Reviewed by Brady Ruiters and Lyle Arends
Gotham Knights arrives just over ten years since WB Games Montreal graced us with a Batman game. Their last offering was 2013’s Batman: Arkham Origins, which had its shortcomings but still felt like a solid Batman game. Originally announced in 2020, Gotham Knights looks to tell a new story surrounding the Bat Family. However, it does fall short in quite a few areas.
The decline of Gotham
Gotham Knights opens up with a sombre intro. The iconic Caped Crusader is injured and ultimately dies while fighting a deadly battle. To make matters worse, Police Commissioner James Gordon has also perished and this results in Gotham City falling into a decline in the aftermath. Crime and police corruption are on the rise and it falls to the remaining members of the Bat Family to bring justice to the city – while also investigating Batman’s death. The latter results in them coming into conflict with a secret society called the “Court of Owls” and their brainwashed assassins known as the “Talons”.
Gotham Knights has an excellent premise, but it falls a bit flat, especially with some unnecessary story reveals that can’t really be talked about without spoilers, coupled with some twists and turns telegraphed fairly early on. The Court of Owls especially feels wasted here, as in the comics, they push Batman to his absolute breaking point and feel like an unbeatable force. The Court’s history and motifs also clash so deeply not only with Batman, but the entire history and legacy of Bruce Wayne and the Wayne family. As such, they feel out of place as the primary antagonists for The Knights without Batman directly involved. The Court challenged the very idea of who Gotham truly belongs to, and what the Wayne legacy really stood for, but here, it’s just a case of needing a large organisation to use as the big-bad.
Test your Knight
Shortly after starting the story, you will be able to choose from one of the four available Knights to play as Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl or Robin. After selecting your hero and playing through the first mission, you’ll be able to head out on patrol at night to fight dynamically-spawned crimes while pursuing any leads for your investigation. If you’ve played the Batman: Arkham games, this might feel somewhat familiar, save for a few changes. Your chosen hero is able to traverse the rooftops of Gotham City using a trusty grappling hook or cruise the streets using the Batcycle. When it comes to combat, they can attack up close with combos or from a distance using ranged attacks – the latter particularly helpful when facing criminals armed with firearms or explosives. Build up enough momentum in a fight and your character can perform a technique that helps with taking down groups of enemies faster or giving you a bit of breathing room. You can also charge your melee and ranged attacks, which is essential for exposing the weak spots of some tougher enemy types.
During the day, you’ll spend time at your base of operation, The Belfry. Here, you’re able to interact with the other characters, allocate points in the skill tree, and do some training. If you want to try hitting patrol with a different character, you’re able to switch your current one between patrols, which is a nice option to have and adds some diversity to the combat once you’ve unlocked a few new skills.
Another element I liked is how the city can feel alive. While it isn’t packed with citizens at night, you will see some people walking around and they’ll even react when spotting you. Initially, those reactions are negative, but as you progress through the story, they’ll gradually shift towards positive. There are even civilian cars driving around that you’ll need to dodge in traffic when tearing around on the Batcycle.
As you go around fighting crime and doing missions, you’ll earn blueprints and crafting materials. These can be used to craft new weapons and even suits, each with different stats and buffs, allowing you to cater to your specific play style. Visually, the suits are varied and look pretty great too.
Unfortunately, the gameplay in Gotham Knights feels somewhat clunky for a modern title. The combat, in particular, feels a lot less snappy than the prior Batman games and, initially, a little simplistic. It does grow in complexity a little as you upgrade your character via their skill tree, which unlocks more moves in their repertoire. What’s a little odd is that some of the character abilities and specialities actually detract from the experience. As fun as they may be, they just feel out of place, especially Robin’s teleportation. This rings true for the Batcycle as well, which allows you to get around the city in a hurry, but just doesn’t feel like it’s going very fast despite the visual effect surrounding the screen when you’re riding it.
As a result, traversal doesn’t feel much fun – the repetitive sound of the grapple guns, for example, makes zipping around the city annoying – while the stealth sections feel dated. Even the investigation mini-games feel a bit lacklustre, no more complex than a mobile game that sees you trying to connect two things together to solve the puzzle. Returning to combat, the finishing moves performed when taking down the last enemy in a group look pretty cool, however, I wish that there were more on offer.
Part of the problem is that Gotham Knights can be a bit of a grind. The game features some basic RPG elements and, as a result, there is a lot of busy work – be that finding stashes or unlocking certain perks. Some minor features are also locked behind unnecessary grinding and it doesn’t feel particularly satisfying to reach these milestones.
While you can play Gotham Knights solo, it also features drop-in/drop-out co-op, which allows another player to join your game without affecting any of your progress. As might be expected, there is some fun to have with the game and it’s definitely best enjoyed with a friend. It’s honestly worth playing through Gotham Knights with a friend in co-op because it actually makes the experience that much more enjoyable as you take on situations together and plan out your attacks.
Visually, Gotham Knights looks quite great. It does a pretty good job with the lighting and use of contrasting colours to make for some fantastic scenery when out on patrol. Despite running at only 30 frames per second, I was surprised to find it doesn’t feel too jarring. The soundtrack is also really good, ramping into faster-paced tracks during combat but also toning it down during reflective scenes at The Belfry. The voice acting is also decent, well, some of the time.
What a Knight
Ultimately, Gotham Knights is a bit of a mixed bag – an interesting idea that can be quite enjoyable, but the experience is marred by some design choices that simply don’t work very well. It features an interesting premise based on a great arc from the comic books and then fumbles it somewhat. The combat, while initially a little simplistic, does tend to grow on you after unlocking more moves for your repertoire. However, the other gameplay aspects, such as traversal, investigation mini-games, and stealth sections don’t grow on you as much. Additionally, there is a fair amount of busy work around Gotham, sometimes required when it comes to unlocking abilities, and it doesn’t feel satisfying – more like an arbitrary roadblock forcing you into more playtime. That being said, it looks fantastic, runs fairly well, and plays smoothly despite being capped at 30fps. That and, if you have a reliable gaming partner, offers a co-op mode could provide the boost it needs.
Gotham Knights (PS5) ReviewGotham Knights (PS5) Review
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Audio8/10 Very Good
- Combat is initially simple but grows on you as you unlock more abilities
- Looks and sounds great
- Ability to switch characters between patrols
- Gotham City feels alive
- Premise falls a bit flat
- Lots of busy work
- Some gameplay aspects aren’t that engaging