Batman is dead. That is the basis for the story of Gotham Knights, and the events that follow this opening relate to how the rest of the Bat Family – Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Red Hood – deal with that. There may be some high expectations on Gotham Knignts. After all, it is the same studio that developed the brilliant but often overlooked Batman: Arkham Origins. But where there was one hero, now there are four and each has to have their identity come across without compromising on the action.
From the outset you can choose which Bat Family member to play as, to kick off the investigation into the death of Batman. You can switch between them as you progress through the story, though only when you return to the Belfry, the central base of operations. This, as opposed to switching on the fly, ties into how the game as a whole flows. This is not a game where everything takes place in one night, like the Arkham games, but over multiple nights. Each night, you start a patrol with your chosen character and roam Gotham, stopping crimes like assaults and robberies. As you beat and interrogate criminals for information, you will build up crime points which will eventually reveal premeditated crimes to foil on future nights. The criminals are divided into groups known as Freaks, Mob, and Regulators, who have some ties to some of Gotham’s notorious criminals.
As there are four characters to choose from, you can hop between different styles of gameplay for each, and that is delivered for the most part. Nightwing is incredibly acrobatic and able to dodge enemy attacks with stylish ease, relating to his backstory as the original Robin, who had a young career in the circus. Red Hood is a brawler with brute strength and guns that fire non lethal rounds, alluding to his violent past before being rehabilitated by Batman. Batgirl is the closest in style to playing as Batman, thanks to having similar gear like batarangs and eventually a cape to glide with. Robin is great for stealth, but wields a Bo Staff when the action kicks off, and is able to hit multiple enemies with his abilities and tech.
You can go it alone, or team up with another player in co-op. The online connection is really nice and solid with only minor hints of lag when racing through the open world, and combat hanging together nicely. There’s plenty of nice touches here, such as level scaling boosting player strength to match the host, and all the experience earned carrying back to when the second player returns to their game. Amusingly, you can both play as the same hero, so a pair of Nightwing twins can go crime fighting.
The combat in Gotham Knights will be quite familiar if you have played the Arkham games, but there is no combo counter, and enemies do not wait their turn to attack as much. All four characters play well and I would recommend switching between each character. You do not have to worry about levelling one character up at a time as they all share the XP, and level up concurrently, helping to keep their abilities and unlocks in parity.
The unlocks through the skill tree relate to their health, attacks, and movements. There are also momentum abilities which are special attacks and gadgets to use. Batgirl, for example, can summon a drone that will fire on enemies and restore some of her health. Each character also have a fourth abilities tab called Knighthood, but these and the momentum attacks are only unlocked after completing challenges for each character. It does not take long and opens up stronger abilities to use in fights.
Gotham Knights is full of challenges to complete, from fighting a certain type of enemy a number of times to finding the many collectibles in the game. As you complete challenges you will earn XP and earn resources to craft new suits, new melee weapons, and new ranged weapons. Crafting new gear lets you unlock elemental offensive and defensive capabilities, allowing you to counter the different gangs’ strengths – Mr. Freeze’s Regulators are weak to fire damage, for example.
There are also time trials to tackle using the Batcycle. The Batcycle can be used to ride around the open world Gotham City, and it does the job, though this really isn’t an open world racer. The other option to move across the city is to grapple and jump across rooftops, endlessly tapping the shoulder button to zip around. If you complete the Knighthood challenges for characters they will eventually unlock their own unique ways to move around as well.
The main story focuses on the Court of Owls while the other three main villains of Harley Quinn, Clayface, and Mr. Freeze are optional side cases to tackle. Frankly, the side missions come across as much more entertaining and interesting than the main story, and there is an oddly disjointed feeling unless you decide to focus solely on the main missions. This could be down to the events themselves spanning multiple nights, instead of a more concise timeframe, and how easily you can be dragged away to smaller tasks.
Graphically, Gotham Knights does look really good, even if it’s tonally quite different to the Arkham games. Yes, it’s limited to 30fps on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S and that will disappoint some – hopefully performance modes will be added and sub-30fps frame rates improved in an update – but the character models look good and the number of suits and customisation options means you can really play around with the looks of each hero. Gotham City itself has a real atmosphere around it too. The neon lights and high rises of downtown Gotham contrast well with the more historic and less built up regions of the city.
I also enjoyed the characterisation and voice acting, with each hero going through the emotions of dealing with their grief, throwing one liners at enemies, and bouncing off of each other by joking with each other as well as giving support. The world around them feels lived in as characters get messages from other members of the Justice League to offer support to deal with the loss of Bruce Wayne.