Does a Batman game set in Gotham and the Bat-verse work without the big man himself? This is the big question that everyone is asking about Warner Bros. Games new title Gotham Knights. Set in a post-Batman Gotham, you can play as Batgirl, Red Hood, Nightwing and Robin to take on the city and the many criminals who are finding out about the death of the big black bat. While this has happened many times before in the comic books, this is the first game brave enough to show this in the opening moments of a game. It sets up a great premise and the four heroes who ultimately will have to work together to save Gotham from falling into chaos. While this sounds great on paper, the repetitive fighting mechanics, frustratingly slow speed on vehicles to get around the city and horrendous 30fps frame lock stop this game from reaching its full potential. Fortunately the story is near perfect and this alone saves the game from being a let down.
After the death of Bruce Wayne/Batman four of his younger mentors Batgirl, Red Hood, Nightwing and Robin come together to stop the villains of Gotham City taking over as word spreads about the death of the big black bat. If that wasn’t enough, the ancient order of The Court of Owls is working against them in the background offering up a murder mystery for the young heroes to investigate. The story plays out in day/night patrols as opposed to chapters and there is a detective board at the home base, this time-based in Batgirl’s Belfry Tower in the middle of the city.
Players get access to a Bat-bike that you can easily spawn anywhere in the city when you are close to the road. This makes getting around the city a lot easier, however, the bike seems to sit at one frustratingly slow speed allowing for more control but less of a quick way to get around the city. This part of the gameplay really makes no sense, Gotham city is populated with citizens, crimes in progress and streets and alleyways. It is the perfect playground for some high-speed Bat-bike action, yet the game doesn’t explore this (hopefully a future patch addresses this)
The characters all have skill trees that you can upgrade as the game progresses. There are also chests to find with new weapons and new abilities to unlock for each character. You can mod your suit and upgrade to different variations including being able to customise the colours of each piece. As you are playing through the story missions you unlock tutorials as your character levels up. These tutorials are all housed in the Belfrey training missions and is a great way to not have to rush through tutorials before getting stuck into the action of the story.
Each of the four playable characters have their own strengths and their different abilities can be used to effectively take down enemies in different ways. Red Hood uses pure brute force to knock enemies down, Nightwing uses his electrified batons and Robin is quick and nimble, running and jumping with gadgets to keep things interesting. The more you play as each character and upgrade, the more you figure out which one to use when looking at the detective board and briefing the next mission.
This game has been heavily marketed as a co-op experience. You do have to play through some of the story to get to the multiplayer part, from here you can either open up your game so friends or randoms can jump in and play with you or you can choose to go into someone elses game and help them out. This can be a great way to build up your character’s XP if you are stuck in certain areas and can’t get through a certain mission if the boss is too hard.
During my playthrough I had a lot of fun in the online area, helping others complete their missions (while sometimes spoiling what was ahead for me!) it was seamless and with the mic automatically on, I had a lot of fun playing this game online. It is important to note that this is a game with four playable characters, yet only offers two-player online multiplayer (at this point). This is changing with WB Games confirming a separate four player multiplayer “challenge mode” that will be separate from the main campaign (hopefully later this year).
While the 30fps does really feel noticeable after the slew of titles I have played on next-gen with options to turn this on and the graphics down a little. While this doesn’t exist at the moment, it could easily be patched in the future, particularly with 60fps being an option on the PC version. Taking this out, the animations, CGI cut scenes and night scenes look incredibly good as you can see by the screenshots in this review.
Gotham Knights doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it takes some parts of the Arkham Batman games and delivers it to a new generation of gamers. This doesn’t always stick the landing, however a solid story and self-aware writing ensures that this is a game worth playing. Having the option to play solo or with friends online through the campaign was a great decision and I can’t wait to see how the game evolves as the 4 player multiplayer is introduced. Gotham City feels alive and is greatly populated with citizens, thugs and criminals all ready to deliver an incredible experience with the Bat-family.
Gotham Knights is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.
**Novastream received a review code from the publisher for this game**
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