What’s your Gear Score, Gamers?
Rocksteady is a fantastic developer, make no bones about it, and I’ll gladly argue that we might never get a comic-book adaptation in gaming to rival the immersions, emotion, and raw, genre-defining impact of the amazing Batman: Arkham trilogy — But last night’s gameplay overview of the studio’s long, long in development Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League left me and others in the gaming community less than enthused.
Spotlit as the centerpiece of the Sony State of Play presentation Suicide Squad received a brand new trailer, as well as a more in-depth gameplay overview, showing off the characters, mechanics, and hook of the “Good-to-be-Bad” comic book adventure. Unfortunately, while the title undoubtedly featured some great visuals, cool character designs, and a neatly constructed world, it also appears drowned in by-the-book, focus-tested, corporate-approved Video Game Features typical of the much-maligned “Games as a Service” model. A model readily enthused by publisher Warner Bros. Games.
Suicide Squad is a very specific brand. It is a brand based around anarchic anti-heroes and straight-up scumbags. We aren’t talking top-tier precision commandos, we’re talking the last hurrah. Idiots with guns, amoral losers sent to take care of the work that nobody else wants to do. As such, lumbering them with the most conservative model in gaming is the antithesis of the very vibe the franchise embodies.
Captain Boomerang and his iconic *checks notes* assault rifle, Harley Quinn famously ensuring that she is wearing the jacket that provids a 0.6% increase in Grenade Drop Potential. There’s something just so insidiously corporate about a screen that features “Social” “Store” and “Battle Pass” tabs all on the same banner, propped up by a woeful mish-mash of numbers, “Common-Epic” gear status, unlockable mod slots, and menus within menus within menus, all summarised by Suicide Squad‘s eye-rolling moniker of “Gear Score”.
Yo, bro, what’s your Gear Score?
Of course, I’ll readily admit that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And I’ll gladly check out Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League on release. After all, Rocksteady has more than proven its pedigree with a history of fantastic games. I have no doubt that this release will look fantastic and play well. But there’s something so rote, so tepid, just so bland about getting bogged down with the numbers. And while many video games have previously followed the gear-laden, GaaS model to mostly mixed results, it’s not a model that gels with the Suicide Squad — Hell, it similarly failed to gel with The Avengers, and we know how that story turned out.
We’re right to have faith in Rocksteady as the designers of a gameplay experience, but I’m not entirely convinced that we should necessarily have similar faith in their masters. This is a publisher that did its damndest to make “gear” and multi-currencies a key element of a one-on-one fighter, and thus, I can’t picture a single suit that is looking at Suicide Squad and thinking, “Hmm… we’re really getting away from the spirit of these characters”. It was also recently revealed that Suicide Squad has an Always-Online policy, even for single-player mode, a methodology that simply refuses to hit the bricks.
I rarely comment so harshly on a game before its launch. Barely ever. And, as always, I’m more than happy to be proven wrong, and will gladly eat my words if so. But, like many video game fans, I’m just tired, nay, exhausted at these thin efforts to disguise cash registers as Cool Dude Video Games. With certain brands and IPs, it can be a little easier to keep the more money-hungry elements tucked away in the shadows, but when applied to something supposedly as anti-establishment as Suicide Squad, it hits you square on the dome like a comically oversized mallet.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League launches May 26 on PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X.