GOTHAM KNIGHTS Review- Out From The Shadow Of Arkham

After 2 year since it's announcement, WB Games Montreal's new Batman project finally arrives. Despite everything going against it, is the game really bad as feared?

Reviews Opinion

Well, Bat-fans, Gotham Knights has finally arrived. It's been 2 years since the game was announced, and yet, since the first gameplay footage was revealed, it seems that almost everyone has been out to deride it. In addition to fears that this might be another Destiny-esque "Live service" game loaded with micro-transactions, the reveal of the game not running in 60fps got many gamers upset. However, I can gladly say the game is really far better than people make it out to be, despite not taking full advantage of the newer consoles. If you ask me, I think the reason for all the discorse is simple: the shadow of the Batman Arkham games hangs over its head.

First off, let's get this out of the way: the game is not tied into the previous "Arkhamverse" games; this is very much in its own universe inspired by the comics, including having the graphics and character designs be more comic book-y in style. And that's perfectly fine, honestly. It allows the game to stand on its own without being tied down to previous games. However, some things I noticed such as Joker being absent (though mentioned) and Harley Quinn being introduced as imprisoned in Blackgate make me wonder if this was intended to be another Arkham game originally, but changed early on. It's possible, but with no proof, one can only assume. Either way, making Gotham Knights a stand-alone game works in its favor in the long run.

Right off the bat (no pun intended), the game gets a major story-related concern out of the way in it's lengthy opening cutscene. Yes, Bruce Wayne, Batman himself, is dead. No fake-outs, no "Marvel's Avengers"-esque misdirects, he is genuinly dead, the result of a grueling battle against Ra's Al Ghul in the Batcave. The fight ends with the famous lair getting blown to kingdom come and both combatents killed in the proccess. Bruce is laid to rest, his secret identity protected, while Ra's body is brought to the GCPD morgue as a John Doe. Making matters worse is that Comissioner Jim Gordon also died prior to all this. How he died is never explained (we're only told he "died in the line of duty), though with a prequel comic min-series being published as of this article, we might find out what exactly happened. Regardless, his death has resulted the GCPD regressing into corruption again, leaving all of Gotham's heroes on their own.

Cut to a year after Bruce's death, and all 4 of Batman's local allies, Batgirl (Barbra Gordon), Red Hood (former Robin Jason Todd), Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Robin (the Tim Drake one), have regrouped at a new base called The Belfry (a smaller hideout hidden in an old clock tower), to investigate what seems like a small murder case. The intial case eventually uncovers both a deep-seeded conspiracy later revealed to be spear-headed by fan-favorite vilalins The Court of Owls, as well as the remergence of Talia Al Ghul and the League of Assassins in the city. With Alfried providing support from the Belfry, the time has come for the former side-kicks to set up and become Gotham's new defenders, and the game makes this abundently clear with Bruce's last spoken words early on: Gotham is their city now.

This leads me to bring up the game's strongest point: the story and writing. Whatever you may think of the gameplay to come, Gotham Knights makes up for it with a really well-told story that will at least keep players' interests going. Aside from dealing with the Court of Owls and the League of Assassins, the four playable heroes also have 3 optional storylines called "Case Files" to complete. These each deal with 3 other villains with their own plans going on: Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze and Clayface. Since the game allows you to switch heroes out at the Bellry between free-roaming segments (referrred to as "patrols" in-game), this allowed me to get creative. While I mostly played the main story as Batgirl (with a bit of experimenting as Nightwing at a few points), I sent her after Harley, Robin dealt with Mr. Freeze, and Red Hood faced-off against Clayface. Each character gets different reactions and dialogue between characters, so different playthroghs (Along with New Game +) can be different for some, which I feel is a great insentive for replayability. In addition, there are occassional character-focused cutscenes that really give the game a proper sense of emotion for each hero. While most deal with each of them coming to terms with Batman's demise, some of them have plotlines like Barbra also grieving over her father Jim's death and even Jason struggling with the affter-effects of his resurrection from the Lazarus Pit years ago and his disconnect with the rest of the Bat-family. These cutscenes are a great way to pace the story and give some weight to everything that's going on.

Meanwhile, the gameplay, surprisingly, is much simpler and easier to handle than people expect. It's easily more like the recent two Spider-Man games than the Arkham games and their copy-cats. You only get one mele attack button and one quick ranged attack buton, while the other 2 are for dodging and jumping. Holding down either attack button performs a heavy version of each type to stun certain enemies, while you also have the sholder buttons for manually aiming your ranged weapons or grappling across the city. However, the simple controls are balaced out by having each character have their own play-style and different unlockable abilites. Batgirl is more balanced but tech based, Nightwing is more acrobatic, Robin is quicker but whose special abiltiies focuses more on stealth at time, and Red Hood is more brutish but also specializes in his pistols for ranged attacks for his abilites. In addition, free-roamining and fighting members of different criminal factions allows you to both get materials for building stronger gear and weapons (and new costume designs) as well as challenges to provide even more materials and new abilties. There are also hidden collectables like letftover Batarranges, street art to scan and unlockable audio files from Bruce Wayne that give you more experience points and other goodies. This, combined with the fortunate lack of micro-transactions, battle passes, and loot boxes, allows players to focus more on exploration and gameplay to level up characters and gear naturally. Some may complain about the grind-y nature of it, but it's not really that monotonus and is far more honest than of shelling out cash for in-game currency for better items or gear. The most required challeges to complete for each character, in my opinon, would be the Knighthood ones for each character. These not only unlock an extra set of upgradable skills, but also a new way of traveling through Gotham. While grappling or using the Batcycle are fun, these unlocable travel abilties are really cool and unique for each character. Batgirl can glide using her cape, Nightwing gets a high-tech glider a la Fortnite, Robin has a teleport ability, and Red Hood uses residual Lazarus Pit energy to make extra jumps in the air. It's really fun and worth the extra effort. Lastly, a second-player can jump in and out online as another character to help out in combat and explore Gotham on thier own while you're off doing your own thing. It's optional, but it helps make it very clear that this (mercifully) isn't a Destiny clone of any sort and not reliant on co-op. It's really there for those who want to try it with friends.

And now the elephant in the room: the 30 fps lock. While graphics junkies will whine about the lack of 60 fps support, the game looks and runs just fine. I really feel this complaint is overblown, though I feel this look could be a result of the developers clearly intending this game for previous genneration systems but being forced to make them only on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Given how good the game is overall, I'd say I can let it slide either way. That isn't to say the game is not without faults. While most of the challenges aren't much of a problem, the "Contacts" challenges given by various characters throughout the city don't feel like they have an end to them. You just go to them for different crime-fighting or crafting-focused tasks, go back to them for rewards, lather rinse repeat. It gets annoying after a while and I decided to ignore them eventually to focus more on Knighthood challenges and story material side-missions like the case files and protecting Bruce Wayne's dual-life from getting exposed. In addition, there's an odd graphic glitch during certain cutscenes at the Belfry where the tassels on Jason Todd's hoodie jut outwards like erect nippels. It's weird and distracting, so I hope that WB Games Montreal can patch that somehow.

Overall, despite everything going against it, Gotham Knights is surprisingly really good and worth checking out. The constant comparisions to the Arkham games are unfair; the game is nothing like them because its not trying to be like them. It's very much its own beast and that's ok. The pros outweigh the few cons there are and co-op can be a fun incenstive for those on the fence. Like the heroes it focuses on, this is one game that deserves more recognition!

Pros:

* Great story with solid writing and beautiful emotial moments

* Side missions yield a lot of lore, easter eggs, and new villains

* Gameplay is simple and fun

* Most challenges are rewarding, with the Knighthood challenges being highly recommended

* Co-op, while optional, is welcome and unrestrictive

Cons: 

* Minor graphic glitch with Jason Todd during Belfry cutscenes

* Contact challenges are repetitive and don't have a clear end to them

Score:

7.5/10

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