When it comes to superheroes, there’s no one who's known as well as the dark-caped crusader himself, Batman. One of the best superhero video game franchises would have to be the Arkham series where players would don the black cowl to fight crime and corruption while taking down Gotham’s infamous syndicates in the glum, open-world city. The last major Batman game released was Arkham Knight by Rocksteady Studios in 2015. Since then, fans have been begging for a new Batman open-world game.
In 2020, during the DC Fandome presentation, WB Games Montreal unveiled their new project known as Gotham Knights: an open-world RPG title in which players would be taking the roles of the Bat-family — Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and Red Hood — due to the recent tragic passing of Batman. The main group antagonist was revealed to be the Court of Owls, a secret organization that exists only through rumors and uses any means necessary to shape the fate of Gotham City in its best interest, which was exciting considering how much they were favored among comic book readers and the Court’s never been featured in any video game title. WB Games Montreal is no stranger when it comes to creating a title within the Batman universe. The studio developed Batman: Arkham Origins, the third installment in the popular Arkham series. So, it was both reassuring and exciting to see a familiar game studio take the reins in developing the next big title set within Gotham City.
As the release date for Gotham Knights approached, there was a mixed reception to the gameplay and combat, and it resembled the lackluster feeling of Square Enix’s Avengers. However, the real controversy came when it was revealed that Gotham Knights would be capped at 30FPS (frames per second) on consoles from a Discord message just a week before release, especially since the release of the game for the previous generation of consoles was dropped halfway through development.
Gotham Knights provides a unique playthrough among the four playable knights with each character having its own strengths and abilities. Nightwing is an agile character who utilizes his acrobatic abilities to move through the battlefield quickly. He’s able to fight through waves of enemies and makes a good support character in multiplayer as he’s able to heal and buff his teammates. Batgirl takes advantage of her technological skills as she’s the only one with the ability to hack into security systems and turn off cameras and laser sensors. Her combos are most similar to that of Batman from the Arkham series. Robin’s the best character for stealth as he has more options to take down enemies undetected, which is good since the game gives bonus XP for stealthily clearing enemies. Seeing him utilize his bo staff is visually appealing as he uses his special spin move. Red Hood is a character who can be described as a tank as he packs a punch in the damage department. His pistols provide an emphasis on impact as his enemies are blown back from him.
Gotham City is vast and filled with innocent non-playable characters (NPC) who make the cityscape feel more alive. Furthermore, the vast amount of unique architecture and lighting makes traversing the city feel unique with sections of Gotham having distinct features to make exploration more appealing in such a vast open world.
Traversing around Gotham is fun when taking the variety of transportation methods into account. Right off the bat, players are given a grappling hook and the Batcycle. The grappling hook adds verticality as you zip above the city from building to building. The Batcycle lets you travel fast, in style and the driving handles really well, letting you take in the view and aesthetics of Gotham City.
When it comes to performance, the only notable issue is when it comes to driving the Batcycle because the frame rate seems to dip below 30FPS.
There’s an abundance of crafting for additional suits that tailor each hero to your personal taste. There are also a variety of mod chips to add to suits and weapons that give an edge in battle as well as make the heroes more resistant to certain attacks. However, the game does a bad job of explaining how certain items are crafted or how rare materials are gathered. The confusing and poor design of the user interface (UI) makes it harder to locate specific parts of the system.
Although each character feels unique and visually aesthetic in their movement, there’s a lack of connectivity when it comes to combat. The gameplay feels loose and makes it seem almost as if the characters are fighting against your control. It feels lackluster when compared to the vastly superior Arkham Knight gameplay that came out seven years ago.
The main storyline, which brings our heroes to solve the mystery of the Court of Owls, is interesting but fails to reach new heights with a predictable ending. At times, the side missions dealing with the other available villains — Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze and Clayface — are more enjoyable than the main plotline. Interaction among characters provides unique scenarios and dialogue depending on which hero’s chosen for each mission, adding another incentive for replayability.
Gotham Knights’ greatest feature is its untethered, two-player co-op. Players can now join online sessions with another friend without any limitations to the gameplay and the map. Players can decide to tackle missions together for an easier experience or tackle missions separately to quickly clear objectives — a feature one can’t help but wish was in Elden Ring’s co-op feature.
Gotham Knights creates an interactive experience for players with a variety of different gameplay styles for each individual hero of the Bat-family. It also does a good job of making the heroes’ personalities stand out from one another due to the banter among the team as well as having specific dialogue that’s tied to each character. The story’s enjoyable and has moments that stand out from time to time, but it doesn’t bring any new twists within the story, making it predictable. Much of the game’s UI and gameplay needs to be polished for an easier learning curve and smoother performance.