Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League co-op gameplay was revealed during yesterday’s disappointing PlayStation State of Play, and viewers have found it hard to overlook the copious red flags in its presentation.
Developer Rocksteady confirmed the DC action game would feature a Battle Pass and that it would be live service, meaning it will require an always-online internet connection in order to play. It also outlined its post-launch plans, waxing lyrical about future updates and DLC for a game that isn’t even out yet. Everything about its debut presentation pointed to what many had feared — Rocksteady is yet another studio trying to make its own Destiny.
The slice of gameplay shown was uninspiring. Harley Quinn, King Shark, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot looked mostly indistinguishable from each other, their contrasting personalities and skillsets lost amid the frenetic gunplay. King Shark leaps through the air much the same as Harley does, each of them making much greater use of their assault rifles than their comic book powers or abilities. When Captain Boomerang is barely using a boomerang, questions should be asked.
The reasoning behind the game’s focus on guns is obvious — they’re used for ‘Gear Score.’ Yes, if you’re a fan of constantly obtaining weapons with exciting stats such as ‘+23% Critical Hit damage’ and ‘+2% Shield regeneration on Melee Hit,’ the Suicide Squad have your back. As Rocksteady explained the Gear Score in its ‘behind the scenes’ video, it was difficult to get excited for the same loot-shooting format publishers have tried to force upon us since Destiny’s success.
It’s easy to understand why publishers are so keen on creating the next big live service game. Game development is costly and time-consuming, so games with a longer shelf life will earn more money in the long run. Destiny wasn’t the first game to achieve this, but its satisfying loop of acquiring better guns and armor to take on bigger challenges was easily implemented into a bunch of other games. It took the addictive qualities of an MMO and forced them into a genre with a broader appeal that translated better to multiple platforms, and many games have now followed suit.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League isn’t exactly hiding this influence. Its UI is cluttered with a litany of stats and numbers, a boring slew of data that tells you that the gun you’re looking at has a slightly higher fire rate than the one in your inventory, or that it deals a fraction more damage to a certain type of enemy. For a game set five years after the events of Batman: Arkham Knight, it feels worlds apart from its predecessor.
The Batman Arkham trilogy provided a perfect portrayal of its hero; a vengeful demon lurking in the shadows, terrifying his enemies with stealth, cunning, and raw strength. It came from a team who clearly had a great deal of respect for the character. On the other hand, the gameplay shown at the State of Play looks like the Suicide Squad could be ripped straight out of it, replaced with a generic team of anti-heroes, and it’d function much the same.
Any old video game character can carry an SMG — but not many are giant humanoid sharks. Those hoping for a similar experience to Arkham, with a faithful replication of each character’s abilities, were left disappointed. Sure, character-specific abilities were highlighted, but as you watch all four members of the Squad zipping across Metropolis like they’re in Crackdown or Sunset Overdrive, it looks like the Gear is the priority and not the characters. It’s understandable that Rocksteady would want to go in a different direction with a new IP, but the gameplay reveal ticked too many of the ‘underwhelming loot shooter’ boxes we’ve seen over the years.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League won’t be our first, second, or even third rodeo with live service loot shooters. Not only have we seen more than our fair share of them, but we’ve also seen the various ways in which they fail. Games built from the ground up to be played for an extensive period of time often launch barebones, with their creators so focused on making a game that will last forever, they overlook making a game that’s fun right out of the gate. These alarm bells will ring every single time a live service game is unveiled, and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League’s gameplay reveal didn’t do a good job of silencing them.