Time played: 5 hours
A burning university, civilians held hostage, and a bad guy around every corner. With Batman dead at the hands of Ra's al Ghul, it’s finally time for me to don a red helmet and try my hand at the vigilante business.
In Gotham Knights, you play as one of four remaining members of the bat family – Nightwing, Red Hood, Batgirl, or Robin. Each has a complicated and close relationship with Batman, and now he’s no more, they will have to overcome their shortcomings to fulfill the caped crusader’s last wish: saving Gotham. Each has their own abilities, which loosely relate to close combat and long-range weapons.
Out of the possible bat replacements, I choose Red Hood – the former Robin who the Joker killed, and came back from the dead quite happy killing criminals in his new vigilante alter ego. I prepare for my first mission: beating up gangster pyromaniacs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The gangsters have taken hostages in the city's university's gothic and grand entrance room. I drop into the burning building via my grappling hook and make short work of the fire starters. For someone as big as Red Hood, he is surprisingly agile, ducking and diving to avoid incoming attacks; he also packs a punch when he turns on the offensive, cracking goons with sheer brute force. Most importantly, he looks good while doing it, thanks to the flashy finishing sequences that make my inner child burst with excitement.
Gotham Knights price and release date
- What is it? The newest superhero game surrounding the caped crusader
- Release date: October 21, 2022
- Price: $69.99 / £49.99 / AU$89.95
- What can I play it on? PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Gotham Knights' combat quickly feels like second nature, an easy development from the combo-led combat of Rocksteady’s Arkham Games. I met no frustrating moments of characters freezing or accidentally making the opposite move I intended; it feels incredibly smooth. A great example is an ability to cancel an attack to dodge another enemy's advance, so you never feel stuck when fighting.
That smoothness also extends to your utility belt, with the grappling hook becoming this lazy crimefighter’s best friend. It’s child’s play to scale skyscrapers, simply looking at ledges or high platforms and tapping ‘F’ when the grapple icon appears. Such a simple tool, but it made me feel like Gotham is my stomping ground as I leap from rooftop to rooftop, chasing down criminals below.
The grappling hook is like a combination of the heroic-fantasy in Marvel’s Spider-Man, where you swing through your city as protector and defender constantly looking to snuff out crime, and the zombie survival game Dying Light which uses the grappling hook as an additional tool in your movement arsenal.
If you want a speedier way to get through the city, you can always call your bat-bike. At a press of a button, the Dark Knight-inspired mechanical motorcycle phases into existence, facing the direction you’re running, and even starts moving if you begin to sprint. Climbing onto a motorbike is cool, but leaping onto a motorbike in motion, like Zorro mounting a stampeding horse, is cooler and keeps up the pace of the crimefighting.
However, there is one place Gotham Knights is painfully awkward: clearing low obstacles. You can’t jump in Gotham Knights, you can dodge, climb, or perch, but jumping isn’t in your wheelhouse. A lack that can make itself known at the worst moments.
At one point, I was in Gotham’s police station; my ears are ringing with the sound of the alarms, there’s an incinerated body in front of me, and armed police are searching the building for me. I need to beat a hasty exit and not get seen by Gotham’s finest in the process.
It goes well at first, I lurk in the shadows dipping and diving to avoid the mechanical glare of the security cameras and searching police, and no one suspects a thing. That is until I encounter my greatest enemy: a short railing. Red Hood doesn’t know what to do, rather than simply jump over the low barrier, he combat rolls around on the floor, sprints into the obstacle, he does it all except leap over the railing. Meanwhile, I’m quietly screaming at my computer, begging him to calm down and just go over it.
Eventually, I get him perched on the railing, ready to jump over and escape the building. That is until I accidentally press the button for an aerial takedown and land right in the middle of a pack of guards.
Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of stealth after that.
Not a fire risk
I was fully prepared for my RTX 3070 to struggle with Gotham Knights, particularly after the developer announced the technical struggles for untethered co-op crimefighting had forced it to lock the game to 30fps on consoles. I’m not sure what witchcraft is behind it, but I can max out all the graphics settings on an ultrawide monitor without experiencing freezing or jittering.
Still, while Gotham Knights looks great in the broad sweeps with the darkened and sodden streets reflecting the neon lights that illuminate the skyline when you look closely, the details can be lacking. Many of the NPCs have lifeless eyes and awkward, mechanical movements. But these guys' foibles fade into the background of the amazing city.
I was skeptical about heading into Gotham Knights. As a huge fan of Rocksteady’s Arkham games, I was worried that Gotham Knights would move away from the identity that Arkham Knight cemented so well. Why would I trade Batman in favor of playing four of his sidekicks? Gotham Knights looked like setting the stage for a less impactful story.
I’m happy to say I was mistaken. Each character has enough to their story that it seems like a different perspective if you choose to change between them. Red Hood must come to terms with his resurrection and the fact that he has rejected Batman’s honor system of not killing criminals. While Robin constantly references how he seemed to know Batman the least, he thinks Batman never saw him as worthy of the information and skills he gave to the other characters.
When I was a kid, I’d spend hours imagining what it would be like to be a superhero, I’d pretend with my friends, and we would talk about how we would fight bad guys, what our finishing moves would be, and so on. So it makes me really happy that Gotham Knights lives up to my oldest expectations.