October 21, 2022
Batman is dead. A fact made abundantly clear in the opening cinematic, and as the new protectors of Gotham, you’re going to have your hands full ridding the streets of the gallery of villains and criminals who’re all taking advantage of the Dark Knight’s passing. While Gotham Knights presents a different take on the lore of Batman, its roots are firmly planted in what made the Arkhamverse so loved. Despite approaching the material laid out by Rocksteady in a new way, Warner Bros. Games Montréal has delivered a deep and progressive system that sometimes gets confused in what it’s trying to be.
After the caped crusader sacrifices himself inside the Batcave during a fight with Ra’s al Ghul, the four successors to the cowl must step up and fight a new threat in the wake of Bruce Wayne’s death. Each of the protagonists have a history fighting beside Batman, and each of them have a unique skillset that stands apart from one and other to make combat and traversal feel different whenever you’re on your patrol of the city. It’s a testament to the developers that I would play all four characters and struggle to pick a favourite, as each one has something I enjoyed taking advantage of whenever I left the comfort of the Belfry to go out and fight crime.
Red Hood is the tough guy, using his twin pistols to punish foes in devastating fashion. Jason Todd was the second Robin, but after a near death experience at the hands of the Joker, he was brought back to life thanks to the Lazarus Pit. Although this part of his life is behind him, you get the sense he’s struggling to adapt to life as Red Hood, afraid to trust the ones close to him, while at the same time doing his best to follow the legacy that Batman left behind. Despite keeping others at arm’s length, he’s a tour de force that was a hero I returned to multiple times thanks to his brutality and focus on pure strength.
Batgirl is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, a legend of the GCPD that refused to let crime and corruption win, who’s death left a hole in the heart of Gotham as well as his daughter. Barbara Gordon’s intelligence knows no bounds, and she has an advantage when it comes to hacking security cameras, using her brains to support her allies as well as her penchant for martial arts. She might not be as strong as some of the others, but she’s an excellent choice when it comes to keeping the streets clean from crime.
Robin AKA Tim Drake might not be the first to don the attire, but he’s probably the most akin to Batman. He also feels the most similar in terms of abilities due to him using stealth better than any of the other Gotham Knights. Enemies aren’t as quick to notice Robin, allowing him to be stealthier than the others, and when using his cane across the various boroughs of the city, he can unleash fast and vicious justice regardless of the threat.
Nightwing is clearly the favoured successor to Batman, and it makes a lot of sense given his natural leadership qualities. The first Robin, Dick Grayson has a ton of experience fighting alongside his fallen friend and mentor, and he’s also one of the four heroes that makes use of all of his abilities when fighting enemies. He’s a fine blend of all the other three heroes, being both dangerous and nimble in battle, and using his knowledge of acrobatics during his time in the Flying Graysons to get around Gotham and fight whoever stands in his way.
Regardless of who you’re fighting as, combat revolves around light and heavy attacks. Hammering the two attacks unleashes combos that can do significant damage, and once enemies are weak enough, you can grab them to perform throws, attack them, or interrogate for more information about crimes that are going on across the city. Being successful in battle builds your momentum, and as you progress through Gotham Knights, each character will unlock new Momentum Abilities specific to their style. For example, Nightwing will use his batons to launch a trail of electricity across the ground to stun and injure enemies, and Red Hood fires his guns with rapid precision.
You can also approach gangs of enemies with stealth, although it’s nowhere near as fluid or precise as it was in the Arkham games. I often found I alerted enemies too quickly, or they would notice me even though I was being cautious around them. Once you make a bit of noise, the whole gang will notice you, leading to an all-out brawl. You can throw smoke bombs before escaping to a higher platform or pillar, but the initial stealth sections don’t feel as tight or as controlled as they have been in past Batman games. Of course, Gotham Knights isn’t from the same development team, but with the shadows being an ally to you, it would have been better if these moments were more polished.
Each character has their own unique moveset, but they also share similar abilities when traversing across Gotham. The zipline can be fired at various buildings, street lamps, water towers, and rooftops, getting around much quicker than when on the ground. You can also summon the Batcycle whenever you want, adding versatility to how you choose to travel. Fast Travel does unlock later on, as do some other cool abilities for getting around. You feel a great sense of freedom with any character, and I loved how good it felt to get around Gotham. What’s even cooler is how Gotham Knights includes co-op when playing, making it well worth teaming up with your friends.
When playing with another, you can team up and take part in the same mission, flying around together and beating up gangs of enemies in harmony. However, you can also go about your business separately. You could be trying to stop a robbery happening in the West End as Red Hood while a friend is collecting Batman’s audio recordings in the Bowery as Batgirl. Whatever you’re doing, XP is collected for both regardless of who’s earning it. It works very well, and allows you to either work together or separately to fight against the villains of Gotham however you want to.
The story of Gotham Knights delves into every aspect of Batman lore. For those that know their comics, there’s a lot for them to uncover and appreciate. The main focus revolves around the mysterious organisation known as the Court of Owls, led by The Voice, who are pulling the strings of Gotham from the shadows. Before his death, Batman had began to uncover the Court’s secrets, and with crime on the rise, their actions are starting to reach a boiling point. Various villains from the comics play a role in its story, such as the Penguin, Ra’s and Talia Al Ghul, and Karl Langstrom AKA Man-Bat. There’re also some hefty side missions that play out as well, featuring Harley Quinn, Clayface, and Mr Freeze.
The Case Files are fairly big, and provide you with another focus outside the main story. They also offer up boss fights that cause you to use all of your abilities regardless of who you’re playing as, and can be pretty tough as well. One thing I loved about Gotham Knights is how the developers have created different cutscenes for every protagonist. When I went to meet Harley Quinn inside Blackgate Prison, she acknowledged me as Robin, and later as Nightwing, she lovingly called me Nightbutt and addressed me specifically. During the Mr Freeze story when I’d just fought him as Red Hood, Alfred and Dick were talking about how the fight with him had taken its toll on Jason.
Outside of the main story, there’s so much you can be doing, with new stuff unlocking al the time. The Belfry acts as your hub of operations, and from there you can switch characters, check the evidence board, change the look of your Batcycle, and even play Midway’s 1983 classic arcade game, Spy Hunter. You can also complete training exercises as well as chat with Alfred, add the clues you’ve found throughout Gotham to reveal new premeditated crimes to thwart, and upgrade, craft, and add modifications to your suit and weapons. For those that love a tidy menu, there’re a lot of ‘unread’ markers that’ll require a lot of time to go through and catch up on.
Various challenges can be completed when you’re not tracking down the actions of the Court of Owls or the League of Shadows. You can go and stop a range of premediated crimes like kidnappings, organ trafficking, and illegal trading. There’re time trials for your Batcycle, street art to photograph Batarangs to collect, landmarks to uncover and record, Contact missions featuring Renee Montoya, Lucius Fox, and the Penguin, and so much more. By pressing the touchpad while out on patrol, you can see all of the various quests and activities to uncover, with it sometimes being overwhelming when choosing what to do.
Despite some messy menus and map icons, having all of this content will keep you playing long after finishing the main story. There’s also an addictive nature to crafting new outfits and gear. There’s various salvage relating to the type of enemy you take it from, which in turn allows you to unlock new suits, and melee and raged weapons that taken inspiration from the comics. These RPG elements help you to become stronger as you progress, and offer up elemental damage and resistance so that you’re always well equipped to take on the various enemies throughout Gotham Knights.
Gotham Knights runs at 30fps, and while it’s not a deal breaker, some of the sections where I was fighting a lot of enemies felt sluggish. Dodging around and avoiding getting hit felt slow, and I would’ve appreciated more of a refined and quicker level of action. It’s also noticeable when on the Batcycle, as although there’s an illusion of going fast, you’re not actually moving as quick as it appears. Also, while not a lot of them featured, especially when in the city, the load times when returning to the Belfry or upon death took quite a bit of time, something I wasn’t used to with the current gen more often than not offering an almost instant return to action.
Gotham Knights is a surprisingly big game. There’s a lot to do outside the main campaign, and rarely does it feel arbitrary. Combat feels unique regardless of who you decide to play as, and there’s a reason to make use of all four characters throughout your time with it. I couldn’t stop playing, and I had a ton of fun throughout my time in Gotham. Traversal gets a lot better even if it does lack the fluidity of the Arkham games, and the stealth sections aren’t as tight as the should be. But despite these minor issues, I enjoyed the thirty plus hours I’ve spent with Gotham Knights, and there’s still a lot more stuff to do.
Combat is sublime
Traversal is a lot of fun
Plenty to do
Co-op is great
Some things need explaining better
Could do with a 60fps option
Load time aren't as quick as they should be
There's a lot to love about Gotham Knights, especially when fighting or traversing the city, but a few hiccups do hold it back.