Rocksteady's Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League has been debated, discussed and deemed a surefire disaster ever since it was first properly revealed back in the early stages of 2023. There was, according to what we experienced of the general consensus at least, no way in hell that this most distinguished of devs could successfully correct-course after the misstep of shifting to a GaaS/looter shooter model for the final visit to its Arkham universe. They've ruined the series, they've cashed in, sold out, messed up, lost the plot...and all the rest of it. We tagged out of the furore ages ago thankfully and, would you look at that, it was mostly a load of overwrought nonsense in the end.
Sitting down to review this game after all of the aforementioned noise, it's been kind of a whole thing just trying to approach it without some sort of, well, at the very least some trepidation. As big fans of everything this studio has done to date, were we really just about to sit through an ill-advised disaster that's completely missed the boat on the whole online looter shooter thing? Oh dear. Remember looter shooters, mate? Absolutely awfu...actually, hold on, we sort of enjoy those.
Yes. We are (or at least this particular writer is) actually very fond of a bit of the old lootin' and/or shootin' as it happens. We spent a lot of time thoroughly enjoying the heck out of Ubisoft's incredibly similar The Division series (always deeply discounted, still very good), and we've even been partial to a bit of the old Destiny 2 here and there, before it became an impenetrable guff-hole.
This is a genre that has some inherent problems, it's no secret, mostly to do with how games of this type tend to dole out missions and half-heartedly attempt to keep you busy between sorties, in how they're designed to funnel you into an endless grind once you're done with the critical path, and in how their stories are artificially drawn out by repetitive side activities. All of that stuff remains true with Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League. On the other hand, though, the dopamine rush...oh the sweet addictive joy of looting fresh corpses as guns, gear and all-sorts of bits and tweakable bobs spew forth like mountains of neon candy. That bit kinda never grows old.
And so here we are, after all the pre-release drama, with the game finally in our hands after nine long years, and it's all been a bit of a brouhaha over nothing. When it comes down to it, what Rocksteady has served up here is one of the best looter shooters out there, a fact that will either get your pulse racing or put you entirely to sleep. In terms of its core narrative, acting, writing, graphics, combat mechanics, traversal (important for superheroes!), flexibility of builds, gear options, all of that good stuff, it's as sweet a mix of disparate parts as we've played in this most divisive of genres. If you like looter shooters and superheroes, well hot damn are you in for a good time. It really is that simple.
With regards to the most important aspect of this experience - the shooting what results in the looting - well, it's hardly a surprise that the folk behind a combat system regarded as one of the best ever devised should deliver the goods once again. Whilst all four of the heroes available at launch have very similar core move-sets - once you know the score with one you'll find it easy enough to shift between all - they each prove to be different enough that you'll find switching around is well worth the effort.
We're currently enjoying Boomerang's mix of high-speed movement and crowd control Flash-attacks, but we have been equally as taken with Harley's Batman-like grappling and incredibly violent melee style of getting things done. Deadshot is a great pick for starting out, his jetpacks are probably the easiest way to learn the ropes of how to keep yourself moving quickly, whilst King Shark is a hell of a lot faster than we thought he'd be. Each hero has a suite of moves based around shooting at range and melee action up close (you auto-switch weapons depending on proximity), and successful attacks charge up the usual bevvy of supers that allow you to clear areas quickly.
Shooting (which we were absolutely repulsed by the thought of initially given the premise) is actually super-crunchy and satisfying, giving off just the right amount of feedback and heft as you pump numbers out of your enemies. The wonderfully retro explosion of neon confetti that heralds LOOT TIME in a very knowing, video-gamey way, hits the spot perfectly too. We should also mention that the sense of character lost through the fact that everyone shoots guns is redeemed to an extent by melee moves and specials that feel much more fitting. Just watch Harley take into a goon with her baseball bat and you'll know what we mean. All the stuff that needs to feel good does so, basically, and we particularly enjoyed how they've taken traversal, the one thing you'll do most of besides fighting, and given it a little injection of skill and strategy.
No matter the hero you choose, they all share the ability to keep their forward momentum maxed out as they blast around Metropolis by chaining together their movements in just the right way. If we use Deadshot as an example here, touching any surface, whether it be the side of a building or the ground, instantly resets your jetpack's energy gauge. Get the right rhythm of flying, boosting, sliding across the ground and running up buildings to recharge and you can travel at speed without stopping. Mix this engaging little system with scraps that see you face off in big open areas against AI that puts up a smart fight, and you've got a hell of a good time to dig into.
Further to this, there's no big scripted team moves to deal with here, something that can really drag the action down when it gets repetitive. Instead, support and teamwork come through the buffs and various other perks that your current character build brings to the table. It would be so easy to go OTT with cut-aways to superheroes doing superhero things every two seconds, but thankfully the slightly more grounded specials allow for more freedom individually and less downtime overall during scraps.
It's also fairly obvious that, after the disaster that was this game's first reveal, major amounts of time have been put into toning down some of the more annoying aspects of looter shooters here. Loot itself drops in large amounts, you'll find legendary items almost straight away, the store is cosmetic only, there are loads of skins to earn through playing the game, and overall it feels as though the message received has resulted in this side of things being pushed into the background as much as possible. These concessions haven't ruined the gear loop - there's still plenty to dig into in that regard - but you can ignore most of it if you really want to, just stick the biggest numbered bits on and be done with it.
Metropolis is also a much closer relative to the Gotham we explored in the Arkham games than we had expected. The Riddler has returned with his endless games, the Penguin, Poison Ivy and more are back - you'll recognise plenty of voices along the way - and there's plenty of time given to exploring, explaining and tipping the hat to the studio's back catalogue. It's a cool city to hang out in, in short, and that's not something we were necessarily expecting.
Of course none of this changes the fact that, aside from its excellent campaign-critical missions and bombastic action sequences, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is still a looter shooter at its core, and as such it predictably gets bogged down by the same main issue we've had with pretty much every example of this genre thus far - the way missions are doled feels grindy and repetitive. It's no big surprise, there are reasons why this stuff has fallen so far out of favour, and there's no big change to any of that here. It's just that, in terms of world-building, combat design and VERY COOL SUPERHERO STUFF™ Rocksteady are kinda unbeatable, and the reasons why have been clearly demonstrated in this latest effort.
There's a real swagger to how well put together this version of Metropolis and its extraordinary inhabitants is. It's got acting, writing and performance capture to match any big-budget single player adventure, and a phenomenal cast that's blown the roof right off when it comes to capturing the essence of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Boomerang, King Shark and all of the other famous faces that pop up along the way (no spoilers here, pals). There's also a surprisingly satisfying story at the heart of proceedings, one that absolutely pushes all of our nerd buttons, gives us lots of ties back to the main Arkham series and toys with established superhero convention in some hilarious and clever ways.
Yes, we know some folk are gonna hate what their favourite DC superheroes are put through - there's already been a big Batman-shaped melodrama pre-full release - but we love it, and the whole thing just nails the Suicide Squad vibe 100% perfectly. We're looking forward to seeing how it develops and changes over time from here, how it's supported with new characters and content, but this is a super solid base, one of the strongest starting points we've seen from a game of this ilk really.
On that note, the endgame, as far as endgames go, is fairly clever in how it sets you up to keep plugging away, finding every secret and maxing out every current available character before the game's first season proper arrives in March. We're excited, as the credits roll, to see where this goes in the future, what tales may be spun around these most likeable of anti-heroes.
And really we could whittle on and on and on about this one. We do completely get the disdain for certain aspects of this genre, we get the disappointment from diehard Arkham fans over the shift from traditional single-player experience, and there's no doubt this has been a case of chasing a trend that fell off unexpectedly in the end. However, balance these disappointments against what's good, and overall Rocksteady has still managed to come out the other side with a game that we absolutely recommend to fans of the source material and looter shooters in general without hesitation.
Whether playing solo or with pals, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League manages to remain highly entertaining, even when it's struggling with the worst parts of what makes this genre such a love/hate kinda thing.
Rocksteady's Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, despite all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth pre-release, has arrived in perfectly fine form. This is, at launch, one of the most polished looter shooters we've played, an action-packed superhero adventure that dishes up top-notch combat, tons of fan-service, excellent traversal (important for superheroes!), addicting loot, and plenty of surprises and shocks to boot. Yes, the story is artificially dragged out, mission types are repetitive and the store is a right royal rip-off, but the writing, the performances, core mechanics and incredible attention to detail here ensure that this is one squad of misfits who've managed to take the heat and survive intact.