Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League isn’t quite what anyone expected to follow up the revered Arkham trilogy. In fact, it’s steadily become a controversial release, as terms like “endgame” and “post-launch content” have understandably riled up the fanbase. From Arkane’s disastrous Redfall to the now-canned Naughty Dog Factions multiplayer, we’ve seen many single player developers fall for the seductive appeal of live service games. But has Rocksteady really sold its soul? Or has it managed to strike that fine balance? What is clear is that the studio has gambled big on Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and the pay off has been worth it... mostly.
So what exactly is Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League? Well first and foremost it's another expansive story experience set within the Arkhamverse. Five years after the Dark Knight hung up his cowl, Task Force X is sent into Metropolis — a city occupied by the alien Brainiac — with a mission to take out the now brainwashed Justice League. It's one hell of a concept, and we lapped it up across the roughly 12 hour campaign. In many ways this is another traditional Rocksteady experience, with industry leading cinematics and facial animations, plenty of twists and turns, and some goosebump-inducing moments with its iconic roster of superheroes-turned-villains.
Then there's the other side of the coin. Suicide Squad is a co-operative shooter, where up to four players assume the roles of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark, and Captain Boomerang. While some missions are more traditionally linear, most are objective-based, as Task Force X captures, defends, and escorts while defeating waves of enemies. Upon the completion of missions, players are met with an end screen, granted some loot rewards, and sent back into the open world. The whole thing can be played in either co-op or solo, although as of publishing, Suicide Squad requires an online connection regardless of which you choose.
How well you think this hybrid blend of single player and multiplayer works is really down to perspective. As a single player game, Suicide Squad has some whacky pacing, as you’re left to pick off enemies again and again in between some brilliant story content. But as a multiplayer offering, it’s got a far better story than you’d find in the likes of Destiny 2 or The Division. Either way we have something that is good — verging on great — but never quite hits the highs we’d expect from Rocksteady, since it isn’t willing to fully commit to one or the other.
Let’s start with that story, though. Tone is the biggest change between this and our last Arkham outing, with the bickering Task Force X acting as the heart of this tale. This is a team vastly under qualified to take on the might of the invading Brainiac and his Justice League pets, and in part it’s what makes this comedic take so endearing. This is a far funnier game than we ever expected it to be, and we caught ourselves laughing throughout its story thanks to the witty banter between the core squad. Every member has their own personal vendetta against each of the Justice League, and the continual toe-stepping makes their quests for revenge all the more entertaining. It might not be for everyone, but for the most part, it manages to tow that line of consistent laughs that never truly overshadow the more serious moments.
Of course, part of the narrative will be spoiled by the title itself, and it’s here that feathers may be ruffled. Rocksteady manages to expertly build up each of the iconic League members, brilliantly showcasing just how big a threat they are under Brainiac’s allure. The game's introduction to Batman — featuring a devilish performance from the late Kevin Conroy — is genuinely fear-inducing, and the earth-shuddering thud of Superman taking flight impresses every time. We have to take a moment to mention Wonder Woman too, who's portrayed far better here than anything the ill-fated DCEU conjured up.
Pacing, however, kills so much of the good will that Suicide Squad builds up with its often excellent writing and character portrayals. Not only are campaign missions set apart by a tedious stop and start of five-minute objectives, once you actually get to the point of the game, it doesn’t really want you revelling in the moment. We don’t want to spoil things here — as much as we can avoid that with a game called 'Kill The Justice League' — but after some excellent build up, it'd be nice to take a beat to process what transpires. Instead, Rocksteady would rather you move to the next shooting gallery as soon as possible.
Speaking of shooting, you’re going to be doing a lot of it. Regardless of whether you're playing as Harley Quinn or King Shark, each character will be kitted out with SMGs, pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, snipers, and even miniguns. It’s an odd fit for the Arkham dev, especially after cooking up a combat system that still holds influence to this day. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that gunplay feels snappy, responsive, and super satisfying. It’s helped by the incredible haptic support, which is Sony first-party level — and that carries on outside the combat itself.
While guns alone may not be enough to make Suicide Squad’s gameplay stick out, its traversal will. Each of the four members of the squad have their own way of getting around Metropolis. Harley uses Batman’s Bat Drone and grapple to swing around, Deadshot his jetpack, King Shark his godly jumping abilities, and Boomerang his speed force gauntlet. Each fundamentally works the same, but they all have a distinct feel to them that ties into the combat. In the early hours we honestly weren’t sure about the traversal. We had our favourites — Boomerang immediately stuck out to us — but the likes of Harley and King Shark felt dull by comparison.
However, as we delved deeper into the campaign, and steadily got to grips with the various traversal styles, the true fun of Suicide Squad’s gameplay unearthed itself. While missions are initially short, they gradually lengthen, and bumping the difficulty up to the highest tier means you really have to knuckle down at times. Keeping your character in the air, moving around, countering shots, and melee attacking enemies to gain back your shield becomes a delight, and we genuinely couldn't get enough of the combat in the latter hours of the game. It’s helped even more by the rock solid performance on PS5.
In testament to how fun each character is to play, our playtime is a pretty equal across all four antiheroes. However, if you do want to stick with one member of the squad, you can easily do so. Thanks to the guns, grenades, melee weapons, and mods, you can mold any of the characters to your preferred playstyle, and Suicide Squad has a pretty in-depth customisation process via skills trees and weapon rolls.
The Hall of Justice acts as the game’s operating base, and it’s here that NPCs such as Poison Ivy and Penguin can amplify and modify your builds. Admittedly, it’s all a little numbers heavy for us, and once we found a higher tier weapon and gear we typically just stuck with that. Credit where credit is due, it's nice that you can just let the stats fall by the wayside if you want to, but it does mean that outside of growing familiar with the traversal, nothing really changes your playstyle. It's all there if you really want to dig into it, but the systems fall a little flat.
What about all this live service stuff we keep hearing about, then? Well, outside of the mission types you’d find in a shooter like The Division, there isn’t really anything too intrusive throughout the base campaign. Playing the game solo would make the end screen leaderboard stuff really annoying, and it does impact pacing, but when playing with a friend, it undeniably sparked that competitive edge in us.
Placing top on the leaderboard means you become the squad leader, and get to pick the next mission. Especially as we creeped our way into the later missions, the threat of losing out on the top spot goaded us into pulling off flashier moves and dealing more damaging combos. It’s a nice way to incentivise competition with your friends, and Suicide Squad makes sure it’s super easy to engage with it.
Matching up with other online players is also a breeze, and thankfully when playing in a friend’s world, yours will update seamlessly alongside it — so there’s no need to replay the campaign or side content in your version of Metropolis. There’s also a neat feature called Social Squad, where if playing with AI, you can fill the bot players with your friend’s character profiles — featuring their weapons, gear, and cosmetics. When that friend logs back in, they’ll receive a small portion of the resources you gained from playing. There are a number of nice quality of life features like this that many similar games simply wouldn’t launch with.
All this friendly competition and cooperative play becomes increasingly prevalent as you move into the endgame content. So far, the Incursion missions — which follow the final boss — are a little underwhelming. You effectively play a variant of an objective at higher and higher mastery levels, with the aim of unlocking villain-centric weapon sets. The co-op aspect of the gameplay never feels especially prevalent, as you're effectively shooting at the same group of enemies rather than working together to take them down. Enemy variety, while visually bland, does keep things fresh gameplay-wise, but we just wish there was a more satisfying levelling system, or better rewards, and because of that, we’re not sure the game has the legs to be played for weeks or months.
However, Rocksteady is keen to emphasise that the first season of content is on its way, with new Elseworld-inspired areas, a new playable character, and of course new story stuff, mission types, and weapons. Three following seasons are teased upon completion of the campaign, with the scope for what we estimate to be six full seasons. It’s refreshing that Rocksteady seemingly has an endpoint in store for its post-launch plans, but the jury is still out on whether this will be enough to keep players engaged.
What is a relief, however, is that all of this content is free. The only paid DLC in Kill The Justice League is cosmetic, purchased either through the store or a battle pass. And there are actually a fair amount of cosmetics you can unlock via things like Riddler challenges and riddles, which make a welcome return from the Arkham games. When put next to other live service games, Suicide Squad is a pretty generous offering that hits the ground with a light jog, rather than a full-on sprint. There’s certainly a lot to look forward to, but whether it'll be worth the wait is another thing entirely.
Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is a complicated game. It's tough not to think about what could have been if Rocksteady opted for another traditional single player title — especially since the split personalities at this game's heart stop it from reaching the heights of the developer's previous works. That said, despite all of our complaints, we can't deny that the game's fun. The story lacks the payoff but remains engaging throughout, the traversal-tinged combat is genuinely fantastic, it’s a blast to play with friends, it’s one of the best looking games on PS5, it runs like an absolute dream, and, as far as live-service games go, it’s shaping up to be a meaty and generous offering. There is a bittersweet feeling surrounding Suicide Squad, and that sentiment will remain for a lot of players, but it's hard to say that Rocksteady entirely missed the mark with this big gamble.