect move, destroying the entire group and saving the objective while only touching the ground at the very end.
It’s a lot of fun, and the best part is there’s almost no repercussions to playing as a different character every single mission. Each character can be upgraded via a skill tree system, and the weapons they use can also be enhanced and upgraded to deal more damage, use an element, or have unique properties that compliment the build you’re trying to achieve. You can even find special weapons belonging to famous heroes and villains in the DC universe, like a pistol that used to belong to Black Mask before he presumably got torn apart by Brainiac’s forces.
If you’re the type of player to select one character as your “main” you can do that, or if you’d rather switch it up as you go that’s also an option presented to you. I asked if the game encourages the player to lean one way or the other and was told there “is not a right way or a wrong way” to engage with the characters. That being said, each character is fun in their own way so it’s worth experimenting, and the game will encourage you to try someone else through special side missions tailored to one character over the others. You can still use whoever you want during these missions but if you select the recommended character you’ll be rewarded with extra XP and some other bonus goodies.
Finally, it’s worth noting Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is a live-service game, meaning more content is set to arrive after the game’s launch. The first year’s worth of content drops will be completely free for anyone who owns the games, and will include things like new characters, missions, collectables and more.
When asked what players can expect from additions to the roster, Armstrong coyly said: “I think the fans should be excited because we've got new characters coming in with new unique gear sets, new talents, new ways of moving through Metropolis and new interplay with the existing squad as well … we're going to do everything we can to support the game and keep players engaged.”
Overall the game feels fantastic to play, and brings a fresh perspective to an existing franchise while retaining plenty of easter eggs and references Arkham fans will instantly spot. The full game promises more action-packed gameplay, charming interactions between characters oozing with personality, as well as the deaths of some of the most beloved superheroes of all time.
Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice will be launching for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5 and PC on February 2, 2024.