Gotham Knights reminds me there are very few times that I can remember playing a video game all the way through to completion and yet feeling absolutely nothing for it. Did I enjoy it? Did I hate it? Was it fun? Was the story any good? Would you recommend it? My answer to all of that is simply: I dunno.
This new open world game tells the tale of a vision of Gotham City where Batman is no longer around to protect it from evil. How does this new take on the long-running franchise stand up without the Batman? Find out in our Gotham Knights review!
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: October 21, 2022
Players: 1 (Up to 4 via Online Multiplayer)
Price: $69.99 USD
In his place remain three men who have all at different times played Robin – his boy wonder side kick, and Batgirl, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, Barbara. Without a Bat to accompany him, Tim Drake continues his place as the final and current Robin, while Dick Grayson is present under the mantle of Nightwing, and Jason Todd appears as Red Hood.
You’ll have to forgive me here, as I’m not much of a comic book reader, but Red Hood’s existence here seems almost only out of necessity to fill a fourth slot rather because he brings anything of interest to the table. Jason Todd’s Red Hood as a comic book character seemed to be more closely aligned as an anti-hero like Deathstroke or The Punisher from the Marvel side of the world.
Jason’s violent tendencies here are often reprimanded and he’s actively scolded by the rest of the crew. He comes off like a guy who can’t control his emotions than someone who’s interested in killing off the criminals in order to make Batman obsolete.
This point alone leads me into my biggest complaint with the story of Gotham Knights: everyone in this game is supposed to be impressive detectives and fantastic crime fighters, but they all come across as goofy dorks who the city can’t stand.
I mean, it’s one thing to try and weave together a story that starts off with Batman killing himself in order to stop Ra’s Al Ghul, but to successfully make him look like a less than useful idiot is mind blowing. Batman setting off a self-destruct sequence to implode the Batcave felt like the weakest explanation.
If anything, Ra’s should have actively killed Batman, thus tripping a dead man’s switch which would have then imploded the cave to have the same exact outcome without making Batman look weak and stupid. On top of that, Batman’s sacrifice seems pretty much all for naught.
The Gotham Knights are just standing around like “ok, now what do we do?” in a post-Bat Gotham that’s gone rampant with bold villainy. The Knights investigate a crime at a school only to find that the professor they’re looking for has been killed and something has undergone some sort of genetic mutation to achieve it.
The story is painfully predictable as the person who’s behind what happens is exactly who you think it is. They then proceed to perform an absolute backhanded assault on anyone who decided to give this game a chance, in spite of people being leery because Batman isn’t in it. The writers pulled a stunt so heinous that I actually gave myself a headache rolling my eyes so hard.
Seriously, I was ready to throw my controller through my TV. I normally don’t include spoilers in my reviews, but this one just has to be said out loud so skip this section if you don’t want to read it.
[[SPOILERS]] At the end, Batman is resurrected and mind controlled to fight you, and after you beat his ass to break the mind control, he slinks away and crawls into the Batplane, only to say the most cringe line of dialogue uttered in 2022: “Together you’re stronger than the Batman could ever be.”
He then crashes the damaged Batplane into the Lazarus pit so that it can’t be used to revive anyone else. So, they successfully have him commit suicide TWICE while also being both weak and stupid. It’s unbelievable and insulting to Batman fans. [[END SPOILERS]]
Yes, there’s some woke agenda pandering included here as well. Robin is bisexual, which is weird that they felt the need to address this because he’s like 17, but whatever, it’s fine. To really drive this point home, the Knights have a Pride flag hung in the Belfry.
If you’re playing Robin, you’ll get an email from Batgirl and the others discussing whether or not they should wear rainbow-colored capes and what not to Pride. If people need that stuff for representation, it’s fine – but it’s insincere when it’s shoehorned in just for the sake of inclusivity.
I doubt anyone would have blinked an eye if Robin laughed off (or even made suggestive replies to) flirty advances from thugs – after all, these are people who were in or have escaped from prison/Arkham Asylum.
He could have even mentioned a boyfriend or dating a dude in emails without it being there just so someone could brag that they included it. There just has to be a better way to present it than whatever this pandering is supposed to be.
On a performance level, I applaud the idea of this being one of the few games that really pushed for a “next gen” experience, opting not to make a PS4/Xbox One version available. While it’s a nice looking game, I don’t see anything graphically that couldn’t have been accomplished from the previous generation aside from framerate.
The UI here is a complete mess though, which is constructed in a manner so simplified you’d swear this game was originally going to be a mobile title that was expanded to a full-fledged experience at the 11th hour. Combat is adequate, but it’s not even on par with the flowing combat system found in the Arkham games.
Combat here mostly revolves around a few combos and attacks that are dependent on how long you hold the melee or ranged attack button down. The few acrobatic attacks you can perform look neat, but just like in Spider-Man, once you’ve seen the animations a few times, you’re ready to be able to hit a button to hurry them along.
While some characters have gadgets and stuff that help in sticky situations, they’re useless unless you’re playing this game on the hardest difficulty available. Even then, if you’re playing as Robin and have your stealth points upgraded, the game is still a breeze.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Robin and Batgirl are probably the only two characters who feel fully fleshed out. Nightwing feels like Robin but without the stealth perks, which means he’s a decent brawler but unless you’re good spamming dodge, he gets curbstomped pretty quickly.
Batgirl is the superior of the characters if you don’t wanna play the whole game in stealth. Not only can she not be detected by electronic devices (this means cameras as well as proximity mines are useless) but she can also hack things to cause distractions, and she’s got a boatload of health because she’s got tank perks.
Red Hood is a mess who relies on his distance to do much of anything, but his only upside is being able to provide crowd control, which means he’s pretty much only a good pick for online multiplayer sessions (if you can find one, that is).
It’s a shame that I have so many complaints because I don’t even think the game is bad. It’s not a bad game, but it isn’t a good game either. It’s the most adequate sandbox style superhero game I’ve ever played. It doesn’t do anything well, but everything it does is simply “fine” at best.
Traveling the city? It’s janky and feels like trash using the grappling hooks compared to the free swinging in Marvel’s Spider-Man, but you can find a decent flow to it once you figure it out. You can summon the Batcycle to simply drive to your destination, and driving is also completely “fine” but it’s not good or even great.
There’s no sense of speed, you just go as fast as it’ll let you and the on-screen indicator is that you get some whoosh marks that show up in your view when you’re “going fast”. You can’t even wreck the bike and get thrown off of it. You can slam into a wall at full speed and the bike just stops, so you can put it in reverse and get right back on track.
Gotham Knights is without a doubt the most “this is a playable video game” type of experience I’ve had all year, if not maybe ever. It never does anything better than it does the moment it allows you to experience it. Not combat, not storytelling, not driving, not anything.
It’s a game that exists because someone decided that it should exist, and you can spend some time in it if you want. Or you could go find anything else to do with your time that might actually illicit some sort of an emotional response. Gotham Knights at its core is a game that feels like it was built as the baseline for what should have been a great game.
Then it was just released without any time spent on expanding the basics, and that’s the worst part about Gotham Knights. The potential is there but it constantly seems to stop itself from delivering on literally anything, getting in its own way, and ultimately poisoning its own well by refusing to be more than what it is.
Gotham Knights was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by WBIE. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Gotham Knights is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5.