Gotham Knights picks the torch up from the Arkham series and even takes the assets to progress the story from Batman to a new young group of heroes. Perhaps emulating the move from previous developer Rocksteady to WB Games Montréal. So, does youthful exuberance outshine age and wisdom? Sadly, not this time.
The premise of Gotham Knights has been known for quite some time and immediately the stage is set. Batman is dead, and this is confirmed with his body being found by the new group of masked vigilantes; Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood and Robin. The story does not revolve around “is Batman gone” but makes a clear distinction that this is about what happens next. There is also no ambiguity on who killed him. In an attempt to kill his attacker and to protect his lair from getting into the wrong hands, a self-destruct mechanism is activated. The bat cave is also no more.
Selecting one of the four heroes is what you are presented with from the start. Each with their own skills and for an hour or two you are locked into this decision. However, once the game opens up you can switch between them all. I chose Robin due to his penchant for stealth.
After the demise of Batman, rumours spread that he is no longer around and before you know it, the crime rate increases, and the new ‘Batman Family’ must step up to look over the streets of Gotham. This is helped with Batman’s second base of operations, the Belfry clocktower. Here you can congregate with the rest of the squad, examine any collected evidence, and upgrade your character. You must return here after every mission, and it is one of the main reasons that this game is ranked lower than the rest of the Arkham games for me. The repetitive nature of this act simply draws out the game and acts as filler to lengthen play time.
Traversal is fair, but compared to Batman, moving around the city with Robin is a chore (it varies for the other characters). He can grapple hook almost like Spiderman, but slightly worse in every way. When on the ground you can summon a motorbike, but this is practically welded to the roads and doesn’t allow for fun opportunities. The whole thing feels like hard work and only late in the game an optional side mission for Lucius Fox opens up fast travel. But you can miss this if you aren’t paying attention. Not being able to glide is sorely missed because of the design of the city, it consists of multiple land masses connected by long bridges that you must constantly use the bike to get to. Late in the game you can get a glider, but it happens so late that you may lose interest and never get to it.
Visually the game looks great. It takes the city of Gotham from the Arkham City game and upscales it for the current gen consoles. The framerate isn’t great but recent patches have improved the judder-y nature quite substantially. It all feels a little amateurish in comparison to what we have grown to know.
Levels are good though. Each mission is well broken up and the world within it is rich and alive. There is always something happening, and the story is engaging that you want to keep going back. But as mentioned above, it is made difficult to enjoy with the monotony. Combat sadly also falls into this bracket. Fighting is dull and the enemies are not the brightest but are also too frequent. The game leans on these scenarios too often and the tedium sets in once again. To mix this up a Crime Scene investigation mode has been added. You are presented with a set of clues, and you must connect 2 of them that have some relation to each other to progress. The idea is sound, but in practice it just isn’t very fun and adds to the frustration of the game not valuing your time as a gamer.
You spend a lot of time in the Belfry, here you can upgrade your abilities and you can do a lot all at once. Upgrade suits, attach mods, upgrade weapons, craft them, learn and unlock abilities and even more. It is overwhelming but is necessary to defeat the slightly higher-level enemies on the street or so you would assume. Except they level up alongside you, so it makes the whole mechanic pointless. You think you have an edge, but that disappears with this choice.
The stealth gameplay so far has been the most enjoyable as well as the voice acting in the story missions. Tagging enemies and trying to draw them away from groups to silently take them out is one of the best things from the Arkham series and I am glad to say it is back. It is trickier as your move set isn’t the same but challenging none the less. I would argue that sometimes if a single enemy sees you, it will unfortunately trigger all of them, but that is a small issue.
Overall, the game is a fully single player game if you want it to be. Or you can invite someone to play it cooperatively optionally. I was under the impression that this game was online only, but glad to say that its main feature is single player. A great world that was created as simply been iterated upon and in some ways made worse. Poor framerate and structure of level progression paired with the monotony of combat and returning to base makes this game slightly disappointing to play for extended periods. You can find some enjoyment in it, and it is far from a bad game, it just isn’t great.
- Replay Value