Metropolis is under siege. Monsters have run amok all throughout New Troy. Park Ridge is crumbling beneath heavy fire. Brainiac's Skull Ship looms large on the horizon. If the citizens of The City of Tomorrow want to see a new dawn, it'll need help from a group of truly extraordinary beings. No, not The Justice League – not this time. The first, last, and only line of defence against the most powerful threats in the universe is Amanda Waller’s Task Force X.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is upfront in its desire to embrace chaos. Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and King Shark have been assigned an impossible mission: Save the Earth, or die trying. To complete that assignment, they'll need to kill the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. The reward? Maybe The Agency will remove those Nanite bombs from their heads once the dust has settled. Maybe. Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is Rocksteady's first game since it shipped Batman: Arkham Knight in 2015, and it's set to be quite unlike anything we've seen from this studio before.
Kill the Justice League
"[Suicide Squad] is a unique, new franchise for gaming and we've been able to put our own spin on it to create something really special that I think gamers are gonna love and enjoy," said Sefton Hill, Rocksteady Studios' co-founder and creative director, speaking at DC FanDome. "Obviously, it's brought to you by the team that created Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Arkham Knight – in fact, this is a continuation of the Arkhamverse, so a lot of the threads and the storylines come to fruition in this game. We've been able to combine all of that core DNA with some really great, unique innovations to create what we think is going to be a totally original experience."
Rocksteady might be known for the seminal superheroics of the Arkham trilogy, but Suicide Squad isn't another stealth-action brawler. This is an adventure game set across an open-world Metropolis cast in sunlight rather than shadow. It features four playable protagonists, and a blurring of lines between the sort of character-driven story the Arkham games were able to deliver, and overhauled third-person melee and shooter systems that better reflect the powerset of the Suicide Squad roster.
"This game is a hybrid of Rocksteady's experience of bringing characters like Batman to life combined with really powerful, awesome gunplay," Hill continued, expanding on the studio's desire to swap out the superhero empowerment it built its reputation on for an embrace of supervillain empowerment. "Each [character] has a richer move-set, more things you can do, and more skill required to master them that you even had with Batman."
At FanDome, Hill noted that the team has put considerable time dialing into the unique characteristics of each of these characters, each coming equipped with their own moveset, traversal abilities, skills to master, and weapons to customise over the course of the game. And you'll need all of this if you want to make it out of Metropolis alive, a space which Hill described as a "fifth character in the game" due to its dynamic nature and density of detail.
"We're treating it the same as Gotham in Arkham City and Arkham Knight. It's [about] giving this city life beyond just bricks and mortar, and making it something that really speaks to the player – and being able to realize it to a level of detail that's never been done before in any medium," Hill said at FanDome, adding, "So we created this open world, over which the game takes place. I think it's really a love letter from us to DC fans, I think they're gonna love it and really enjoy it. It's something that I'm really proud of. The team has done a phenomenal job with that."
Meet the squad
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is promising to be a massive departure from the Arkham games, not just in terms of tone and setting, but with respect to structure too. It's being built to support single and cooperative play for up to four players, with AI filling out the gaps in the roster if your friends aren't online. "Our mantra has been that you play this game however you want to play it," Hill continued, noting that single-player is just as viable as co-op. "If you play single player, you'll still have a full squad with you – you'll have players two, three, and four which will be filled by bots who will fight along with you, and really join in the fun, and obviously give you that squad experience. But if you want to play multiplayer with your friends that's still absolutely great."
Rocksteady is building Suicide Squad to be a dynamic experience, with the studio promising that you'll be able to jump between playing stories in single-player and multiplayer as you so choose. It's all about choice, something which is exemplified through the single-player configuration. "If you're playing single player, the other cool thing is you can even switch between the characters. You're never locked to any particular character, for any particular section of the game."
"So if you want to play as Deadshot, jetpacking around and sniping enemies, you can do that. And then boom, just instantly switch to playing as Harley, swinging around and flying into enemies with a baseball bat around the head," Hill said. "There's so much freedom in the way you play the game, because we really wanted to get across that feeling of being a whole squad and not just one person going on this mission."
Rocksteady may have left Batman behind, but that's given Warner Bros. Games Montreal the space to build a brand new adventure in Gotham. In fact, Gotham Knights looks like a bold and energetic evolution of the Batman Arkham formula.
Rocksteady has built this character switching dynamic into the game because it knows we're going to have a tough time choosing just one member of the squad to focus on. Much like the heroes and villains that showed up in the Arkham games, these characters will be familiar but different – Rocksteady echoing the source material and a willingness to bend it when necessary. We've only gotten but a hint of this in the Suicide Squad debut footage, where we see Digger Harkness – a.k.a. Captain Boomerang – appearing to utilise the Speed Force to jet around the city, a power that he hasn't traditionally been able to harness in the DCU (that honor would go to his canonical son, and second person to wield the kylie, Owen Mercer).
Still, changes like this are welcomed when you consider the size and scope of the space we will be exploring and warring across. Captain can zip around as fast as The Flash, whipping his boomerang between multiple foes as he moves like lightning. Harley Quinn can utilise a grappling hook to swing between buildings, smashing enemies with her baseball bat as she goes. King Shark can bound effortlessly between rooftops, chopping through anything that gets in his way with twin cleavers. Deadshot can keep foes at range with his wrist cannons and jetpack, and you'll want to consider the ways in which you can pair each character's weapons and traversal abilities together for deadly results. "[There are] special enhanced traversal moves you can use, like Deadshot doing a fuel dump and setting enemies on fire," Hill continued. "It's really about creating a whole spectrum of possibilities for the player to use, and just letting them loose, and enjoying them as much as they can."
Rocksteady is targeting a 2022 release for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. That means it might be a little while before we see any more of it in action. With that said, Hill used his time at DC FanDome to promise that the studio is building something that will be worth the wait – an honest to god Suicide Squad game that'll be just as bizarre and out of control as the comics that inspired them. "We always want to put our characters in interesting and exciting and dynamic situations, and it felt like the Suicide Squad naturally really lends itself to that," he said, speaking to the chaos that will be born out of trying to take on and kill members of the justice league. "I think that's where you always find the magic, when you can put characters in these situations that are absolutely impossible."
"And to a certain extent these things kind of write themselves, because once you've got that premise, you just let that live and breathe. And you think, 'well, how the hell can the Suicide Squad kill the Justice League… how can that even happen?' That's the genesis of the game, and then it's down to us to take the player on this journey and tell the story of how that could even be possible."
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is going to release in 2022 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.