This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
Gotham Knights Review
An ambitious title that does a lot right, but struggles in technical areas.
Gotham Knights provokes a sense of familiarity with returning to Gotham City. From traversing through the city’s landmarks and putting some of its most iconic supervillains behind bars, a lot is done right where it counts. However, that sense of familiarity is bogged by some technical issues that can mar one’s overall enjoyment of such an ambitious title.
This is a much different game than what we’re used to when compared to the critically acclaimed Batman Arkham games from previous console generations. For starters, this game is set in a different universe than what we’re used to.
Batman is dead, and now it’s up to his Bat Family to fill his shoes and maintain his crime fighting legacy. Following the events of Batman’s — or Bruce Wayne’s — death, his absence is felt all throughout the city. Multiple crime syndicates rise up, causing disarray all over.
Play as Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin, or Red Hood to patrol the streets of Gotham and face off with the city’s greatest threats. This is a breath of fresh air and shines the spotlight on the younger faces who helped the Caped Crusader fight numerous crimes and solve multiple cases over the years. This is arguably one of the best aspects of the game.
His Legacy Lives On
With his sidekicks now at the helm of delivering vigilante justice, we get to see how each of them interacts with one another. From mourning the loss of Batman, we gain an insight into their backstories and the character growth really makes you care about the Bat kids. The dialogue and narrative feel very much on par with the stories told in the comics and in the animated series.
Gotham Knights tells a simultaneous story from the perspective of one of the four newly appointed heroes. While you get to pick and swap out heroes on the fly, they will each have their own sets of dialogue and exchanges with the various patrons of the massive city. The more you play as them and progress with their abilities, the more you will learn about them. From the references made in their dialogue and interactions with other characters, it enriches the overall story of the game.
For example, I played as Red Hood for the majority of the campaign. There was more dialogue that revolved around his death and resurrection via the Lazarus Pits. As his character growth progressed along the way, it made me more invested in his character in this timeline.
A Grim Time for Console Players
The strong narrative and iconic cast carry the game where it starts to falter. For the sake of this review, I played Gotham Knights on the PlayStation 5. It runs at a steady 30 FPS, or at least it tries to. From booting up the game, it just felt slow. For a game that runs on current-generation hardware, it’s disappointing that there isn’t even an option to optimize frame rate over resolution and graphics.
A 60 FPS option is a bit of a common standard now for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles. The fact that we’re locked to 30 frames is where things start to look shaky for this game. I tried to look past it because I was already hooked on the story from the intro cutscenes, but then it really starts to make the weaker aspects of the game stand out more.
Once we’re actually in control of our character, Gotham Knights’ movement and combat system feel outright clunky. It’s hard to tell if it was because of the frame rate or because the movement system was faulty. Trying to climb walls, grapple onto ledges, and dance around our enemies in combat is such a mixed bag. You look like a badass in doing so, but it feels like the whole methodical combat we’re used to from the Batman Arkham games was toned down.
In some instances, that steady frame rate can easily dip below 30 frames, making an already clunky system feel even more sluggish. The graphical rendering of character models and the environment is very high in quality, but you can start to feel optimization issues. When you’re speeding through certain parts of Gotham on your Batcycle, there will be some hitches and stutters along the way. There are even some big fights where you have all sorts of chaos directed your way where the frame rate starts to dip.
In a game where you’re fighting a bunch of people, it’d be nice for the performance to remain consistent. The experience starts to get dampened by things like this, especially with locking console players at 30 frames.
To make matters worse, there is no option to lock onto certain enemies. You’re just kind of swinging around, throwing things, and dodging around until all your opponents are defeated. Sure, as you progress, the combat becomes a bit more complex. The only time when combat feels good is when you’re on a stealth mission and the frame rate isn’t too much of an issue. Performance is not an issue when inspecting crime scenes and solving puzzles, so that’s good too.
Become a Dynamic Duo and Bring the Hurt to the Criminals
One of the cooler aspects of Gotham Knights definitely lies in its cooperative multiplayer mode. You can essentially take on the entirety of the story with one other player. From roaming around freely and stopping premeditated crimes and taking on enemy strongholds, most can coordinated and completed with a friend. On top of that, it’s as easy as inviting someone to your game or joining up with an invite.
Just drop in and out. Players will retain progression all throughout, giving you an even bigger incentive to do so. This includes leveling up, gaining more resources, and fulfilling quests given by NPCs. However, performance still takes a hit, if not a worse hit when playing cooperatively. The progression and exploration are nice, but with more people on screen, the optimization issues really start to slip through the cracks.
Many Suits and Weapons at Our Heroes’ Disposal
Speaking of progression, the game does a decent job of making its progression system very digestible and overall serviceable. As an action RPG, there are no complicated systems or too much of a grind to deck your hero out and make them into an unstoppable crime-fighting machine.
You simply level up by defeating enemies and completing quests and solving crimes. Earn new items and resources to craft better pieces of gear by also doing the aforementioned. The game rewards you for going beyond and exploring.
There was never a time where I experienced some kind of progression block because my gear was under-leveled. What makes this even better is that levels are shared between the four characters, making easy transitions if you ever want to make the switch.
While progression is shared, characters won’t share ability trees or gear. If you decide to play through the majority of the game with just one character, there will be some walking back to do so you can get your other characters up to snuff. It won’t be too tedious, but the feeling of having to backtrack does.
Next, I think it’s important to talk about the game’s depth. In terms of combat, Gotham Knights falls flat. The characters feel unique enough to have their own playstyles, but feel too similar. They all cover the typical tropes in an RPG, but once you master one, it won’t take too long to master all. This can either be a strength or a weakness depending on preference.
Shaky combat and performance aside, the game does a wonderful job when it comes to occupying your time. There’s always something to do in the crime-ridden city of Gotham. Someone’s getting mugged in what feels like every corner. Cops are outright having an armed standoff with criminals, or worse, there’s a hostage situation going on and you have to carefully meet the criteria to complete your task or else the mission is a bust.
There are a healthy number of collectibles to earn, side quests to complete, and trials to beat. Every time you exit your base of operations, the Belfry, your map will have all sorts of objectives to complete. Along the way, that will accumulate a lot more time than you think. It’s a lot of busy work, but it sure is fun putting the hurt to the criminals and earning more powerful rewards.
All in all, the game feels like a complete package. There’s a full story to be enjoyed. Customization and progression are natural and healthy in variety. The exploration is tons of fun. Interacting with various key Gotham citizens feels just right, especially when they are worth your time and dialogue to put bad guys in their place. It’s an ambitious step to put Batman’s sidekicks at the forefront of the story, and it works. Gotham Knights only starts to struggle when you look at the performance. It’s a fun time on a bumpy road.
It feels good to be back in Gotham City, traversing from place to place with all sorts of cool abilities and gadgets. Take to the streets or on the rooftops, foiling criminal plans and putting supervillains behind bars. Gotham Knights does a spectacular job of creating a world that’s fun to explore and learn more about, but not without its technical faults.
- This article was updated on October 20th, 2022
- Score: 3.5 / 5
- Available On: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
- Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive
- Developed By: WB Games Montreal
- Genre: Action RPG
- US Release Date: October 21, 2022
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
- Quote: "Gotham Knights does a spectacular job of creating a world that’s fun to explore and learn more about, but not without its technical faults."