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Game 34 of 52: Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League - 15/04/24


Ryannumber1gamer

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Well, when it came to coming back to the Arkham series, I can't really say I was expecting this one to be the game to shepherd that return, but hey, I had some reward points saved up that gave me a really good discount on the deluxe edition at launch, and having liked the Avengers game, and I really liked the Arkham series of course, I decided that despite the years of negative press, the leaks that caused more hatred, and then the sheer anger that was thrown at the game upon release, I would get the game and play through it. So what did I think? Do I hate it? Am I as a Batman and DC fan absolutely insulted by the game and it's decisions?

Not really, no.

In fact, I like it.

really like it. 

This will probably be my hottest take of the year in terms of game releases, but what can I say? From the start, Suicide Squad just clicked with me. Performance was good, graphics was excellent, and the writing was really funny to me. While I can understand why people hated the game so much and had anger towards the premise, as a longtime comic reader and knowing how comic-inspired the Arkham universe was, and how little death means in the DC universe, I went in suspending disbelief at the premise, and letting the game sell me on the new direction to take this universe. So let's just jump right in.

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So, given how the game's relatively new, I'm going to keep my story segment of this blog pretty short this time around, as to not give away the story twists for most people. Still, I'll go into the basics. Years following Batman's supposed death at the end of Arkham Knight, the Justice League has been formed, and Batman has come back into the light with them, operating out of Metropolis. However, our story doesn't start here, but rather in Arkham Asylum, where Amanda Waller wheels our four villains out, and after tricking them into sticking neck bombs into each other, gives them the choice of either working for her, in exchange for their prison sentences being lessened, or being killed by her. With little choice, they agree and next thing they know, they awake within a speeding train that crashes into the Hall of Justice, allowing them to raid some old gear from the Justice League's trophy room, and head out, where they find the utterly insane task that's been laid out for them.

Metropolis has been under siege for a full three weeks by a gigantic doomship, housing a hostile alien intellect named Brainiac, who has managed to successfully brainwash Superman, Green Lantern, and Batman into his cause, turning them against the planet and forcing them to help in his attempt to terraform the Earth into a New Colu. That is where the Suicide Squad comes in, where they're ordered to find the remaining members before they're also brainwashed, and kill both the Justice League and Brainiac before the entire planet is destroyed.

What evolves from here is the team attempting to find a way to escape this mess before they're turned into a red smear by a out of control Justice League, hopping between dimensions, and when all else fails - building a team of trusted support members, and taking the fight to the Leaguers one after another.

What really shines throughout the game is the character dialogue and dynamic of all of the characters. The way they bounce off each other with conflicting personalities is really fun to watch through the game. Harley's psychoanalysing and usual hijinks, Deadshot's stern straight man attitude that's mixed in with arrogance, Boomerang being the asshole member of the group, and usually the comic relief, special mention for me would have to go to King Shark, who honestly has a good mix of being intellectual, where the naivity comes from the fact he's fascinated by humanity, and wants to learn more about their customs. It's honestly really cool seeing all of these backstabbing villains who hate each other's guts at the start slowly begin to come around and form a legitimately tight-knit team.

To also touch over the controversy for a moment, which I do want to avoid both due to it being spoiler material, and just being exhausted with it - personally, I really don't think it's that big a deal. Especially when it comes to Batman and Harley's controversial scene. The game makes it pretty clear from the start that you are playing as villains, and they remain as villains the whole way through the game. Despite the Justice League being a force for good, all four members of the Squad hate them, blaming them for their own actions, and deflecting their wrongdoing onto them. While I do understand that it sucks to see death scenes where beloved superheroes get speeches from villains, I think it is important to remember the context that these are villains who would rather blame their failings and misdeeds on others rather than take responsibility for them. It wouldn't really make sense for Harley to suddenly revere Batman and his career out of nowhere, or for Deadshot to acknowledge that maybe him being a assassin is a bad thing and that it's not Green Lantern's fault for stopping him.

I don't know, apart from Superman, who is just legitimately criminally underused in the game, I just didn't find these very offensive, even though I'm a gigantic Batman superfan and Kevin Conroy is/was my favourite superhero actor of all time. It's one thing to dislike them on their own merit, but the sheer hate and how it's expanded out to the rest of the game just feels overblown, especially when the criticisms start boiling down to conspiracies that Kevin Conroy was forced to do these scenes, even though he signed on for the game of his own free will, or expecting egotistical villains to start acknowledging their wrongdoings and praising the heroes, it just doesn't really wash with me much.

Well that, and the game hints a lot that this is going the way of your typical superhero deaths and there's more to this than meets the eye, something that datamined voice lines from the Justice League in forthcoming DLC chapters confirm. Either way, I wouldn't really sit on the stance that people shouldn't dislike these scenes. I can understand why, even I despised these initially when they leaked the first time. I just think it's a bit insane just how much hatred has expanded to the rest of the game over it.

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But hey, enough of that. Let's get into the major thing that really makes me enjoy the game - the gameplay. Oh yes, something that looked disastrous, and for good reason. Numerous gear load outs, numbers, menus, and more. For a Arkhamverse game, this looked like such a huge departure, going from a stealth action game to a third person shooter. But honestly? I think the game ultimately avoids the pitfalls that harmed so many other games in this formula. You know the one. Tanky as hell enemies where your damage is constantly dictated by bigger gear rarities and stats, where if you aren't paying attention to this, you'll fall behind, and enemies will begin steamrolling you.

It happened with Marvel's Avengers, it happened with Gotham Knights, and it happened with so many more, and all it does is drag the game's pace to a screeching halt and makes it irritating to get anything done. I went into the game fully expecting this after Gotham Knights, almost resigned to dealing with it, and I was so pleasantly surprised when I found out this was not the case.

Not only is gear and sets still pretty customizable to different playstyles, but if all you want to do is just turn your brain off and blitz enemies - not only do they take a regular amount of damage to defeat, but as long as you simply equip a new rarity of gear whenever you attain it, you'll have no issues getting through the game's campaign and even a good chunk of the post-game journey, and frankly, that is the biggest feather in this game's cap. The simple fact that enemies act as regular enemies and die within a reasonable amount of damage makes the gameplay so much fun. Mixing melees and gunplay, each gun type has their own unique style of shooting, some exclusive to certain characters, mixing in abilities, grenades, and afflictions such as freezing enemies, setting them ablaze, or making them go berserk on other enemies. You feel really damn powerful, and it gets better and better as you get more upgrades.

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Speaking of, this is one thing I really want to praise. How the game handles talent trees is different from other games. Where you normally get locked into a set tree or two after choosing it, the way Suicide Squad handles it is your talent points on level ups is distributed equally. As in you'll get one point for one category, then one point for the second category, and then one point for the third category before cycling back around to the first tree. This means not only does it simplify trying to build characters and ensures you're giving them a good variety of skills and abilities, but it does still offer some choice as each tree has certain speciality tiers where you can choose to highly buff a certain stat, combo, or what have you.

Then once you finish levelling up the squad, you unlock a fifth skill tree where you can give overall buffs to the squad, from damage, to defence, to damage resistances, to even XP boosts. I just liked the perfect middle ground of choice and simplicity that the skill-tree offered, allowing me to ensure all members of my squad were pretty varied in skills by the end.

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Then there's the traversal. Holy shit is the traversal so insanely good. This is one of the first games that really felt like to me that needed to be next-gen exclusive, I just cannot imagine being able to traverse a city as big as this as fast as you can in the game on a PS4/Xbox One. This is something that crippled Marvel's Avengers. Characters felt unbelievably slow. The Hulk, known for his speed and strength hit like a marshmellow and sluggishly ran. Compare that to King Shark in this game where he's running at full speed, lunging through the air, scaling buildings and more. 

All four characters have entirely different and unique means of traversal, all four of which being extremely fun. Harley plays more like Batman, using a grapple gun and a drone to grapple around the city, skydiving to rebuild more swings. Deadshot gets a jetpack that boosts through the air at insane speed, King Shark can do massive vertical and horizontal jumps, speed along in runs, and lunge through the air three times, and Boomerang uses a speed force gauntlet to give him the ability to use the speed force to zip around to his Boomerang and doing short dashes. It was nuts how hard it was for me to figure out who I wanted to main first because the tutorial showed me how fun all four's movements were, and I ultimately maxed all of them out.

That's another thing to be praised is just how unique all of the characters felt. There's unique weapons for each character, unique skills for all of them, and unique playstyles for them. Deadshot for example can excel with sniper rifles and can use his jetpack to fly into the air and get a bird's eye view on a fight. King Shark can charge into the fray and brutalise enemies with melee attacks and huge AOE attacks. Boomerang can do more hit and run attacks and juggle enemies pretty well, and Harley can swing around with her grapple, giving good crowd control. I maxed all four of the squad members (and am currently working on Joker, although this is to be left for another entry), and by the end, I was still having fun. The gameplay loop, while repetitive, is just really fun, especially if you're playing on co-op.

Playing the game on co-op, which you can do for the full campaign is just immense fun. It can be chaotic, but there's a lot of fun to be had having a team-up with your friends to really use all of the Squad's skills to the fullest and work together to take on missions. Even having done three runs of the campaign, one solo, two with friends, I still haven't really got tired of the game.

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The amount of fan-service in the game too is also just really insane, both for Arkham fans and for DC fans, as you would expect from the previous games. There's a ton of lore tidbits to be found within the game, and there's several sequences where the game takes full advantage of the Arkhamverse, putting you on the opposite side of Arkham Batman's tactics. The game so insanely and effectively turns those mechanics on it's head to make it more than clear how terrifying it is to be a mook in the Arkham universe against Batman, and there's even moments of this with the other Justice League.

I also really enjoyed that Batman, even brainwashed - was the mission control for Brainiac's army. Say what you want about the unfortunate timing of this game and Kevin Conroy's passing, but he kills it here. We almost never get to see Conroy play a legit sinister Batman, and he absolutely relishes it here. How he talks down to the Squad, the sheer level of hate, anger, and disgust you hear as he talks about those he once protected, as he talks about past events in the series, but now twisted due to Brainiac's mind control - it's something to be witnessed. All of the voice work in the game is really damn good, but if this was Conroy's last role as Batman (it isn't), I would be satisfied, because ending aside - he hit it out of the park.

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Unfortunately, I would say one of the game's big downsides is the boss fights. While they can be entertaining set-pieces, and a good few of them do really display the sheer terrifying aspect of taking on a Justice League member head to head when they aren't holding back, but most of the time, it does amount to just a fast moving enemy who can quickly get out of your sight and make it a pain to track them while the arena is filled with a overload of hazards. I wouldn't go as far to say they're really bad, but they're pretty weak. Especially when it comes to Brainiac, who ultimately just repeats The Flash's boss fight, which is looking to be a common thing as we get into the seasonal content.

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I suppose the last thing for me to actually talk about here is the post-game, and yeah, it does get really damn repetitive. The post-game consists of doing missions and incursions, doing it on harder and harder difficulties to increase a mastery level, and that gives you better and better gear. I do think that it is still pretty fun, and the gear you get legitimately does feel effective and different, allowing you to build unique gear line-ups, but enemies can be a bit too tanky here (depending on how far above your weight you punch in terms of difficulty at least), but still, I wouldn't say it's super repetitive, but that does come down to just how fun the core gameplay loop and traversal is.

As for Season 1, I think I'll hold off on that, as this isn't going to be the first time we're talking about Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League here.

But yeah, that's about all I have to say. A surprise hit for me this year, I really enjoyed this game. I've kind of accepted that the general consensus is the game is shit and should be hated, even if I think that the hate was far too overblown, and that there was far, far worse games to dislike this year and in previous years. The fact that review sites like IGN in particular got really petty and tried to use anything against the game it could also didn't really sit right with me either personally, especially when they tried to use Kevin Conroy's death as a means to shit on the game, which forced the devs to call them out on it and point out Conroy worked closely with them.

I don't think it's worth full price if you aren't interested in it, but with a hefty sale? I really do think it's worth giving it a try. Even if the campaign ends on a anti-climatic note to set up the live service and seasonal aspects, the story itself is really fun and has a ton of great moments, and you might just enjoy the gameplay enough to stick around for post game. Especially if you manage to get a squad to play it with you.  

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