Gotham Knights is coming to Xbox Series consoles in all of its thirty-fps glory. It’s a huge title, with lots of main and side quests featuring some of Gotham’s most famous villains. To take them on you have Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, and Red Hood at your disposal. This is a new world for Batman, not tied to the previous Arkham quadrilogy. It has some issues I can see others knocking it for, but in the end, I enjoyed the over thirty hours in three days I spent with the game. Let’s figure out if it’s one for you.
Jason, Richard, Tim, and Babz
The heart of Gotham Knights are the titular four heroes. If you’ve seen any marketing then you know why this isn’t a Batman game, but I’ll keep it as spoiler free as possible. After an intense and overly long opening cutscene, Batman’s closest friends and allies are faced with the task of protecting Gotham without him. Though this game isn’t a sequel to Arkham Knight it does pull a lot of inspiration from the same comics that the Arkham series did. Jason Todd is here in his resurrected by the League of Shadows form. He’s a big, burly brick of meat who is constantly haunted by his death. Dick Grayson’s Nightwing is a brash but kind hero who went out on his own after an argument with Batman. Barbara Gordon’s batgirl has healed her spinal injury, seemingly taken directly from the Killing Joke. Rounding out the crew is young Tim Drake’s Robin who is seemingly hit hardest by the loss of their leader.
Your base of operations is The Belfry, a.k.a. one of the tallest and biggest spots in the city. The game breaks into two main sections, the first being your planning and upgrading in The Belfry during the day. Every night is spent out on patrol, as you investigate, solve, and stop crimes in a massive open world. A lot has been made about the game’s framerate on the new generation of consoles and developer Warner Bros Montreal claims that their untethered, drop-in drop-out co-op is the main culprit. It is a massive play space and an incredibly dense one. The city is filled with a never-ending barrage of crimes being committed. By pressing down on the d-pad you can send out an AR (Augmented Reality) pulse that shows you any icons around you. At first, you’ll have limited main and side content as the game eases you into its systems. In the end, I greatly enjoyed how the game is structured but it didn’t do a good enough job of emphasizing what is important to your character’s progression.
I’m going to yell this, DO THE KNIGHTHOOD QUESTLINE ASAP! This questline not only unlocks your ultimate ability, it unlocks your traversal ability and final talent tree as well. I went an embarrassingly long time before completing it because the game didn’t make it seem like that big of a deal. It was just another white side quest in a sea of them. Your quests are brought up with a tap of the view button with yellow denoting the game’s main quest, orange the bigger villain-based side quests, and white for everything else. Another quest you want to finish asap whenever it is available are your Momentum Challenges. These are your character’s unique abilities that we’ll get to in a bit. Story-wise though after wrapping up the end credits I’d put this firmly in the “ok” grade. There were parts I loved, and parts I very much did not. In the end, there was better than bad, but between the on-the-nose writing and predictability it dragged things down for me.
I did play this in a marathon fashion, only getting the code on Monday morning with a Thursday morning embargo. If I had spent two to four weeks on this one, I do think it would have landed differently. It wouldn’t magically have great writing all the time, but my annoyance would have had time to wain more. This is a massive game so I’m going to start breaking down each and every area of it for you (as spoiler-free as possible of course, I haven’t even said the names of any villains!)
The controls both do and do not feel like the Arkham series. First off there is far more momentum in your movement, and the camera positioning when outside of combat is more like 2018’s God of War. You’re damned big on the screen, especially as Red Hood, and you feel weighty. A is your interact button, and interacting can be a massive pain in the ass. Due to that movement and how precisely the game wants you to aim yourself getting into position to interact with objects is a constant struggle. B is your dodge, and unlike Arkham, this game has no counters. Timing your dodges to perfectly evade enemy attacks leads to faster animations and is key to survival.
X is your melee button. With each hit a small light will show on your target, and if you press the X button again at that precise moment you’ll do far more damaging attacks than if you simply spammed it. Y is for ranged attacks, and each character has a different ranged weapon like with melee. Similar timing systems lead to extra damage and attacks for certain characters, with Red Hood being the only hero fully focused on Ranged damage as part of his kit. Right Bumper is used in tandem with your face buttons to activate unique abilities tied to each hero, and Left Bumper is your grappling gun.
It’s a more direct, faster version than seen in recent Batman releases and you will be using it a lot. Both Gotham and the indoor mission areas emphasize verticality. Left Trigger aims your ranged weapon with Right Trigger using it when both are pressed at the same time. The other main use for Right Trigger is your unique movement ability in the open world (Once unlocked in the very important Knighthood questline). The d-pad covers a lot of ground with the most important being Right which is your heal. This is a limited-use item that refreshes every time you go out on patrol or can be gained at random from defeated enemies. Down is your AR system with a tap putting out a pulse and holding down allowing you to scan things. You’ll be scanning a lot as it is the main mechanic for solving crimes outside of the occasional match puzzle that shows up from time to time. Tapping left will bring up a menu of social-focused items like emotes or controlling multiplayer. Holding left will enter you into photo mode, which is how I got most of my shots for this review. It has a ton of features that I’m far too ignorant to know how to use but I expect plenty of gorgeous pictures to hit the internet soon after release. Up on the d-pad is used to call in your bat cycle whenever you’re near a road.
Let’s go through each character, how they play, the voice acting, and everything one by one. While the game infuriatingly only has one save slot per player account, you can switch between all four characters whenever you’re back at The Belfry.
Red Hood (Jason Todd): Dead at the hands of the Joker, young Jason Todd was brought back to life by Talia al Ghoul (no relation to Rand al Thor19) in a Lazarus Pit. Imbued with supernatural powers this giant beefcake is the heart of the team, i.m.o. His playstyle is brutal, using two massive pistols (with non-lethal ammo) as his “melee” weapons, Red Hood is one of the top damage dealers out of the quartet. Through his connection to the Lazarus Pit’s power, his movement ability is a massive leap through the air, jumping off of glowing green trampoline-like platforms he conjures out of nothing. His move set is stupidly fun, and his focus on ranged attacks is unique for the team.
Barbara Gordon (Batgirl): This version of Barbara seems to be a slightly older, and healed one, from The Killing Joke. In The Belfry you can always see the brace she wears to help deal with the spinal cord injury she suffered after The Joker shot her years prior. Babz is up and walking again, though still in mourning for her father. Jim Gordon seems to be long dead in this version of Gotham, and his daughter continues to carry on the fight against the criminal underworld in his honor. After her time spent as Oracle, Barbara’s genius is key to her kit. Her ultimate is a drone that shoots non-lethal ammo and is great for helping deal with ranged foes. She is incredibly fast, using a Tonfa as her melee weapon and Batarangs for ranged. Her focus is more on taking out enemy tech and helping heal or buff teammates. For movement, she uses her cape to glide in a similar system to the Arkham games. She was my second most used character, with her beat-down move becoming one of my favorites for single-target fights. My only issue with her in the game is that while doing a good job, the voice actress doesn’t really match and her combat dialogue is nearly as cringe-filled as Nightwing’s. She just doesn’t sound tough or cool, despite feeling great to play as and looking awesome while doing it.
Tim Drake (Robin): The biggest thing about Tim in this game is that he’s an even bigger tech nerd than Barbara and he’s very sad about Batman being gone. He felt the least fleshed to me, though his voice acting was solid. His playstyle is all about stealth. Tim is harder to detect and easier to get around with than anyone else in a tight spot. His melee weapon is a big ass stick and for range, he has a slingshot that shoots explosive mines. It takes a lot of grinding to do each Knighthood questline and I’m nearly done with his. Sadly, not in time for the embargo so I’m not exactly sure what his ultimate and movement abilities are. I know I’m repeating this, but he’s a ton of fun to play as, and like the rest, he feels unique in a positive way. If you enjoy the stealth and takedown side of the Arkham games, then you should choose Robin.
Dick Grayson (Nightwing): Dick is back from Bludhaven and he’s as acrobatic as ever. Filled to the brim with purposely cheesy dialogue, this non-stop tumbler was who I played most of the game as. His character is well-handled, though his combat dialogue can wear thin after a while. What is never thin, is that cake. Dick Grayson’s Nightwing in Gotham Knights has one of the best butts in a videogame. It’s so great that Barbara even calls him out for staring it in the mirror all the time at one point. His playstyle focuses on movement while using two Kali sticks for melee and a dart shooter for range. His move set is a great mix of single and multiple target attacks and abilities-wise you can spec into a lot of group utility for when you’re playing in co-op. Nightwing rules.
Speaking of, I got to play nearly half of my time with the game in co-op, and it was a blast. You can drop in and out of a friend’s game at any time. Progress is always saved, and the game expertly scales you down if you’re higher level than the person you are playing with. The host controls starting missions and fast travel, and when you go back to your own game it will ask you if you’d like to skip or replay any investigations you have completed in co-op. It was a flawless system, with a few early crashes before a patch two days before launch, though I am weary of how the servers will behave once millions are hitting them. While the game may have some big issues it is one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences I’ve had in a long time. My brother is rather picky when it comes to games, but we played an average of five hours a day during this compressed review and only stopped because our old asses were getting too tired. Gotham Knights is a $70 title though, which may mean a massive investment for you and a friend if the only way you want to play is together.
This is a gear game, though not a grindfest like Destiny or Diablo. You only have three gear slots, those being your suit alongside melee and ranged weapons. Each slot can use mods which generally add a few base stats and up the power meter. Power is a simple enough number to differentiate what is better. Elemental attributes such as fire, ice, and poison can be on your weaponry as well as other things like higher crit chance or ability gain on hit. My only issue with it is how many freaking drops or crafted items you get. It would be nice to have a group dismantle feature in the future, as you need crafting items that can either drop from enemies or be gained by breaking down old gear.
Incredible Graphics, Good Music, and Some Rough Voice Acting
I have seen a lot of graphical comparisons to Arkham Knight online in the lead-up to launch, and while that game’s look still holds up today Gotham Knights is a gorgeous title. I hope they can patch in a performance mode, at least for single-player, at some point but in the end, I didn’t have much if any issue with it being stuck at thirty fps. I know it’s sacrilegious and I was really concerned going in, but this is not a shooter where you’re moving the camera around all the time with the right stick. The character models and their 15 different suits are of extremely high quality. Gotham is huge, with four distinct areas each featuring its own aesthetic. Climbing Wayne Tower gave me vertigo it was so damned tall, and traversing the city on a bat cycle is paired with a killer soundtrack that never grew old for me. Raytracing is always on so the rain is never-ending. Reflective puddles are a permanent fixture in Gotham’s night, and they give off high-quality real-time reflections. I have no clue if raytracing is used for shadows or lighting but both are of extremely high quality as well. Some environmental texture work can get fuzzy up close but for the most part, the indoor areas look stunning. The framerate felt steady for the majority of the game, with it being a silky smooth feel for such a low framerate. It did suffer in bigger fights, especially against Mr. Freeze (already spoiled by pre-release coverage a year+ ago!). Others reviewing it on PC who have ridiculously powerful rigs have been able to get up to 120fps but only through the use of Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology.
The soundtrack isn’t nearly as memorable as the Arkham games (especially City and Knight). Instead of haunting vocals being paired with classical instruments we get a synth-heavy soundtrack that would sound at home in The Division. My favorite track is the one used while riding around on a bat cycle as it is the only one I really remember. Inoffensive probably works best for the music, sadly that doesn’t hold true for the voice acting. The main cast varies between great (Red hood) and miscast (Batgirl). Major villains are well very well done, with one of the best Harley Quinn’s yet. She’s a halfway point between Tara Strong’s Arkham version and Margot Robbie’s movie version.
The issue is the random NPCs. They talk a ton and they’re really bad. Every enemy grunt is an annoyingly over-the-top caricature and I swear that every citizen in Gotham learned English from either a porno or a badly dubbed 80s Italian movie. The writing doesn’t help much, with a ludicrous amount of bad dialogue being stuffed into every crevice possible during a fight. It’s one of the few low points of the game, only surpassed by the direction the story takes. As I said before the story isn’t bad, it just ends up going in an area that I found disappointing. It gets really supernatural and goofy by the end in a way that didn’t serve a greater purpose to me. It felt like a need to up the stakes just for the sake of upping them. Earlier plot threads and villains were cast aside at various points to end up in an area that I didn’t find nearly as interesting.
Gotham Knights is a ridiculously fun game with some major flaws. Gotham has never been so big, tall, and beautiful. The story ends up being a disappointment, and the voice acting can be grating as all heck. In the end though, either solo and especially in co-op, it’s an easy recommendation for me. All four heroes play fantastically and are quite different from one another. It also looks great on a Series X. I hope that Gotham Knights becomes a series because this is one hell of a first entry.