You won't hate yourself for playing Gotham Knights, provided you don't spend anything above the game's discounted price. Wait for it to go on sale, or better yet, go free (which might happen in the game's nearish future). You'll be treated to a mediocre and somewhat predictable campaign, riddled with time trials and sub-par combat. But it's still Batman (kinda), so...
Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the better games of the previous decade. Yes, Arkham Asylum is more than a decade old. It brought players a great story, fun gameplay, and very decent graphics for 2009. It spawned a series of sequels and spinoffs – some were better than the original, and some… well…
One of those spinoffs is Gotham Knights. This game, for the most part, went under the radar for most gamers. Probably because Arkham fans had left the series at the back of their minds after the series ended with the third and final installment, Batman: Arkham Knight.
Stuff got hold of Gotham Knights, which focuses on four characters that aren’t Batman. Sounds fun, right?
Batman isn’t around no more
Yes, you read that correctly. Batman isn’t on this journey. The game focuses on four of the Bat family – Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, and Red Hood. That’s because, well, Bruce Wayne is dead.
This is what brings Batman’s past and present students together: Solving the mystery of their master’s death. We won’t spoil that mystery for you. Unfortunately, a solution won’t take nearly as long as you’d imagine. It took us twenty hours, give or take, to complete the main story. That’s not counting the seemingly endless side missions, easter eggs, and the hundreds of goons to take down.
What we will say about the story is that almost all of it is predictable. Remember Arkham Knight’s painstakingly obvious twist? Yeah, you’ll feel that here. Before that, you’ll encounter some of Batman’s rogue’s gallery – most of which you’ve already beaten before in the infinitely better Arkham series. You’ll be seeing this comparison often. Gotham Knights’ far cooler older brother has left some large shoes to fill.
When you’re not beating up all those familiar faces (with one or two new ones), you’ll spend time running through the half-decent open world of Gotham. Its map is (sometimes annoyingly) filled with typical open-world tropes, like main story symbols, time trials, and challenges. Players will come across 40 or so side missions that quickly overstay their welcome. Enter a building, switch on augmented reality mode, and take out the bad guys. Rinse and repeat. It doesn’t help that the game relies on underwhelming combat for a large majority of the game. It’s certainly not relying on its campaign and side missions.
Unfortunately for a game that relies on combat, you won’t enjoy much of it. This might be a personal thing, but a game that focuses on tapping square and occasionally using the special after a bar has filled up to slowly whittle your opponent’s health bar down isn’t something that interests us. To each their own, we guess. Spider-Man PS4 is guilty of this, but it was saved by its brilliant traversal of New York City. And a slightly better main campaign. You won’t find that here.
The difference between the fighting styles employed by the four main characters is noticeable but it all blends into the same button-mashing script as the game continues. There’s no variety, only different animations, and the occasional character-specific special attack.
Traversal is a chore, broken up by repeated bouts of fighting identical gangs and henchmen. Just like the other Knight game, you can move around the rooftops. This time, though, you’re using gliders and vehicles. As you run around fighting crime in Bruce Wayne’s name, you’ll earn progress toward upgrading your gear. This is where Gotham Knight’s diversion from the Arkham games deserves a clap on the back. It tries to be different. The gear system focuses on each character’s suits and primary and ranged weapons. Progressing through the streets and winning fights throughout the city will let you upgrade each weapon and earn new bits and pieces along the way.
The thing is: it never feels satisfying.
An aspect we didn’t get to try out was the game’s built-in co-op mode, letting you play as any of the four main characters, Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl, and *ugh* Robin. Before you can get on that, there’s the tutorial stage (the player’s first night in Gotham). After that, players return to the game’s base of operations. On the second night in Gotham, co-op play is possible.
The game offers the option to play with randos as well as your friends, obviously. Again, this is a personal thing, but for a game like Gotham Knights, it’s something we preferred as a single-player journey. Yes, hopping in with friends might occasionally be fun. If only we had any friends that had purchased the game. Oh, and the game doesn’t support cross-play. Best hope that you and your friends all game on the same console.
If you do decide to join others, you won’t be left behind in terms of progression. Stats and gear carry over when hosting or joining a friend’s session, as do items earned in someone else’s world. Even story missions are carried over. If players complete a mission in someone else’s world, they’ll have the option to skip it entirely once they reach that stage in their own. Enemies get harder during co-op, based on the levels of the players within the session. This returns to normal once the player returns to single-player.
Not nice to look at
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Locking a game to 30FPS in 2022 on a current-gen-ONLY game shouldn’t be legal. Unless, and only unless, that setting is toggleable. With a major graphics boost to go with it. That… doesn’t happen here. Players are locked into the 30FPS all the way through. Or, until they decide to go play something better. Like the original Arkham trilogy. The third of which still manages to look better than Gotham Knights.
If you’ve ever played Breath of the Wild on a Nintendo Switch, you’ll remember Korok Forest. Frames take a beating in Korok Forest, and a few other places spread across the map. It’s acceptable here because Nintendo is working with a Switch. Gotham Knights is working with the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X/S, and the PC. And Knights somehow manages to feel like Korok Forest. All. The. Time. Grappling, a staple of any Batman story, videogame or otherwise, makes stomachs churn when scouring Gotham’s open world. There are a few more instances of frames dropping across the game.
Gotham Knight’s Final Verdict
There’s fun to be had in Gotham Knights. The problem is, what little fun you may find in the early hours of the game soon descends into boredom as the game shoves a boring story and uninteresting gameplay down your throat. Most of the gameplay tries its best to imitate its source material but falls short of Arkham‘s system for taking down baddies.
Story-wise, this is a fine Batman story… without the Batman. It brings in (mostly) old faces, and doesn’t do anything different than other Batman games before it. Whether Knights will find a sequel is still up in the air. It’s possible, especially considering the main campaign’s ending.
If you’re desperate for more of Gotham, you might find some enjoyment in Knights. But we’d advise waiting for the game to reach your local monthly gaming subscription before trying it out. Save your money for bigger, better games – like God of War Ragnarök – which Stuff also got a chance to review.