Gotham Knights: This Ain't Your Daddy's Gotham

The great tragedy of Knights of Gotham – aside from Friday on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X – is that it was always going to be pitted agains...

The great tragedy of Knights of Gotham – aside from Friday on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X – is that it was always going to be pitted against the beloved and critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham games. For starters, it's the first open-world entry to Gotham City since 2015's widely well-received final chapter, Batman: Arkham Knight. And two, most importantly, Gotham Knights come from the same creator - at WB Games Montréal - who gave us the poorest installment in that series, 2013's Batman: Arkham Origins. Comparisons were inevitable and unavoidable.

But in the seven years it took him to return to Gotham, a rival superhero made his mark on the video game world: Spider-Man. The PlayStation exclusive won awards upon its arrival in 2018, delivered a cute spin-off in 2020, and is slated for a sequel next year. Interestingly, you can feel traces of Marvel's Spider-Man inspiration here. Gotham Knights certainly don't have the same cinematic flair or fluidity to combat that the Spider-Man games have done so well, but sometimes there are traces of stylish camera angles.

Interestingly, the Gotham Knights also share some of their problems. Marvel's Spider-Man has been rightly criticized for its lack of open-world innovation. His New York seemed a little crime-ridden, with a carjacking, armed robbery, or hostage situation happening on virtually every other block in town. All of this is true of Gotham Knights' Gotham City as well. But unlike Spider-Man, there's even less variety here outside of petty crime. The side quests are meh, forgettable, and repetitive.

There's still fun to be had. Whenever you find a new criminal activity, the Knights of Gotham will assign your primary objectives and bonus objectives. The latter can be stealth-based, or something different like an environment takedown. Additionally, Gotham Knights encourage you to seek out and identify potential informants among criminals. (You can do a “D-pad” to trigger the AR scan, which places a red outline around all threats. And holding down the button gives you more information about each criminal). If you interrogate them before putting them to sleep, you can discover locations of future crimes. While you can always jump right into the fighting combat and ignore the rest, it's interesting to figure out a game plan that allows you to achieve more.

Devoid of life

But the Gotham of the Gotham Knights is not a living, breathing world. Aside from the buzz, you hear when you pass them on the street, there's little to no interaction between the heroes and the Gothamites they protect. In Marvel's Spider-Man, New Yorkers would applaud, applaud, applaud or back off as you approached them or moved in their midst. In Gotham Knights, they will move if you try to run them over with the Batcycle. But outside of that, there is nothing. What makes it laughable is that civilians don't react to the crime at all. As armed bandits fired at police in a police vehicle, I saw a passerby with an umbrella walk, as if it were a beautiful Sunday morning.

And he's not particularly rich either. It's too … clean? It's almost as if Gotham Knights don't have the time or resources to make the city feel real. The world feels empty and comes across as a sandbox built just for you. This Gotham doesn't feel like a city riddled with crime, and it doesn't feel like a city occupied by millions of citizens going about their lives every day. In this regard, the Knights of Gotham could have looked to The Batman – Matt Reeves' humorous comedy, starring Robert Pattinson – who knew not only how to create humor, but a distinct Gotham that was ugly, lived, and infested.

Gotham Knights share an aspect with Batman. And is that we almost never see Gotham during the day. To save them from having to design and animate the city twice, WB Games Montréal has come up with a justification for keeping our heroes cloistered in their Belfry headquarters when the sun is out. Every time you leave the headquarters – to patrol, solve crimes, collect clues and advance the story – the clock quickly ticks forward into the night. The clues you come back with at dawn help unlock new crime scenes for the night ahead.

Heroes And Combat

Before leaving for the Night's Watch, you can rotate freely between the four heroes: Dick Grayson/Nightwing (Christopher Sean), Tim Drake/Robin (Sloane Morgan Siegel), Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (America Young), and Jason Todd/Red Hood (Stephen Oyoung). The responsibility of keeping Gotham City safe has fallen onto his shoulders after the death of his mentor and father figure, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Antonakos).

But once you venture into Gotham night, there's no option to switch between the four heroes. You must return to the Belfry headquarters to change characters, which is not convenient as it “ends” that night's patrol. Any unsolved crimes will disappear from the map. In other words, Gotham Knights encourage you to stick with your chosen hero every night.

This is a strange kind of restriction that I have never understood. Why is WB Games Montréal getting in the way? Does this imply that the other heroes are out and about - and therefore unavailable? That logic wouldn't keep up as you learned, over and over again, that the four heroes were "doing" the same task they were given. Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) will often talk to Character #2 about an event that Character #1 was involved in. It's unintentionally funny. Then it reads like the rest of them are just chilling at home.

The problem is, Gotham Knights still haven't really figured out how to make it look like the four characters have their separate lives. Yes, their personalities are different – ​​Jason takes things head-on, Tim seems laid-back (and loves to take stamps), Dick is a bit closed off, and Barbara is the heart of the group – but it pretty much stops there. (They also have different superhero friends, with people like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Black Canary popping up in their emails, depending on which hero you play. But that's an Easter egg, doesn't mean anything).

And that – the lack of differences – extends to combat in Gotham Knights. All four heroes can perform melee (A on Xbox, cross on PlayStation) and ranged (Y or triangle) attacks in both "light" and "heavy" forms. A tap performs a light attack while holding the same button does a heavy one. Heavy attacks can break enemy armor, and open it up to more hits.

When you're first asked to choose between the four heroes at the start, the Knights of Gotham offer a glimpse of what they're good at, leaving you to decide what your preferences are. For example, Nightwing can jump around, Robin is sly, Batgirl is tech-heavy, and Red Hood has guns. (Combat isn't always mandatory - you can use stealth to get around certain situations). But despite that, playing as each character feels more or less the same.

You can help expand the differences with your additional skills. Leveling up in Gotham Knights grants each character skill points, which can be spent in your individualized skill tree. You can also unlock new “Momentum Abilities” – think of them as powerful combos – by completing in-game challenges. But you won't feel any of this for the first few hours. It's only as you delve into your skill trees that you'll be treated to skills that push them in different directions. While Batgirl becomes more of a hacker, Robin prefers decoys and evasion, while Red Hood and Nightwing embrace brute force.


The four heroes also share the aforementioned vehicle: the Batcycle. Each time you press its dedicated call button (on the D-pad), the Batcycle emerges from nowhere, as if camouflaged as James Bond's car from Die Another Day. (A bit like the horse in The Witcher 3.) And on what's a stealthy inclusion, there's a button to do wheelies. Why, why not? Despite this, the Batcycle isn't much fun to ride in Gotham Knights. It's never been more exciting to see Anne Hathaway's Catwoman roll in The Dark Knight Rises, the climactic third chapter in Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's trilogy. But I was compelled to use it anyway, as Gotham Knights don't offer fast travel options during the first few hours.

When distances were short, I relied on “parkouring” – if you can call it that. As with the Batman: Arkham games, you can use the grappling hook and attach it to the edges of most buildings and structures. Before reaching the end of your rope, you can jump and leap forward. Then you try to engage again with the claw. But unlike Batman, none of the four heroes can slide. (Well, not until you unlock the Nightwing anyway.) The heroes sink into the ground, between jumps and the next grab on the Gotham Knights.

More importantly, traversal in Gotham Knights doesn't have the same flow or smoothness as in Batman: Arkham or Marvel's Spider-Man. (This is a general issue indeed. The body animations don't feel as natural as what we've seen elsewhere, be it superhero games or the likes of The Last of Us Part I). Swinging through New York was one of my favorite things to do in this last series of games, but I never felt that sense of exhilaration here. It felt like a stop-and-start thing where I was constantly losing momentum. With Batman: Arkham, while never more cinematic, the Dark Knight cape added both flair and functionality. Cloaks are impractical in most cases, but I missed them in Knights of Gotham.

Cooperative, Performance, And Verdict

What I also missed was cross-play support. While Gotham Knights allow for a two-player co-op in the campaign and a four-player co-op will be added in an upcoming standalone mode, you cannot play with friends across platforms. PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X lobbies are handled separately. For the record, Gotham Knights offer you a variety of ways to search for co-op partners. You can manually invite friends, open your lobby to friends of friends, or even have a public lobby if you so desire. I opted for the last one and had a couple of players show up. The gameplay was smooth and I didn't encounter any issues.

This was also largely true of the overall performance of the Gotham Knights. The only time I felt stutter or dropped frames was when I was on the Batcycle at high speed. Much has been made of its 30fps restriction on console - the requirements on PC to hit 60fps are, well, staggering - but what's more important is how it works within those limitations. This is no Cyberpunk 2077 at launch, where the game regularly drops in single-digit frames per second. Sure, Gotham Knights could have been better and better equipped, but it's playable and that's what matters.

In fact, that's how I feel about Gotham Knights on the loose. Drawing from the exquisite toolkit that powered Batman: Arkham and Marvel's Spider-Man, WB Games Montréal has produced a cookie-cutter superhero experience that doesn't seek to push any boundaries. It's got flair in parts, an attempt to do a bit of heartfelt history, and limited ideas for what an open-world Gotham might be like. But it also lacks charm, the oomph and drive to its narrative, and the desire to be something special. The Knights of Gotham are a money grab in the age of superheroes - and nothing else.


  • Fun to strategize combat

  • Four heroes to choose from

  • campaign co-op

  • traces of talent


  • Open world and unrealistic

  • The crossing is not free-flowing

  • Side quests are repetitive

  • Cannot freely switch between heroes

  • The Batcycle isn't much fun to ride

  • No cross-platform play

  • Heroes don't have separate lives

  • Combat feels the same with all heroes at the start

  • Minor stuttering in Batcycling segments



Media Yuan: Gotham Knights: This Ain't Your Daddy's Gotham
Gotham Knights: This Ain't Your Daddy's Gotham
Media Yuan
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