Gotham Knights Review

Developer: WB Games Montréal
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), and PC.

If Gotham Knights were pitched to me on paper, I might lose my mind with excitement. Batman is dead, and it’s up to you as either Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, or Red Hood to save Gotham in his absence. That line is enough to intrigue me, and then you tell me it’s a pseudo-RPG with a layered story and customizable outfits and weapons? I’m probably salivating just thinking about the possibilities. But then you play the real thing, and It’s perfectly fine, but it never reaches the potential you had in your head.

Now you might say, “Well, Cody, it’s your fault for getting your expectations so high!” Then I would ask you how you got into my house and explain that ever since my trifecta of getting hype for Anthem, Avengers, and Cyberpunk all in a row, my expectations for video games has been about as low as can go. Thankfully, Cyberpunk turned it around and is a fully functioning game. But I have been burned so many times by game ideas I love coming back to bite me that I did not allow myself to feel excitement for Gotham Knights. I’ve kept quiet, read no other reviews, avoided pre-release trailers, and gone radio silent, all in hopes of having a fresh and unaligned view of this game. And my conclusion is Gotham Knights is alright. Not bad, not great, just good.

Batman is dead. And it’s up to Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and Red Hood to fill these massive shoes. Gotham, as always, needs protection from a secret organization that Batman was in the middle of unearthing before his death. The game starts hot and shows you just how much it takes to kill Batman. Then you’re dropped into your favorite Bat family member’s shoes to go investigate the mysterious Court Of Owls. Without spoiling anything, I will say this story does its best when all four heroes interact. Even when the dialog is cringe-inducing, you really feel the bond these four people have and how Batman shaped them. My favorite was following Batgirl deal with her Father, Commissioner Gordons Death, on top of Batman being gone. The most unfortunate thing about the story of Gotham Knight is how short it feels and how abruptly the ending comes. By the time I came to accept the dialog and grindy nature of the gameplay, I had reached the home stretch. I want to say more about how frustrating the ending is, but I’ll refrain because I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t played.

This game feels like it was made to hit a quota or a deadline and appeal to the people who play Ubisoft games. People’s first reaction when seeing an open-world Batman game is to think of the Arkham franchise, but It feels more like an Assassin’s Creed game than an Arkham Game. What I mean by that is that the game’s overall structure feels very grindy. It relies on checklists to clear levels and collect gear. It also has the same jank that all Assassin’s Creed games have. The awkward movement and traversal is mildly apparent when walking or fighting but is very obvious when you’re trying to traverse the city.

Grappling from building to building is awkward initially, but eventually, you get the hang of it, even if it’s not as satisfying as (2018) Spider-Man’s web zip ability. The bike works well enough, but it also doesn’t have the weight you’d like to feel when roaming the streets of Gotham. Each character also has their own traversal system that needs to be unlocked. Batgirl can glide using her cape, which works well but doesn’t feel as agile as in the Arkham games. Nightwing has a flying trapeze that functions similar to Batgirls glide, except you can seemingly glide forever. Robin has the most inspired technique, which is him using the Justice League’s Watch Tower teleport ability over short distances. And Red Hood’s ability is probably the funniest. He can jump off a mystical platform propelling him into the air; these powers are gifted to him by the Lazarus pit. I can’t imagine how unhelpful this ability is for someone trying to stay stealthy. Everything about traversal is, at best, good or a pale imitation done better in some other game.

Combat, much like traversal, feels good but not amazing. You can certainly build a rhythm, but hitting and dodging aren’t always on point. It’s also not that deep of a system which in a game that requires this much grinding is strange. The combos feel more like happy accidents than skill sometimes. You unlock new abilities as you complete challenges, which are more checklists. For instance, to unlock a momentum ability, as they’re called, you need to defeat specific enemies. And some of these enemies only appear in specific locations once a night. Each night has a certain number of crimes you can go after, and once they’re taken care of, you go back to the belfry for the night and edit and adjust gear or change characters, then you go back out and start your patrol again.

The Arkham series relied heavily on the gothic noir style with content packed into a relatively small map. The 2018 Spider-Man game relied more on realistic buildings in a wider open world. Gotham Knights leans more towards Spider-Man. Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of pop-in and graphical hitches, especially when I briefly played multiplayer. The skyline can look beautiful, and my favorite shot comes towards the end of the game, standing atop a ruined tower overlooking the city. Suit customization is also cool, if not a bit confusing. You have a select set of transmog suits, but you aren’t able to change the colors of any of them for some reason? I went with crafting my own suits and changing the gloves and boots to fit my tastes. It’s a cool addition to a superhero games that I wish more would adopt. Wouldn’t it be awesome to customize your own Spider-Man suit or your own Batman suit? I’m all for more RPG elements in superhero games.

Thats why I say it feels like a game made to meet a quota. This game doesn’t excel at anything. It feels like it’s adopting gaming trends and trying to fit the DC Comics characters around it. Now that doesn’t make the game bad; it just feels like it was market testing by a bunch of Warner Brothers executives. Soulless is way too hard a word to use because you can tell the people making the game tried to fit as much lore and batman love inside this surprisingly short game. I played a lot of this game, and I’m well into a New Game + replay, which might seem strange considering how much I’ve criticized this game, but I feel I have to be this critical because this game is 70 dollars. That is a lot of money for even a great game, and if you’re going to spend that kind of money on a mediocre game, I think you should be aware of its flaws.