Batman may be dead, but his mission continues as Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and the Red Hood carry on calling to protect Gotham. Pulling mythology’s most famous and popular character out of the mix comes with some notable downsides, as most of the pathos and psychological drama that goes with him. However, the younger generation of heroes manages to do relatively well even without their mentor along for the ride, although it doesn’t seem to be in the same league as the Dark Knight’s greatest adventures.
Gotham Knights isn’t part of the famous Arkham series, but enough similarities exist that you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Players take their chosen hero on a night patrol into a larger but not exclusively vibrant Gotham, stopping crimes, helping allies, and looking for clues. The freedom of exploration in a sprawling cityscape is inviting, but the space feels empty and lacking in memorable places.
There’s a lot to do on your patrol, from collecting lost Batarangs to completing races on your Batcycle. But as the hours went by, I felt that the gradual leveling up and mission structure was heavy on the hectic work and highlights of the original and exciting moments or reveals.
Several more established mission locations are scattered throughout the game, where storytelling and structured encounters are more common. But even these felt extremely linear, lacking in the simple encounter problem the game needed. Still, it’s fun to show off some of the most entertaining baddies, from individuals like Harley Quinn and the Penguins to groups like the mysterious Court of Owls.
Combat and stealth work well mechanically but lack the breadth of creativity that makes Predator-style combat experiences so much fun. I had little equipment to manipulate and intimidate my enemies while in hiding, and combat too often evolved into button press combos at the same time. The Momentum ability (unlocked over time) adds flash and flexibility to combat. However, even with those special moves, as the game progresses to its climax, it takes too long to bring down enemies, and the fight drags on unpleasantly. Knowing it was a different game, I was constantly longing for the more nuanced encounters of Arkham Games before.
It’s interesting to see a cast of characters that were basically all rallied together to step into the lead roles. A sense of family camaraderie is in the works, and all the characters can hold onto their own as they proceed on a solo mission. But from the dialogue to the storytelling beats, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was experiencing “Batman Jr.” Nothing has the gravity necessary to land.
A rewarding progression system offers multiple ways to transform your characters; The plethora of awesome suit designs are especially fun. I enjoyed creating new weapons and modifying them with my favorite bonuses. Each character also has a unique ability tree; The further I explored in the game, the more each character felt different in the play style. I liked most of them, except for Red Hood, whose slightly slower pace and focus on ranged weapons didn’t really click.
Warner Bros. Montreal deserves critical acclaim for its approach to two-person cooperative drama. The drop-in, drop-out experience is smooth and enjoyable, easily adjusting the difficulty so that both players are on par. Players can work together in a single battle or work across the city from one another away – without a hitch. It’s a multiplayer system that works so smoothly that you won’t see any complications beyond the chance of killing some bad guys with a friend – and that’s how it should be.
Gotham Knights didn’t impress me with its overly familiar objectives, combat, and activities, but it didn’t leave me sour. Some new heroes are fun to control as they hang from the top of Gotham’s building and uncover hidden plots against its people. Those heroes wonder if they are living a tortured legacy. And even though they aren’t quite up to snuff, Gotham has enough villains to punch in to make for a good time, no matter who you are.