What is the Suicide Squad and how does it fit into Rocksteady’s Arkhamverse?

Last week, Rocksteady Studios announced the focus of its next game: DC Comics’ Suicide Squad, along with a promise of more information to come during the upcoming DC FanDome event on August 22. The announcement was unexpected but also not entirely surprising considering how Rocksteady spent the past decade and change crafting a unique “Arkhamverse” of high-caliber Batman games which both paid homage to and radically revamped existing Batman lore.

So what exactly is the Suicide Squad and why is it such a big deal that they’re finally getting their own game? Chances are that more casual DC/Arkhamverse fans only know the eponymous squad from the critically panned 2016 movie adaptation starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie, which is a crying shame considering how awesome and unique the squad actually is. In this article, we’ll go over the Suicide Squad’s long (and quite bloody) history, how they fit into the Arkhamverse narrative, and how Rocksteady’s upcoming game could potentially bring them into the realm of interactive storytelling.

Activating Task Force X

The very first incarnation of the Suicide Squad made its debut way back in 1959 in the 25th issue of DC’s The Brave and the Bold comics line. That first appearance was a far cry from the squad’s more modern interpretations, mainly because it consisted of only four different members, none of whom were major players in the larger DC continuity. It wasn’t until 1987 that the Suicide Squad was revived as part of DC’s Legends miniseries and received many of its trademark elements including a roster comprised of super-villains, the tough-as-nails handler Amanda Waller, and the government designation of ‘Task Force X.’

Unsurprisingly, the name “Suicide Squad” refers to the fact that the tasks the squad is given are often classified as dangerous to the point that they’re basically suicide missions. The villains who make up the squad’s roster are usually press-ganged into service with both the promise of a reduced prison sentence should they succeed as well as the threat of immediate termination should they refuse to follow orders. To ensure obedience, Waller has mini-explosives implanted in every squad member’s neck which she can trigger at her discretion.

Given its nature, the Suicide Squad’s roster is constantly changing as various members are killed off either during a mission or when they try to cross Waller. In fact, in some cases minor villains have been made up on the spot for a particular Suicide Squad issue only to die a few panels later. More recent incarnations of the squad have included a few key members who, given their existing history in the DC Comics universe, are virtually guaranteed not to die, and several have even taken up leadership roles within the squad itself. These members include recognizable DC villains such as Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang.

The Squad in the Arkhamverse

If Rocksteady’s upcoming game is indeed set within the larger Arkhamverse, it technically won’t be the Suicide Squad’s first showing. Easter egg cameos hinting at the squad’s formation were featured in both 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins and its handheld spin-off game Arkham Origins: Blackgate.

In Arkham Origins, a post-credits scene shows Amanda Waller (making her Arkhamverse debut) attempting (and apparently succeeding) to recruit the villain Deathstroke. In Blackgate, a series of cutscenes reveal that Waller was the one who instigated the prison riot which serves as the game’s backdrop. Waller manages to capture (and assumedly recruit) two of the villains Batman defeats during the course of the game (Bronze Tiger and Deadshot), and the game’s final twist reveals that Waller also hired Catwoman to try and break the villain Bane out of Blackgate, presumably to recruit him as well (that final plan is ultimately thwarted by Batman).

These cutscenes and cameos led many fans to speculate that developer WB Montreal (which had developed Arkham Origins while Rocksteady was busy working on Batman: Arkham Knight) was hinting at a proper in-the-works Suicide Squad game. However, those rumors dissipated a year later when Warner Bros. released Batman: Assault on Arkham, an animated movie set within the Arkhamverse and starring the Suicide Squad. The movie was decent, but fans also begrudgingly accepted that it, and not an entirely new game, was what WB Montreal had likely been hinting at with its earlier Suicide Squad game cameos.

As of this writing, it’s unclear how, if at all, Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad game will tie into the previous Arkham Origins/Blackgate/Assault on Arkham appearances. However, given the squad’s various depictions and how it tends to operate in each new storyline, there’s plenty of room to speculate on how the upcoming game will function in terms of gameplay.

All For One…

There’s little reason to doubt that Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad game will feature multiple playable characters. The entire point of the squad is that it’s made up of a diverse roster of villains, each with their own signature skill sets, backgrounds, and weaponry. In fact, Rocksteady could very well be planning to go a similar route as Square Enix and its own upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game, though obviously with a darker tone.

Previous Arkhamverse games allowed players to control villains such as Harley Quinn, Deathstroke, and Red Hood, all three of whom would fit right into the squad’s makeup (though Batman might take issue with one of his former wards being conscripted into Waller’s service). If Rocksteady’s take on the squad was indeed operating within the Arkhamverse, it would also undoubtedly include members like Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Rick Flagg, and maybe even some returning faces from Assault on Arkham and other Arkham games like Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Firefly, and Bane.

Structuring its Suicide Squad game as a co-op team-based brawler in the vein of Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers is certainly one route Rocksteady could take, but fighting legions of foes out in the open and in direct combat isn’t exactly the squad’s style. Our guess is that the upcoming game will skew more towards Rocksteady’s previous experience with its Batman games, focusing more on stealthy operations, gadgets, and small-scale freeflow combat encounters involving one or two squad members at a time.

Batman: Arkham Knight proved that freeflow battles with more than one hero present can technically work, and fans would surely delight in seeing what sorts of brutal team-up attacks Rocksteady could cook up for the likes of Harley Quinn and her mallet, Deadshot and his various firearms, Firefly’s penchant for explosives, and Captain Boomerang’s…well, knack for throwing boomerangs.

The teaser image Rocksteady shared also seemingly confirmed that the Suicide Squad will be tasked with taking down powerful adversaries like Superman, an undertaking which would require the skills of multiple squad members for sure. This would further build a case for the game supporting some form of co-op multiplayer, though given Rocksteady’s previous work with the single-player-driven Arkham games, having friends to play with likely won’t be a requirement.

Given the squad’s volatile and combative nature (not even the threat of immediate death is enough to get super-villains to play nice), we also can’t rule out the presence of a competitive multiplayer component as well. It wouldn’t be unlike Waller to take the squad’s roster, split it into teams, and then pit them against each other for the privilege of going out on a mission (and thus reducing their sentence).

No matter how Rocksteady decides to tackle gameplay in its new Suicide Squad game, the prospect of getting to dive back into the Arkhamverse (even if it’s not Batman at the helm this time) is exciting nonetheless. We’ll know more about the Suicide Squad’s playable debut come August 22, but in the meantime, we’re just glad that one of the most unique and dynamic groups in the entire DC pantheon is finally getting the chance at interactive stardom it deserves. And with Rocksteady handling the reins, we know that Amanda Waller and her Task Force X team are in good hands.