NextGen Take - Gotham Knights

Been nice knowing ya, B-man!



By Paul Hunter

If you go into Gotham Knights from Warner Bros. Games Montréal hoping for the next Batman: Arkham game you'll surely be disappointed. However, if you instead accept that it has its own style and charm you're bound to have a blast, much like I did.

To get it out right from the top: Rocksteady Studios' Arkham series is superior in nearly every way: better gameplay, better stories, better graphics, better boss battles and better vehicles. Gotham Knights may be a step down, but it's still got plenty to offer Batman fans, including an original story and a particularly excellent co-operative multiplayer mode. So let's don our masks and head out into the night, here are four things I liked about it...and one I didn't.

Liked: Four Playable Knights

I played through the entire Gotham Knights campaign as Red Hood, as he was my favourite character from the comics so I thought why not? With about 20 hours of Red Hood under my belt, I thought he was particularly powerful with his mix of physical strength and gun kata martial arts fighting style. If you enjoy battling from a distance, Red Hood is a good choice since his dual pistols serve as his primary attack.

Red Hood's three main upgrade trees mostly enhance his melee and gun damage or give him the ability to grapple thugs and stick them with a concussion mine. Eventually, you'll unlock his Knighthood skill tree and unlock ultra-powerful Mystic Rounds, which are like green homing fireballs that bounce between enemies. By the time you hit the Level 30 level cap during your first playthrough (cap increases to Level 40 in NG+), your Red Hood will be pretty badass and near unstoppable. I had tons of fun beating enemies to a pulp, especially using his ridiculously OP Barrage move that shoots multiple rounds straight ahead and shreds enemy health. Red Hood also gets a portable mini turret that shoots foes at range—fun and helpful, even if he already is quite powerful at range.

I spent my New Game+ run checking out the other three characters, and I was actually surprised to find that Robin may actually be a better ranged fighter than Red Hood. Robin's slingshot attack seems silly at first, I mean who actually uses a slingshot as a legit combat weapon, but actually, it's quite effective. His slingshot can do decent damage but its real utility is the area of effect that can hit multiple criminals and it's especially deadly if you find a slingshot with stun elemental power. Whenever I got into a skirmish I'd unleash a torrent of slingshots that would quickly stun an entire group of thugs: setting them up for vicious beat down with Robin's bo staff. Robin can also cloak himself to gain an early advantage in battle and he can unleash swarms of microbots that latch onto enemies and ignite—ouch!

Batgirl I thought was also better at ranged combat than Red Hood to my surprise. That's because she can unleash an unlimited number of batarangs that are fast, powerful and can ricochet off enemies for additional hits. Her special attack is calling upon her drone, which heals allies and shoots at enemies for a period of time. What makes Batgirl (and Robin) better at ranged combat is that they never need to reload, you can continuously fire until entire criminal groups are KOed. Red Hood has a lengthy reload animation after unloading 30 bullets, which halts his momentum.

If close-range melee is your preferred style, Nightwing is likely your best choice. Dick Grayson is a master of acrobatics and it really shows in his elegant leaps and twists while pummelling thugs into an early night's sleep using his escrima sticks. For long-range, Nightwing has bioelectric darts, but they're slow and there's a lengthy pause between darts making them not-so-effective. Nightwing is also well adept at aerial attacks and you can comically bounce off several enemy heads in a row, knocking out the entire group. His special ability deploys a healing Nest around himself and nearby allies, while also granting a defensive buff and inflicting damage to enemies inside it—quite useful!

One very pleasant surprise I discovered is all characters share one level stat. Since I played through the campaign originally with Red Hood, once I switched over to other characters they were already at Level 30 and I had the same number of skill points to allocate to each. This let me switch effortlessly between the four heroes without needing to spend dozens of hours grinding to power them up. While this might reduce the replayability for some folks, I appreciated having four fully powered-up heroes after completing the campaign.

Having spent a considerable amount of time with all four heroes, I'd say Nightwing is my favourite with Batgirl coming in a close second. One reason Nightwing takes the top spot is his main mode of transportation is a glider you can use to drift across the entire Gotham map. I wish it was a faster glider, but he's the only player able to stay in the air for as long as you want. My advice to everyone thinking of picking up this game is to mix up your playable character often. My thoughts on the game significantly improved once I realized how unique each character is, and it's a blast learning and mastering all of their skill trees.

Liked: Great Villain Side Missions

Gotham Knights, as you probably know from the extensive marketing, begins with Batman dying and our four heroes taking the mantle as Gotham City's new protectors. With the Bat gone, villainous factions rise up to seize the power vacuum, including the mysterious Court of Owls and the League of Shadows. While the majority of the campaign focuses on your battles with those two large and powerful organizations, you'll also face other factions including the Mob, Freaks and Regulators, that all are out to cause chaos in the streets.

Surprisingly though, Gotham Knights saves its best villain encounters to side stories featuring Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, Clayface and to a lesser degree, Penguin a.k.a. Oswald Cobblepot. These villains have multi-mission case files that will take you all across Gotham to thwart their latest evil schemes to destroy the city.

My favourite supervillain subcase was Harley's, which begins in Blackgate Penitentiary with the unpredictable evildoer freeing inmates and culminating in a memorable prison brawl all set to a cover version of Livin' La Vida Loca. More hilarity ensues later when Harley morphs into her "Doctor Q" persona and offers Gotham citizens drugs to make them feel great, but of course, has sinister side effects.

Mr. Freeze and Clayface's subcases are great for the most part as well. Freeze, as you probably can guess, is out to ice over Gotham with his large advanced cryogenic weapon, while Clayface hatches a plan to invade Gotham's reservoir and...film a movie. Yeah, it's a bit silly but his side mission is filled with nice action and huge set pieces that kept it exciting.

All three of these villain case files wrap up with dramatic boss fights that are easily the most exciting of the game. The battles take place in unique places all around Gotham City and all of the fights are multi-stage where in each stage your foe increases their power or switches up their offensive arsenal. It's actually a wonder why these substories are secondary to the campaign when they're so involved and in my view, more exciting. Definitely don't skip these optional sidequests!

Liked: Gear System

Gotham Knights features a super easy-to-understand loot system that's a lot of fun to tinker around with. As you beat up criminals in the streets of Gotham you'll obtain blueprints for new suits, melee weapons and ranged gear, which you can then craft using material back at your home base in the Belfry. Like most games with a loot system the items have a rarity value, starting with Common, then progressing through Rare, Epic, Heroic and Legendary. High-quality gear will have a greater effect on stats, whether that's increasing your health or elemental resistance. Much like Destiny 2 or Marvel's Avengers your character's gear determines your hero's overall power level.

Suits also have unique looks to them and each character has about 15 different ones to choose from. The variety is huge, too, for example, Nightwing can have a sleek all-black costume, change into a demon version, become a shinobi, or even don an evil Court of Owls Talon costume. The game also has a transmog feature that allows you to retain the suit's stats while changing its appearance.

There are many weapon blueprints you can find that add elemental properties to their attack. Elements include ice that freezes enemies, fire that incinerates them, electricity that can disrupt enemies and damage them, toxic poison that slowly eats away at their health, and concussion power that damages and dazes enemies. Weapons can also have unique gear properties such healing your player after using an ability or doubling element effect build-up.

With so many unique gear looks, and with each suit having its own rarity, properties and element effects, there are so many ways to customize your heroes. I gave my Robin concussive slingshots, my Red Hood toxic bullets, my Batgirl incendiary batarangs and my Nightwing electric dual escrima sticks. Even after 30 hours of playtime, I'm still enjoying the gear system since I'm continuously buffing my Bat Family squad. Towards the end game, you can finally acquire Legendary gear, and these items you can actually level up through battling to unlock even great powers within them.

Liked: Co-operative Online Two-Player Action

We all know the golden rule that games are more fun when playing together, but Gotham Knights really is significantly better when you have a buddy onboard. The game features drop-in/drop-out co-op that's simple to initiate and easy to back out of whenever you need to drop off. But what really makes this co-op experience special is both players can choose to team up or wander around Gotham City taking on their own activities. So you can opt to both take on the next story mission, or split up and divide zones in half to clear out crime zones. It's all up to you and your friend to decide how you want to spend each night patrolling the city.

I also found that the progress you make in your buddy's game transfers over to your own. In my friend's game we beat a story level that I hadn't completed in my own game, and then later when I returned to my own campaign it gave me the option to skip that story level. You can choose to replay the mission if you want, but it was nice to have the option. I also noticed that my friend and I would both be given loot during missions, so you don't have to fight over who gets the items.

Your characters can also unlock special co-op moves that can be used to heal, buff or otherwise help your teammate out. For instance, Batgirl's deployable drone can heal friendlies, while Nightwing's special heals and buffs them. Gotham Knights is a lot of fun to play solo—I played about 75% of the game on my own—but it's so much better with friends.

Didn't Like: Performance Issues

This feels like such a recurring issue this gen across multiple games, but yet again we have a AAA game on the latest consoles that struggles to even maintain a steady 30fps. During combat, the framerate holds mostly steady but you'll still notice dips when the action gets particularly intense. The biggest issue is when you jump on your Batcycle and start motoring around Gotham City. You can notice a tangible framerate dip as soon as your jump on the bike but it gets much worse as you drive. It gets especially bad when oncoming cars approach, or when you decide to turn corners, in both cases the gameplay slows to a crawl.

The other unfortunate thing is that Gotham City is pretty lifeless overall. Few cars roam the streets and there's a surprising lack of pedestrians or activities going on. Compare that to Spider-Man on PS4 where its New York City is absolutely busting at the seams with cars and people everywhere. I can only assume Gotham isn't densely packed to help improve the game's overall performance, which is such a shame.

The Verdict

Gotham Knights takes a hit because of its occasional performance hiccups, but thankfully the core game is great enough that I was able to overlook this issue. The four Bat Family heroes are great fun to learn, customize and master, and beating up bad guys on the streets of Gotham never gets tiring. While I wasn't too thrilled about the Court of Owls storyline, thankfully the villain subcases featuring Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze and Clayface are top-notch. Batman fans shouldn't hesitate to grab this game and step into the knight.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great


Gotham Knights details

Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montréal
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Genre: Third-person Action Role-playing Game
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)


A key was provided by the publisher.