During Early Access launch day yesterday, I got a good amount of time in with Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. And as it turns out, I may be not all that far away from finishing, given what is supposedly an 8-10 hour completion time for the main story, pushing it to 12-ish with sidequests. But we can touch on that aspect another time.
Rather, I want to focus on what I believe are the two biggest problems with Suicide Squad, ones that appear to be so baked into the core game, I don’t think they can really be fixed all that well, which is concerning for a game that wants to be an addictive, long-term live service. So, what’s the problem?
Personality-wise? Sure, absolutely. The central quartet here has that in spades. But if we’re talking about moment to moment gameplay, I’m not sure I’ve seen a game in this genre where the different characters/classes feel more similar.
The main differentiator between each class is traversal, as these aspects do function quite differently. But even there, however, Shark’s mega-jump, Harley’s bat-hook, Boomerang’s teleport and Deadshot’s jetpack all serve the same function. Get up on that roof. Get across those roofs. Kill people from the air. It may feel different as you do it, because of the traversal mechanics (which I would also say are way overdesigned at times), but it’s accomplishing the same exact task, just in tweaked ways.
But combat? Combat is close to identical. This is the “wait, everyone just shoots guns?” problem that everyone foresaw with the game even before launch. Guns make sense for Harley and Deadshot, less so for Boomerang and King Shark, but in moment to moment gameplay outside of traversal, they all play close to identically. While sure, we have other games where guns play close to the same in everyone’s hands, The Division, Borderlands, Destiny, there is enough differentiation between classes in those games to make them feel dramatically different.
That just isn’t true here. Grenades are all shared the same. Melees are the same, even if they look stylistically different. I’ve gotten a legendary Harley bat and a legendary pair of Deadshot arm guns and they’re literally the same weapon, perks and all, because melees are functionally the same across all classes, even if they look different. Takedowns are again the same function, just style differences. The one main combat difference I’ve seen between the classes is the “super move” of each character, but I mean that’s the bare minimum at best.
This concerns me for the live service future of the game if all these new characters show up and their main draw is “oh hey Joker has a rocket umbrella!” but again, all the other stuff is left the same. Even the much-lambasted Avengers had dramatically different-feeling character kits among at least its starter heroes. Traversal differences were mainly “you fly or you don’t” and the work was put into their actual powers.
I can see how this gunplay would have been a good fit for say, a standalone Harley Quinn game or something like that, but are you really going to introduce new characters each month and have the main difference be how they go up or across buildings, and a single super move? It’s possible this changes as you get further down the skill trees, but from what I’ve seen, it’s mostly stat buffs for specific weapons, and even many of those overlap across classes (200% melee damage but a 2 second cooldown etc. etc.). This is a serious problem for a game trying to live on well past its campaign. And that leads to the second issue.
If there’s a single problem that I think is going to sink this game, it’s activity design and diversity. In the hours I’ve put into Suicide Squad so far, quite literally almost every activity has been some variant of the same few things. Jump up and down buildings to A) control points, B) bring back civilians to a bus or C) kill all enemies onscreen. In the side missions there are often modifiers like the fact that you can only kill enemies with grenades, or melee finishers, or critical hits (this one is awful), but it almost feels like those were invented because it would be just so boring otherwise. And again, given the similarity in character kits I just mentioned, it feels even more similar than other games that might do this.
It’s very strange to have great gunplay in a game where activity diversity is just…absent. Even in the main campaign missions, which you might expect to be different, so many of those are still just doing those same “kill the things on the rooftops” directives, which almost feel mandatory given just how much weight Suicide Squad has put on traversal. The rare exceptions to this are things like your first encounter with Batman (which is more or less just a playable cutscene) or the individual Justice League boss fights. But I am pretty stunned at just how similar the rest of the game feels and how it all blends together.
It’s true, I’m not at the endgame, but because the game is so short, many players are already there and the reports are…dim. Right now it’s just a scarce handful of mission types, combat arenas of escalating difficulty, but again, not all that different from the base game. And the amount of grinding you’ll put into the mastery system with just those few mission types is going to be exhausting. Suicide Squad has promised future new types of content but that isn’t here yet, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.
With live service games there is always some amount of repetition and grinding the same type of content. But from what I’ve seen, the bouncy, outdoor design of Suicide Squad appears to have limited the creativity of what we can expect both in terms of how combat feels and the actual mechanics of these activities. Or at least that’s the case so far. If I’m already growing tired of these activities on day one, how is this supposed to be a game that sustains interest over the course of a year, many years? There needs to be some significant additions, and interesting ones, to make that happen. I have my doubts.
I am continuing to play the game and will see how my thoughts develop in time. But it’s hard to get past these central two issues as they suffocate what is good about the game. But overall, I am concerned. It’s one thing to get players to beat a nine hour campaign. It’s another to keep them playing as a live service.
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