Rocksteady and Warner's much-disparaged live service superhero snuff fantasy Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League goes into Deluxe-preorder-only early access today, Monday 29th January, at 9pm, or if you're from the UK or US east coast, Tuesday 30th January at 12am ET and 12 GMT. Non-Deluxe peons get to play it from Friday 2nd February. With just a handful of hours till the initial release we still don't have review code, which is generally a good sign that a publisher thinks the game in question is going to get a mild-to-severe kicking.
I'm personally quite mixed on Suicide Squad. The movesets and city environment are snazzy enough, and Rocksteady obviously have unrivalled form on the comicbook adaptation front. But the studio appear to have watered down their own superheroic pedigree in the shape of a game-as-a-service with a heavy emphasis on looting guns and gear. Still, I'm encouraged by game director Axel Rydby's remarks that Rocksteady "don't want the game to feel like a life commitment". The question is, how much of that is humouring Arkham Asylum fans who are very weary of live service productions in general?
"We all love playing games, but we also have lives (sort of) and that's been a big part of our design philosophy making this game," Rydby observed in a Discord Q&A swept up by PCGamer. "We don't want the game to feel like a life commitment or be a game where you have to sacrifice a lot to see all the content on offer, or feel like you're not making good progress in the game if you can't play hundreds of hours. We want this game to be generous, both with your time and with all the features we have to offer."
I like the sound of all this, but the proof will be in the pudding, and the pudding in this case appears to be the usual, live service trifle of seasonal content via battle passes and assorted endgame malarkey. Studio director Darius Sadeghian did share a little about how Suicide Squad will make time for players who can't afford to treat it like a job. For one thing, you'll be able to go back and sample the offerings from each season after the season ends: this includes the two "episodes" added with each season, which will be a mixture of new gear, new missions and new boss fights, all free to download. Paid-for battle pass offerings will consist exclusively of cosmetics and premium currency.
The developers also reiterated that Suicide Squad can be played solo, or with any combination of human and computer-controlled players, so no worries if your Harley Quinn player spilled Lucozade on her laptop and can't make the evening raid. "If the fourth player in your 4-player squad couldn't make it because they have the audacity to have a life outside of the game, it won't stop the rest of you from playing if you choose to keep going," Rydby added.
The live service game sector is in a difficult place. 2023 was not a banner year for such projects - long-established contenders like Destiny 2 and Fortnite have seen lower-than-hoped returns, contributing to layoffs at Epic and to a potential Sony takeover at Bungie. There has been a slew of delays and cancellations, with Sony pushing back six of 12 planned live service projects to mid-2026 or later, and Sega junking the promising Hyenas.
While players have long moaned about games that feel less like coherent artworks than indefinite content-delivery mechanisms, it does feel like the pushback is reaching critical mass. There are simply too many of the things, and following them all is exhausting - Diablo 4's seasonal update logs are novellas in bullet points. I think a lot of the dislike for these games comes from the perception that the service game aspects have been cruelly imposed on teams who might otherwise make, say, a new SP-focussed superhero game that doesn't require or even expect you to sign in every week to get your fill of add-ons. Given that Rocksteady are celebrated for making games like the latter, there's the risk of Suicide Squad becoming a poster child for hostility towards GaaS in general.