Suicide Squad Is Fine
People wanted blood and retribution, but it doesn't seem like they're gonna get it from this game
3:37 PM EST on February 1, 2024
Last night I downloaded the “early access” version of Suicide Squad, a lightning rod for controversy that happens to come bundled with a video game. After playing for an hour, I can say with some degree of certainty that it’s fine, an opinion shared by others who've sank more time into it than me. I would have played longer, but the game crashed so badly that I am, for now, stranded near its starting line.
I have complicated thoughts about all of this. Let’s start with the game itself: After all that hubbub about live service elements and publishers leaving outlets in the lurch for negative coverage, it’s not anywhere near the dire state it feels like people almost wanted it to be in. The game’s mix of gunplay and melee combat is tight and crunchy – if a bit simplistic – and traversal is sick as hell, with Harley Quinn swinging every which way while Captain Boomerang teleports (using his boomerang), Deadshot jetpacks, and King Shark swims through the sky. It’s kinda like a juiced-up take on Crackdown. Like any halfway decent triple-A game, it just feels good to play.
The story and presentation are also solid so far. Dialogue verges on obnoxiously quippy, but some of it is legitimately clever, as is an opening scene where all the main characters fight to inject bombs into each other after pretending to be above Suicide Squad string-puller Amanda Waller’s clear bait to get them to do her dirty work. It’s goofy and over the top, but the Rocksteady pedigree peeks through.
I’m left wondering why everybody was primed to lose their fucking minds over this thing – why it felt like knives were out and we were on the verge of a press, fandom, and content creator-led feeding frenzy. Obviously the game’s publisher didn’t help matters with its review code wackiness, but it felt like people were salivating over Sucide Squad – in a bad way – long before that. As soon as the game showed signs of including live service elements, there was this sense that people had landed on the perfect game to make an example of. It had the major license; it had a prestigious studio seemingly reduced to a shell of its former self; it even appeared on track to squander (what is actually not) the final performance of late, great Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy.
This was the line in the sand, and based on the almost gleeful reaction from the peanut gallery any time anything went wrong, misfortune that befell Sucide Squad was not only justified, but invited. If this game slipped on as many banana peels and stepped on as many rakes as possible, maybe that would somehow change the course of the industry. Or, perhaps more aptly, it would satisfy gamers’ desire for retribution. They wanted penance. They wanted blood. And they wanted an undeniable villain from which to extract them.
This ignores the complicated reality that big games are made by hundreds or thousands of people, most of whom are doing their best. There are no easy villains in an industry that’s unsustainable on a good day, where successes herald layoffs. Live service elements, though reviled, prop up games with budgets so big – and companies with executives so overpaid – that the specter of failure haunts projects from the moment they're announced. Preventing that increasingly inevitable outcome is not players' responsibility, but cheering for it accomplishes little and often paints targets on the wrong people's backs.
But even divorced from all of that, some games are just fine! Only now, they’re no longer allowed to be. We’ve hit a point where every big game – and other major piece of media – must be The Most _____ Ever. This permeates every part of the discourse cycle, from marketing where games are trumpeted as being the last thing you’ll ever need to play, to online discussions where each new release must be the apex, the apotheosis of something. Suicide Squad was supposed to be the most live service game ever, an exemplar of a corrosive form. Instead, it seems fine. That we exist in a time when things can no longer simply be fine – that the stakes feel so high so constantly – cannot be healthy for anyone.
And I say this as someone who’s struggled with Suicide Squad’s nonetheless existant woes. Currently I’m blocked from progressing any further by a crashing bug that occurs an hour or so into the game. I cannot get past it no matter what I do. Even reinstalling the game didn’t fix it, so maybe it’s a server thing. I’ve told myself, well, the game is in early access; that’s the nature of the beast. Except that “early access” in this case is a term that’s been co-opted by big publishers to get people to spend $100 to play a paltry few days earlier than everybody else. That’s stupid! The game, which is officially releasing tomorrow, should be functional now, not perched atop rickety servers and a small mountain of bugs. At least in this regard, it clearly needed more time to cook. I’m sure the people working on the game very much wish that was not the case and are pushing themselves even harder to fix these problems – all to satisfy the whims of their corporate overlords, who are in this case aided in incentivizing overwork by the licking flames of an irate fanbase.
All of this, and the game is just fine. Pretty good, actually, in some ways. In another time, that’s all it would have needed to be. But we don’t live in that time anymore, and we can’t go back.
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