Review of Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League – Balancing Between Brilliance and Banality
In 2008, when Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight was released in theaters, it made a strong impact. This dark and pessimistic film stretched the boundaries of its 12A rating, standing in stark contrast to Sam Raimi’s lighthearted Spider-Man trilogy. The Joker, played by Heath Ledger, joyfully thrust a pencil into a mobster’s eye and Harvey Dent’s face was disfigured by flames, leaving my girlfriend’s younger brother visibly shaken. This was not the campy version of Batman portrayed by Adam West in tights.
Reworded: Nolan’s film, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, elevated the genre to new heights. The iconic character of Batman returned and soon after, video games were given a Gotham-inspired makeover. In 2009, the highly praised game Arkham Asylum emerged, changing the perception of licensed games and bringing them into the spotlight. Now, after nine years since the release of Arkham Knight in 2015, the beloved characters from Gotham are back with a fourth DC adaptation – Suicide Squad.
Playing as Harley Quinn, Boomerang, King Shark, and Deadshot, you will have to protect Metropolis from an attack by extraterrestrial beings. You may be wondering, where is Batman in all of this? Sadly, Earth’s protectors have been manipulated by Brainiac, a villainous alien, and are now fighting against their own planet.
As unidentified flying objects release laser beams from above and Green Lantern joyfully eliminates human opponents, it is up to our group of infamous misfits to rescue the situation – and eliminate the Justice League. This premise provides a clever framework for the story, which the writers use to great comedic effect. However, alongside the refreshing transition from playing as a hero to a villain, there is a more surprising shift: the move to an online shooting game with loot elements. Drawing inspiration from games like Destiny and the controversial Marvel’s Avengers, this approach of live service has Rocksteady attempting to combine a tightly scripted narrative with character stat management and unpredictable weapon drops.
The game Suicide Squad features well-known DC villains with superpowers, but unfortunately, they are mostly seen carrying basic guns instead of using their powers. While other movies followed the style of Nolan’s Batman, Rocksteady’s close-quarters combat set the standard for fighting in video games. However, in Suicide Squad, the combat is unimpressive and lacks creativity. Instead of the stealth and hand-to-hand combat seen in Arkham games, the antiheroes simply hop around a dull sandbox city, shooting at unremarkable zombie enemies. This change from Rocksteady’s innovative approach to mindless XP-gathering missions makes the game feel like any other uninspired licensed game.
The highlights of the game are when it resembles the Arkham series. When the large groups of enemies are out of sight and the camera focuses on your well-designed team battling corrupted Justice League members in comical villain scenes, the game truly shines. Whether it’s following clues with Lex Luthor or facing off against a twisted version of The Flash, it is a delight to see the Justice League turn to the dark side. From being shocked at Batman’s ruthless killings of police officers to seeing Superman use his laser vision to destroy a hero, this game has a similar dark tone to The Boys and Invincible.
The acting in this is also very engaging, with a balance of graphic violence and silly jokes that are actually genuinely humorous, rather than just being “video game funny”.
Whenever Rocksteady attempts to capture the essence of its previous successes in Gotham, the experience becomes dull and unengaging. Although the combat does improve as you upgrade your weapons, the combination of enemies that take too many hits to defeat and flashy finishing moves never quite matches the seamless fluidity of taking down thugs as Batman did in 2009.
In the end, the desire for Warner Brothers to create a live-service game takes away from the unique charm of a comic-book adventure. The end result is a confusing game that reflects the same struggle as its main characters. Just as the reluctant heroes battle against their evil tendencies, Rocksteady’s attempt at ambitious storytelling struggles to break free from the constraints of a live-service game. Since its announcement as a game focused on looting and shooting, the online community has denounced Suicide Squad as a disgrace – completely opposite to Rocksteady’s past successes. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, with a game that has both its shining moments and its mundane ones. As Rocksteady observes the negative reaction from fans towards Suicide Squad, they are learning that you either die as a beloved hero of licensed games, or you live long enough to become the villain.