Fans of the very popular Batman: Arkham games—Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham Origins andArkham Knight—have been eagerly awaiting Rocksteady Studios return to that particular gaming universe. But in the nine years since the last installment, the gamemakers have veered radically away from the typical Batman-versus-the-lethal-lunatics stratagem.
This time the lunatics are in charge. And the result is the very messy and at times incredibly disturbing Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.
This M-rated co-op adventure-shooter places gamers in the gore spattered togs of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark or the Flash-villain, Boomerang. Batman? Oh, he shows up too, but he’s a mercilessly deadly villain this go ‘round.
It seems that five years after the events of Arkham Knight, the maniacal supercomputer, Brainiac, has swooped in from space and figured out how to take over the minds of the world’s greatest heroes—making them death-dealing pawns who murder at their new master’s pleasure. In fact, as the groupthink goodies gleefully slaughter the human populace, Wonder Woman is the only real hero left.
So the remaining ordinary, resisting humans tap Amanda Waller to pull together a “super” team of Arkham Asylum’s incarcerated bad guys to deal with the problem. And after tricking Arkham’s worst to inject explosives into their own heads, she promises this Task Force X (aka: the Suicide Squad) freedom if it can simply kill each of the former heroes—including Superman, the Green Lantern, Batman and the Flash—and outfox the super intellect of Brainiac. No prob, right?
Gameplay wise, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a fast-paced looter-shooter. The anti-heroes are sent on missions all around the city of Metropolis (oddly enough) where they pick up weapons from the likes of the Hall of Justice and Lex Luther’s labs.
As they then proceed through the smoking city, players battle hordes of power-morphed humans and the big-boss supers—gaining combos and boosts from melee attacks, midair leaps and blasts and sliding maneuvers.
Gamers can play with up to three friends in co-op mode or tackle the game solo. And solo players can also switch between any of four Squad characters when not in the midst of combat. Rocksteady Studios has promised to offer an offline story mode sometime in 2024, but at this juncture players must have an internet connection to play, whether gaming solo or co-op.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is undeniably creative in its story construct. The battling is fast paced and relatively smooth. And the actor voiceovers are very well performed.
The game also delivers a message praising the strength of teamwork and family connections. We see people freely giving their lives for the sake of others. And the villain protagonists take steps to save humanity, even when they’re free from Amanda Waller’s threats.
All of those positive things said, this is a very hard-edged game that earns its M-rating in spades. Since it focuses on Arkham inmates, the dialogue is replete with very crude sexualized humor. For instance, Boomerang makes a habit of urinating on fallen former heroes (his lower extremities just offscreen) and his teammates toss out quips about the ample size of his manhood.
In that same category is all of this game’s foul language. The dialogue is constantly peppered with f- and s-words and other crudities, such as the usage of “d–n,” “a–hole,” “b–ch,” “ba–ard,” “bloody,” and misuses of God’s and Jesus’ names.
Of course, as the title would suggest, Kill the Justice League doesn’t skimp on its blood and mess either. Characters use blades, pistols, machine guns, explosives and deadly superpowers to blow away and, at times, rip open others.
For instance, someone’s heart is torn out of their chest; people are decapitated and sliced down the middle; a person’s head is detonated (off screen); body parts are sliced off; and blood spatters people and scenery. And lots of that violence is delivered by the brainwashed heroes as well. We see the Green Lantern smashing people to pulp, Batman murdering cops with guns and blades, and Superman pounding, strangling and turning a fellow hero to ash with his heat vision.
It may be a small part of the whole, but most everyone here is also duplicitous and untrustworthy. Characters cheat, deceive and lie more often than not.
[Spoiler Warning] Perhaps the most disturbing part of the game’s bloody death-dealing is when the superheroes, who have historically survived the onslaught of villainous plots and schemes, are so easily brainwashed and then murdered, executed and cast aside as so much trash. Batman’s bullet-to-the-brain execution feels particularly unsettling in an Arkham Universe game. And fans will blanch at the fact that this was one of the last performances delivered by long-time Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, who died in November of 2022.
Making villains into antihero protagonists is the latest DC superhero rage. And Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League does a creative job of it. But it’s ugly, foul and disturbing, too.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.