Gotham Knights Review: Heavy is the head that wears the cowl

We need to disclose something from the outset of this review, leading up to its release, with each trailer, announcement and tidbit of information about Gotham Knights that landed online, the less interested we were in the game.

There were some red flags in our view, like the fact that it does not feature the Caped Crusader himself, or the weird traversal mechanics for some of the characters.

As such, when a review code was shared with us for the PlayStation 5 version of Gotham Knights, we were on the fence as to whether this would be a worthwhile endeavour.

You have to remember that when the first teaser/announcement for the game was made, it was definitely giving Batman: Arkham series vibes, only for us to find out that it is not tied to that world at all.

That said, with WB Games Montreal behind its development, with the studio having worked on Arkham Origins, the connections and comparisons were always going to be made.

As much as we tried to cast those games out of minds while playing Gotham Knights, it always lingers in the background, much like the fact that the Dark Knight does not feature much in this game, only serving as a reminder to his four wards of the legacy they have to live up to.

So, after putting several hours under our belt, is a Batman game without Batman any good?

Read on as we share our thoughts.

Big shoes to fill

In terms of the storyline, from the outset, players are reminded of the mammoth task that lie in front of them. You are constantly shown that Batman was Gotham’s true protector and now in his absence, no one truly takes you seriously.

An example of this is how the criminals react knowing Batman is no longer in the picture, not respecting the quartet of wards that have taken his place – Nightwing (Dick Grayson), Red Hood (Jason Todd), Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and Robin (Tim Drake).

When first confronting the Penguin, he is less than willing to cooperate when interrogated. It is only when you disturb his criminal activities that you earn enough sway.

Interestingly these are the same four sidekicks that appear in the final Arkham game, so while Gotham Knights tries to distance itself from that series, the links are still there in several ways.

Back to the wards and each have a particular set of skills, to borrow a quote from Liam Neeson. Nightwing is an acrobatic fighter, while Red Hood is a bruiser. With the exception of the latter’s non-lethal guns, the combination of these first two Robin’s seems to take the best elements of Batman’s fighting.

As for Batgirl, she is certainly capable too, but her special skills lean towards problem solving, as a nod to her Oracle persona. Lastly the current Robin is great at stealth and strategising.

Here the developers are trying to give each sidekick their own flavour, with results a little hit or miss. This as all the characters are fairly capable in terms of combat, as no one option sticks out as the best. This might be a good thing too, as it ultimately does not matter who you choose for a mission.

Missing something

As for the combat itself, it too is hit or miss. Again we have to go back to the Arkham series, which has one of the best third-person RPG combat systems in recent memory.

The ability to take on a room of 20-plus goons is simply not there in Gotham Knights. The developers likely did not want to “borrow” too much from that game, but the ability to dodge attacks and chain together moves was truly satisfying.

It is something that Gotham Knights is missing, and despite adding challenges and points-based objectives to the mix when you go on patrol each night, it is simply an element that feels a little middling.

As for the world building, the Gotham City on offer here is expansive, along with being littered with easter eggs nodding to the comics. We only wish more of the rogue’s gallery featured here, as well- and lesser-known villains featured across the Arkham games.

That said, we do like the introduction of the Court of Owls, as it ties into the death of Bruce Wayne nicely and helps to give Gotham Knights a lore all its own. The only criticism we had here, is that the stakes don’t feel amped up enough, but this could also be levelled against the Arkham games, as you always know the good guys are going to win.

Sticking with the world building and a combination of grappling hook and batcycle are the main ways of getting around. The former works well, but the latter feels a little bland. The developers tried to create the sensation of speed by creating a little tunnel vision, but in the end, the batcycle does not feel as impressive as it should to ride.

There are also some unique methods of transport for each character, but they do not make much sense, like the fact that Red Hood uses Lazarus Pit-related powers to trampoline around. Here we would have like to see the capes being leveraged instead, as it is simply a better way to glide across the city.

Final verdict

We did not have high hopes for Gotham Knights in the lead up to its release, and while it has proved far more solid than we had anticipated, it still does not feel like a must-play title right now at R1 249 (PS5).

When the price drops, it should be more worthy of a pick up, but with the memory of the Arkham series still fresh in our minds, this is a game that will always be compared to another Batman game.

One of the other issues that has cropped up in the lead to its launch, is the fact that consoles only support 30fps. Some people are up in arms about this, but we must be honest and state that it did not hamper our playing experience.

There were a few times when movement or scenes looked a little janky, but in general it was smooth. The larger problem people may have is that this is a AAA title, and therefore capping things on consoles to 30fps does not feel right.

Our parting words in this review is that Gotham Knights is solid enough Batman game, but still lives in the shadow of the Dark Knight.


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