Published on October 21st, 2022 | by Paul Stuart

Gotham Knights: PS5 Review

Gotham Knights: PS5 Review Paul Stuart

Summary: The literal next-generation of Arkham Knights, Gotham Knights boasts a beautiful but often repetitive package.


A Beautiful Grind

What happens when Arkham Knights and Spiderman create a baby? You pretty much get Gotham Knights for the PS5. Which means it’s a solid game…with lots of grind-based progression…a very nice storyline…but one that falls slightly short in execution. But it certainly looks beautiful along the way.

Let’s clear some stuff up. Warner Brothers insists on calling Gotham Knights an ‘Action-RPG,’ but it arguably isn’t. This is sandbox through and through, with oodles of grindy level up main and side missions, and dozens if not more hours of gameplay to get to the proverbial ‘there.’

Important disclaimer: Warner Brothers likewise requested a short review window for better or worse. As a DC fanboy (Dr Fate, forever!) I’ve been playing the hell out of this for days straight…but with a requirement to get this posted by, well, now. So, what you see is what you get. I would’ve liked another 20 hours into this, but one can’t beat Father Time.

What is awesome about Gotham Knights? The story, that’s for certain. Batman is killed at the hands of Ra’s al Ghul, which sets in motion an array of sister plots as to why this occurred…also what lies in its aftermath. Left to sift through the literal rubble of Batman, sidekicks Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and Red Hood, respectively, pick up the pieces. Along for the journey are Batman stalwarts Alfred, Lucious Fox, and the rest of the Wayne support network.

Of course, the best Batman highlights the baddies. Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, Penguin and others are keen to cash in on Batman and Gotham’s demise. But simultaneously serve strangely empathic roles as trying to make sense of a Gotham without Batman…and for reasons unexplained early on.

Sans spoilers, several threads begin to unravel as to how and why Batman’s demise occurred. It’s up to the Bat clan to piece these together – by ‘solving’ crimes, exploring side missions, NPC interactions, etc. – to create some sense of both order and closure.

Gotham Knights gameplay is comprised of crime fighting rounds across a single night in Gotham. Solve pre-meditated crimes, uncover impromptu misdeeds, and complete side/main missions. There’s seemingly little consequence in failing any…albeit losing supplies to upgrade gear and lower end of night bonuses. What results is mainly a chase against running out of health packs – and returning to Belfry HQ – each night to collect winnings, upgrade characters, unfold main/side missions, locate new premeditated crimes, and start anew. Almost every night unlocks another critical part of the game, creating an almost addictive nature to nightly runs.

A very welcome feature of Gotham Knights is – regardless of which character played on a given night – every one of the Batman clan accrues experience points and/or can share crafting materials. This nuance empowers easy switches across characters between nights sans overcommitment to one favorite designated as such by necessity.

Gotham is beautiful. Each of the districts in Gotham City possess amazing attention to detail, with absolutely stunning visuals throughout. The same can be said of character models – especially of the heroes – with excellent lightning and color effects during both gameplay and cut scenes. Also – and if you’re a customization fan – almost every aspect of each character can be customized to fit particular DC storylines and/or color schemes.

The little stuff gets oodles of love in Gotham Knights in tandem, with citizens appropriately responding differently to each character played each night, also proximity reactions if/when a player chooses to engage with bad guys or cops. All of Gotham’s Knights’ characters feature stellar voice overs, and ambient Gotham City noises are great. (Listen closely, and you’ll hear the Bat motorcycle tires hitting each brick!)

Speaking of cops – and echoing Batman lore – most are not on the side of the ‘vigilantes.’ They’re quick to target and take down the Batman buddies, and will arrive at crime scenes shortly after completion to clean up the supposed good guys. This is a nice homage to comic book norms, where only the most loyal to now deceased Commissioner Gordon didn’t perceive Batman and friends as unwanted guests. Logically, Gotham Knights provides no XP for defeating cops.

Traversing Gotham is a bit of a mixed bag. Gotham Knights unlocks quick points (via drone scanning side missions) far too late in the game, and traveling by motorcycle can be frustrating. Mainly – and on the latter – navigation tends to direct characters through the worst of places including Gotham Police Department parking lots, side alleys, wrong ways on streets, and other odd selections. Even the quick travel really isn’t, as it requires watching a drone drop off (without ability to skip scenes) with every execution.

Related, the majority of player map movement is executed by grappling across points throughout the city. It doesn’t take long for this to feel forced and a little silly, as Batman characters rarely travel in this fashion except to surprise an enemy via drop-in. In tandem, Gotham Knights – borrowing from WB Montreal’s earlier Arkham Knights – incorporates the grapple far too much into combat, with employment a necessity as difficulty levels increase and enemies become stronger.

Also, stealth oriented missions and situations near mirror Spiderman games, seemingly screaming for crafty stealth takedowns but making it almost impossible to do them (as baddies cannot be strung up from grapple points and/or friends always near a subdued target). This just doesn’t work as intended. The same criticism underlies ranged weapons, which – even for Red Hood – are so underpowered as to be considered frustrating. The ideal way to employ them becomes targeting exploding mainly electric items…although the finicky AR system to locate them certainly doesn’t help.

Combat is unfortunately redundant and arguably boring as the game progresses. None of the four playable characters are truly unique, with most combat restricted to heavy and light strikes, plus dodges and momentum meter special moves tossed in. There are way too many bad guys at each scene, also overpowered special effects/ranged/heavy types. This results in a boring pound pound pound, dodge dodge dodge, special move, grapple out of harm’s way, health pack…repeat x 20 exercise. Player movement, climbing and grapple selection points are likewise not perfect, with lots of getting stuck against things and places along this exercise. Cheap hits are therefore aplenty.

Similarly, crimes simply reappear at the same places, combined with mission types that feature mirror completion paths and enemy/building layouts. As the game becomes more difficult, this redundancy becomes obvious (as it a chore to do the same thing over and over…against now more difficult opponents). Spiderman flashback, once again.

Harkening back once more to Arkham Knights and Spiderman, I wholly appreciate the solid interweaving of main mission, side mission and crimes within a single night framework, but Gotham Knights is literally a grindfest to accomplish, well, anything. Hidden stashes, unlocking fast travel, solving crime scene mysteries, completing live/premeditated crimes are all grindy. Gotham Knights is mainly a swing/drive to an array of locations, grind along the way, and try and survive long enough to make it back to the Belfry HQ in one piece. And, Spiderman again.

This isn’t to say, once more, the story isn’t stellar. Gotham Knights’ strongest writing keeps one interested and the characters are most definitely engaging. Similar praise is heaped on the wonderfully diverse Gotham City, and traveling on its fully customizable motorcycle across various districts never gets old. Moreover, Belfry HQ is fantastically laid out, with it a pleasure to interact with. Heck, who doesn’t love a game of Spy Hunter every now and then?

Big second disclaimer in that I was unable to test out Gotham Knights’ cooperative multiplayer for this review. Perhaps the grind complaint drops significantly with a second buddy to fight crime with.

Last – and with any pre-release – expect some bugs and/or nit-ads. One of the training missions cannot be completed due to a glitch, location marker guides aren’t always correct, game menus a bit messy, and there isn’t any clear indication that characters can be swapped out for each nightly play. Also, gear upgrades do not feature a clear distinction between no cost or crafting benefits, nor is there an obvious implementation of modchips for said gear. Additionally, not a big fan of having to complete the same mini missions (more grind) across all characters to unlock the same move types. Last, enemy drones and weapons are way too accurate all of the time, including through walls/surfaces.

Final Thoughts

Gotham Knights is a beautiful game that tells an amazing story. Fans of Batman and Arkham Knights will definitely like what they see. Still, the game’s over-reliance on grapple and grind can wear thin, even with a terrific nightly progression system that advances main and side missions wonderfully. Final judgment should be reserved for robust multiplayer inclusion, however.

About the Author'

A gamer for over 30 years, Paul Stuart has an unhealthy obsession with Assassins Creed, God of War, also sport and virtual reality titles. In his spare time, he teaches Muay Thai kickboxing, runs, and drives his toddler crazy.

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