A Batman game that doesn’t have you playing as Batman might seem like a bizarre concept, but that’s exactly what you get in Gotham Knights. Here, his allies take the limelight, with Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and Red Hood (more commonly known as the Bat Family) embarking on an adventure across the dangerous streets of Gotham City to continue the work of the Dark Knight.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say the game has had some flak leading up to its release, but those criticisms are unfounded. I wouldn’t call Gotham Knights a perfect game, but it is a damn good one that I’ve had a blast playing.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Batman is dead. I’m not going to go into the who’s, the what’s, or the why’s, but the Caped Crusader had finally met his match, leaving Gotham City in the hands of the mourning Bat Family. It’s a dark and woeful introduction to the world of Gotham Knights (which also just so happens to be one of the best intro sequences that I’ve seen in a video game), but it sets in place a series of events that ensure the narrative is emotional and engrossing right until the very end.
Why was Batman killed? What effect will it have on the Bat Family? And what will the repercussions be for Gotham City? All these questions are answered throughout the meaty adventure, with some sublime writing making it easy to invest yourself fully in the tale. I was a big fan of the varying personalities found across the main cast and how they felt like accurate representations of their comic book counterparts, whilst the camaraderie and moments of conflict between them ensure that their personal turmoil feels just as relevant to the plot as unravelling the mystery behind Batman’s death. The narrative feels more substantial in Gotham Knights than the Arkham titles thanks to just how high the stakes are going into the adventure, and it makes for some fantastic storytelling.
What’s more impressive is the fact that you can play as all four of the characters and switch between them between missions, meaning the story and events that occur all cater themselves for who you’re playing as. You’ll see varying dynamics between characters based upon the history they’ve shared or the respect (or disrespect) they have for each other, and whilst your choice won’t change the overall story, it does offer plenty of variety with the perspectives in which you can see it unfold. It feels natural in-game, whilst it also opens up plenty of optional interactions between characters that further strengthen the grander sense of lore behind Gotham Knights.
“I was a big fan of the varying personalities found across the main cast and how they felt like accurate representations of their comic book counterparts, whilst the camaraderie and moments of conflict between them ensure that their personal turmoil feels just as relevant to the plot as unravelling the mystery behind Batman’s death.”
The core gameplay experience revolves around exploring the grim yet awe-inspiring open-world Gotham City, with players able to traverse through the varying districts by foot, on their motorcycle, or by grappling between buildings and launching themselves across the map. In many ways, it’ll feel familiar to those that have played through the later Arkham titles, with plenty of freedom given to explore and uncover the many key landmarks of the city. And believe me, there has been a lot of attention to detail given in ensuring that Gotham City will be recognisable to fans, with plenty of key locations from across the comic books showing up. They’re cool to find and add an extra element to exploration as you try to pinpoint any hidden easter eggs.
Players complete a variety of tasks across the city, with the main ones being the crimes you have to stop. With plenty of thugs up to no good, you’ve gotta beat them up in order to earn points towards uncovering BIGGER crimes, which offer similar thug-busting tasks but on a grander scale. I’d be lying if I said the process didn’t feel a little bit repetitive during the later hours of the game, but the whole ‘interrogating minions to catch the bigger fish’ aspects of the crimes does feel very befitting of the heroes – it’s a good way to grind some experience points to level up too, whilst the combat of the game is slick and varied so it never gets boring to dish out the hurt.
I’d be remiss not to mention that there was something a *little* lacking about Gotham City itself. Whilst it’s got plenty to do and looks great, it lacked that lively vibe to make me feel like I was part of a bustling city. Whilst this does tie to the story in many ways and focuses on the carnage left in the aftermath of Batman’s death, it did make it feel a bit more vacant when compared to some other modern open-world titles.
Check out some screenshots down below:
In many ways, the combat feels similar to previous Batman games, with players hitting out an array of combos, leaping between enemies with ease, unleashing ranged attacks, and using more brutal attacks to break the defence of tougher foes. However, there’s less of an emphasis on countering attacks with well-timed button presses, and more on swiftly dodging out of the way, performing grab actions on opponents, and building up your Momentum meter by keeping the action flowing. When filled, you can use an array of character-specific Momentum abilities to spruce up your offence, adding an extra element of strategy to showdowns where you can constantly mix-up your offensive manoeuvres.
Each of the main characters bring something completely different to combat. For example, whilst Night Wing is melee focused and can bounce across the environment with ease, Red Hood’s pistols make him ideal for picking off enemies from afar. Meanwhile, Robin’s enhanced stealth abilities make him ideal when taking enemies out undetected, which can make some of the toughest encounters easier when you’ve already knocked out your foes before they’ve had a chance to attack. With a levelling up system in place that sees each character’s skillset developing, there’s plenty of variety and flexibility across their capabilities to suit any playstyle. The cherry on top? The characters level up together in synchronicity, meaning you won’t have to deal with a weaker character if you do decide to switch things up often. Whoever you play as, combat is really enjoyable and feels like more than just a button-masher, with players able to use a diverse selection of skillsets to dish out damage via various means.
These varied abilities feel more substantial in the game’s main missions, which take players out of the open-world environment and into more confined spaces made up of combat set pieces that offer multiple routes to success. Do you use the hacking skills of Batgirl to use the environment to your advantage? Do you sneak around as Robin? Or do you go all-guns blazing as Red Hood? Each area is carefully designed to cater for varying playstyles, whilst secondary objectives reward players who tackle each situation in specified ways.
“Whoever you play as, combat is really enjoyable and feels like more than just a button-masher, with players able to use a diverse selection of skillsets to dish out damage via various means.”
There are also clever elements of investigation and puzzle-solving found in these missions, with players having to link up pieces of evidence in crime scenes to solve each puzzle. Whilst these aren’t necessarily difficult to solve, they’re always fun to investigate and add an extra level of ingenuity (or, at times, depravity) to the villains that haunt Gotham City. It’s not always a case of beating enemies to complete your goals in Gotham Knights, with players also having to have their wits about them to progress through each mission.
Whilst the main missions take you through plenty of entertaining showdowns with the infamous Rogues’ Gallery of Gotham City (including some excellent boss fights), there’s plenty to do on the side too. There are collectibles aplenty, side missions to delve into, and a loot and crafting system that feels genuinely fulfilling, with the new weapons and gear you craft and upgrade not only boosting your stats but also changing you up cosmetically… well… mostly. Expect to see a lot of the same weapons throughout your playtime, with the main cosmetic change being in your suits (which offer plenty of cool options). The only real downside to the loot and crafting is the sheer amount of menus you have to go through throughout the process. It could feel really cumbersome, especially when switching back and forth between crafting and actually equipping your gear.
Whilst I haven’t experimented with it myself yet, Gotham Knights can be played in online co-op with a pal in its entirety. Given how free-flowing combat is and how satisfying it can be to explore Gotham City, I’m excited to get stuck into it. The Bat Family are always working as a team in the comics, so why not here? I can’t comment on the quality of it yet, but it should add an extra level of depth and enjoyment to the experience.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Prefer to play single player? That works perfectly too, with my solo experience with Gotham Knights a ton of fun… in fact, I’d argue some scenes are best experienced alone the first time around, just to fully embrace the challenge and storytelling. Whilst co-op has been heavily pushed with the game, there shouldn’t be any worries that Gotham Knights feels any worse playing alone.
Gotham Knights is a gorgeous looking game, with the city boasting some wondrous sights and brought to life with some impressive lighting effects, the character models rich with detail, and animations silky smooth in-combat. The cutscenes are especially impressive, particularly with the action-orientated sequences, whilst all of the Batman easter eggs found throughout the world prove that it was meticulously designed by genuine fans of the character and his world. It just looks fantastic across all aspects of its design.
The only caveat? It’s locked at a 30fps frame rate. This was heavily criticised leading up to launch with plenty of reasons given for it, but it’s sure to ruffle the feathers of some gamers who have come to at least expect a 60fps frame rate as an option. Personally, it didn’t bother me at all, nor did it make the action of the game feel any less engrossing. There could be a few little stutters here and there when scaling the city, but it’s consistent the vast majority of the time and ensures Gotham Knights feels good to play. Whilst I understand why some folks are bothered by it, it’s not a hindrance to the overall gameplay experience.
Gotham Knights Review
Gotham Knights offers a gripping adventure that captures the best aspects of the Bat Family with its excellent narrative and fun combat mechanics. Whilst it can be guilty of being repetitive in places and the open-world could be lacking in life, the main mission line and side tasks offer plenty to keep players fully absorbed in this fresh take on the Batman universe. It has surprises aplenty throughout the adventure, and whilst it doesn’t quite have the wow-factor that the Arkham series instilled in gamers, it still offers plenty of brilliant moments to make it stand out as another enthralling romp through Gotham City.
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PC