Where have all the licensed tie-in games gone? There was a period when almost every big studio movie or TV series had an accompanying game. Well, they’re still around—but as mobile gaming has grown in prominence over the last few years, licensed tie-in games have forgone their traditional home on consoles, to continue on inside your pocket. It’s a move that makes sense; mobile games can appeal to all ages and abilities, be put out free and easily monetized, and require far fewer development resources. For all these reasons, most mobile games are garbage. Tie-in games for films like Batman V Superman and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are relegated to menial beat-’em-ups and endless runners, designed to be deleted by the time the film is out of theaters. Bearing all this in mind, you can imagine how surprised I was when I decided to download Suicide Squad: Special Ops, only to discover that it’s actually pretty good.
A wave-based FPS, it makes a great first impression by looking much better than the average mobile shooter or licensed game. Instead of going for gritty realism, the game instead opts for bright neon accents and cel shading, a design choice which works well. Playing on a standard iPad, the game runs at a smooth framerate, and is constantly bursting with color. The character models for the playable El Diablo, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot all look and animate surprisingly well, and the same can be said for the somewhat generic enemies you fight. Even things like streams of fire and papers floating in the breeze show an attention to detail that is lacking in most 3D mobile games. I’m actually kinda hoping it gets ported to consoles at some point, because with some texture tweaking it could look pretty good on a big screen.
Special Ops has surprising gameplay chops as well. Players navigate a destroyed city environment, moving from arena to arena and fending off hordes of attackers; nothing amazing, plus the story setup is paper thin—but the execution is worth noting. Most importantly, the shooting itself is satisfying. Most mobile FPS games run into the problem of needing a button to fire, on a device without triggers. Suicide Squad fixes this by firing when players hold the reticle over an enemy. What sounds like an easy fix actually lets players focus on accuracy, giving them time to build up each character’s devastating super move. Even the movement and aiming itself works fluidly, accommodating the arcade nature of the shooting. From the pop of Deadshot’s wrist mounted armaments, to the Condemned-esque swing of Harley’s bat, it all feels satisfying. Even the super moves feel good to throw out, giving players more control in some of the more chaotic waves. It actually felt badass to use Deadshot’s bullet time special, as heads of enemies explode into ash. And it felt just as good to use the second time.
Unfortunately, the game does get rather repetitive. Taking notes from both Left 4 Dead and Call of Duty: Zombies, the Squad navigates different structures throughout the city as the rounds progress, eventually opening all the doors and circling back to the start. The interesting locales do a good job of emulating the big-screen action, but the game’s structure guarantees that you will have seen all it has to offer within the first hour. There are also several optional upgrades to be found, and while these do little to actually alter the moment to moment flow, they are nice to have nonetheless. I was also unable to find any microtransactions of any kind, a rarity in itself for a free downloadable game.
For a long time I’ve waited in hope for a half-way decent licensed mobile game, and Suicide Squad: Special Ops is it. Repetitive in structure and simple in design, it is still good enough to make you feel like a badass on the bus ride to work. Without cloying micro transactions or an absurd asking price, it works better as an actual game than it does advertising. I hope it proves profitable because I want more licensed mobile games like this; an easy to pick up and play, genuinely worthwhile game.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment down below and get the conversation started. And don’t forget to stay tuned to Ground Punch for all your DC and Suicide Squad needs.