Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a superhero game saddled with an unusual amount of baggage. It may be the follow-up to 2015’s much-loved Batman: Arkham Knight, but it’s also a game that’s been subject to numerous delays and concerns over its live service elements and gameplay choices. It also happens to be the final DC game featuring the voice of Kevin Conroy as Batman. Now that the game is finally out in the wild, one thing has become abundantly clear This is not the sendoff Rocksteady’s Dark Knight deserved.
Why does Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League miss the mark where Batman is concerned? Let’s take a deep dive into where the game goes so wrong, but beware of full spoilers ahead for the new Suicide Squad game!
Fighting the Dark Knight
First off, to address the bat-elephant in the room – they killed Kevin Conroy’s Batman off here, and they do it in a pretty lame manner. We’re going to dig into that in a second, but first let’s talk about the missed opportunity of the gameplay itself.
Part of the appeal with Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is that it promised to flip the script where Batman is concerned. Rocksteady’s previous DC games put players squarely in Batman’s armored shoes. As Batman, we soared through the skies of Gotham City, stalked criminals across alleyways and rooftops and unleashed Batman’s full arsenal of gadgets and weapons. Never before has a game series been so successful in making players feel like the Dark Knight himself.
In Suicide Squad, suddenly the script is flipped. We’re playing as the criminals, and Batman is the enemy. That opens up a lot of potential for the game’s inevitable Batman boss battle. What is it like to be on the receiving end of the Caped Crusader’s wrath? What is it like to stumble through the darkness, knowing that every ledge or perch might be hiding a crazed vigilante waiting to kick your face in?
In a better game, the Batman boss battle would have played out like a survival horror mission. It should be terrifying going up against this deranged billionaire and his deadly toys. Superman may be invulnerable, but at least he offers a target to shoot at. Batman is the enemy that can’t be seen until he’s ready to bring the pain.
The game’s two Batman encounters are nothing more than tedious, poorly lit obstacle courses.
But rather than being a nerve-wracking lesson in what it’s like to be Batman’s prey, the game’s two Batman encounters are nothing more than tedious, poorly lit obstacle courses. When it comes time for the actual Batman boss battle, you aren’t fighting the Dark Knight so much as grappling with the effects of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. This face-off has you stumble through the darkness and activate a series of buttons to manufacture more fear toxin. Along the way, you shoot at a never-ending series of Bat-like wraiths and dodge Batman’s explosive gel. It’s repetitive, dull and anything but the thrilling action sequence we would have expected.
This boss battle does finally culminate in an actual battle, but hardly one worthy of the Dark Knight. The Squad merely jumps and shoots at an oversized Batman monster in a scene that feels like a riff on one of the nightmare sequences from the original Arkham Asylum. And then it’s all over. Never does the game actually tap into the thrill of fighting Batman. Never does it channel the fear of fighting the ultimate ninja warrior in his prime element.
Of course, squandering the opportunity for a good Batman boss battle is one thing, but the real problem begins after the fight is over. It’s how the game gives Rocksteady’s Batman his final sendoff that things really go wrong for Suicide Squad.
The Sad End of the Arkham Saga
Never let it be said that Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League doesn’t live up to its name. You do indeed kill the Justice League throughout the game, picking off Earth’s greatest superhero defenders one by one before ultimately confronting Brainiac. Even the mighty Batman is brought down by Harley Quinn and her team. Harley accomplishes what her puddin’ never did, shooting Bats point blank in the head and luring Superman into the open.
It’s a surprisingly ignominious end for a character as beloved as Batman. And maybe that was the whole point. We can almost respect Suicide Squad cutting through the mystique and killing off Batman in such an unceremonious fashion.
But the problem is that this isn’t just any version of Batman; it’s the Batman from Rocksteady’s Arkham games. Suicide Squad is technically a sequel to 2015’s Arkham Knight. The game includes enough references to the ending of Arkham Knight, the death of Poison Ivy and the fact that Batman’s secret identity is known to the world at large to confirm the connection.
This is a version of the character fans have bonded with over the course of multiple long adventures. The Arkham trilogy showcases three of the worst nights of Batman’s long career, nights where he pushes himself to his physical and psychological limits in order to save his city. Particularly in Arkham Knight, Batman is broken down to his core and emerges the other side stronger and more resilient than ever. For some, these games offer the definitive incarnation of Batman.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League shows no regard for the legacy of the Arkham games. It would be one thing if the game were set in its own, self-contained universe. Then, it might be easier to appreciate the black humor in the idea of Batman being gunned down like a common criminal. But the game goes out of its way to establish its place in the Arkham canon. It transforms that Batman into a brainwashed killer, cheapening the memory of a hero who goes out of his way in the Arkham games to never take a life, even Joker’s. This is not the ending Rocksteady’s Batman deserved.
It’s certainly not the follow-up we hoped for or expected in light of Arkham Knight’s ambiguous ending. That game concludes with Batman activating the Knightfall protocols and destroying his life as Bruce Wayne. What becomes of him after that point? Does he try to find happiness in anonymity, like Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises? Does he commit himself fully to his war on crime, a la the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns? And how do the various members of the Bat-family soldier on without their leader?
There’s a lot more story that could have been told with this version of the Batman character. But Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League settles for the most boring answer. It turns out that Batman is still Batman, even after everything that happened in Arkham Knight. He’s just hanging out with the Justice League until he becomes a pawn of Brainiac. The hero gamers have spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours playing as is treated as little more than a disposable plot device. All the potential left on the table with Arkham Knight is wasted for the sake of a cheap laugh.
All the potential left on the table with Arkham Knight is wasted for the sake of a cheap laugh.
To be fair, there’s always a chance Rocksteady isn’t quite done with Batman. As definitive as his death scene seems to be, the Batman comics have certainly found outlandish ways of bringing dead characters back into the fold. There’s also the fact that the game dabbles in the DC multiverse by the end, offering players the opportunity to hunt down 12 more versions of Brainiac via DLC campaigns. If a version of Joker is being brought in as a playable character, who’s to say Batman won’t return as well? But will it be the same Batman? And will he still be voiced by Kevin Conroy? If not, does Batman’s return even matter?
The silver lining here is that while Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is a poor sendoff for Rocksteady’s Batman, at least it isn’t Conroy’s final outing as the Dark Knight. IGN has learned that Conroy will reprise his Batman: The Animated Series role in the animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 3. With any luck, that movie can give Conroy’s Batman the sendoff he deserves. Arkham fans aren’t so lucky, sadly.
For more on the game, check out IGN's Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League review in progress.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.