WB Games Montreal was founded in the year 2010 as another studio that’ll develop and help with developing DC properties. While they assisted Rocksteady with the development of the WiiU port of “Arkham City,” their first game came out in 2013 and was named “Batman: Arkham Origins.” This game served two purposes, the first being to test the prowess of the studio, while the second was to act as a filler game between “Arkham City” and “Arkham Knight.” “Arkham Origins,” as the name suggests, was the canonical origin story for Batman in the Arkhamverse and focused on year two of the caped crusader. Set on Christmas Eve, with Black Mask putting a price of $50 million on the head of The Batman and hiring eight assassins to get the job done. Whoever brought the head of Batman to him will get the money. The game launched to a mixed reception, with some bugs and issues hindering the experience and the game being pretty much exactly the same as “Arkham City” with no new innovations or major additions. Despite the criticisms, the game did manage to make a name for itself as the Arkham formula is nigh perfect, and the game did have a great story, stellar performances, and the best boss fights the series has ever seen. Post-release, a DLC also came out titled “Cold, Cold Heart,” which was received pretty well, and the game overall did make an audience for itself.
WB Games Montreal also helped with the Batgirl DLC for “Arkham Knight,” titled “A Matter of Family,” and while it was short, it was one hell of an add-on for an already amazing game. What’s next, then? If rumors are to be believed, then WB Games Montreal was working on a Suicide Squad game and a new Arkham game continuing from where “Arkham Knight” left off, but both of them sadly was canceled. The studio went quiet after that for a while, and in 2020, they revealed to the world their next project, “Gotham Knights.” An open-world, 2-player co-op game where you get to play as members of the Bat-family. The reception to its reveal was extremely positive, and the game was slated for a 2021 release date. After which, the game sorta disappeared from the radar, and it was announced that it’d been delayed to 2022. Midway through 2022, the developers started showing off the game more with gameplay videos showcasing the different characters and the world, and to say that the reception this time around was mediocre would be an understatement. They announced that the last-gen versions, aka the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, were canceled, and the game was only slated for a PS5 and Xbox Series X|S release alongside the PC. “Gotham Knights” was looking to be in a bad place and was released on October 21, 2022, to average reviews. But is it a bad game? Were the nine years or so that WB Games Montreal worked on their canceled projects and this one in vain? Let’s dive in and find out if “Gotham Knights” is worth playing.
“Gotham Knights” gets a lot of slack, and not all of it is reasonable, but the biggest criticism this game gets is “Arkham did this better,” so for the sake of fairness and the fact that this game isn’t trying to be Arkham, I won’t be mentioning the word Arkham or comparing this game to them from this point on. I’ll be judging this game on its own. The opening act of the game will be completely spoiled here, but everything that comes after will be as spoiler-free as possible.
‘Gotham Knights’ Premise
From day one, the developers told us that Batman was dead in this game. The entire marketing campaign focused on the death of Batman and how the Bat Family now has the keys to Gotham City. I didn’t believe that; I thought maybe Bruce faked his own death and was infiltrating the Court of Owls, with them being the main villains here. I mean, how can Batman die? That’s impossible, right? The first 15 minutes of the game proved me wrong, and man, did it grab my attention. The game opens with a long and beautiful cinematic of Batman fighting a Talon of the Court who unmasks himself and is none other than Ra’s Al Ghul. Batman tries his hardest but somehow is no match for Ra’s as he pummels him across the Batcave. I must say, in all my years of following Batman, I have never seen such a one-sided battle, with the exception of his first encounter with Bane in both the comics and the movies. With no other option left, Bruce blows up the Batcave with himself and Ra’s to stop him once and for all and sends a video titled “Code Black” to the knights, a contingency plan for his own death. The Gotham Knights, aka Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood, show up at the charred remains of Wayne Manor and find Bruce’s lifeless body crushed under some debris.
A funeral for the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is held with members who considered him family giving a eulogy, and the game cuts to nighttime with the knights meeting each other near his grave to figure out what to do next. They have a lead on one, Dr. Kirk Langstrom (Batman fans know who he is), as Bruce was doing an investigation on him before he died, and they decide to follow it up. You get to choose which character you want to play as here; don’t worry, you can switch between them at any time, and after a brief tutorial of the game mechanics with some story sprinkled in, the four of you meet each other inside the Belfry. The knights don’t agree with each other that much and do have some ego issues, but Alfred shows up and makes sure it doesn’t get out of hand. This is where the game begins, and you are left to explore Gotham City and collect clues to progress through the story. The rest I leave for you to find out on your own if you so choose, but I’ll say this much: the story is really engaging and well done, though it is a little predictable. The dialogue can get cringy at times but is overall good, and my only complaint here would be the ending. I can’t sugarcoat it; it sucked.
‘Gotham Knights’ Gameplay
“Gotham Knights” is a third-person open-world action brawler that can be played solo or in a two-player co-op. Co-op play is completely untethered, which means one player can be on one side of the city and the other player on the completely opposite side without the game forcing them to be near each other. Co-op is also drop-in, drop-out, so the experience remains seamless and fun throughout. While it’s fun and beatable solo, in co-op, the game shines and becomes 10x more fun to play with you and your friend, trying different characters and builds and doing double takedowns on enemies. It just works.
The combat is your standard fare of light and heavy attacks and ranged and heavy ranged attacks. The thing that takes a little getting used to is that if you press the X or square button, you’ll hit a light attack, and if you hold it, you’ll hit a heavy attack, and the same goes for ranged and heavy ranged attacks being mapped to the Y or triangle button. This takes some practice; it’s not a weird choice, nor is it difficult to pull off; it just takes some getting used to it all. Other than that, the combat flows very well. Enemies are a little “bullet-spongey,” so to speak, and because of that, the combat can feel repetitive, but I digress. It can be a lot of fun. The combat truly shines when momentum abilities come into play. You unlock most of this by progressing through the game or completing challenges, and once you build enough momentum by landing hits, you can execute these moves. These moves are flashy, do good damage to your enemies, help you stun them or set them ablaze, and are definitely fun to play around with. The combat is designed around using your momentum abilities, so use them as you build momentum; otherwise, you’ll be just button-mashing, and it will take far too long to get rid of your enemies.
Traversal is also something that is interesting, to say the least. Each knight has a grappling hook that they use to zip around the city, and the way grappling works and feels in this game is something I really enjoy. They can also call in their Batcycle at any time, and while it looks cool, it just isn’t for me, chief. It’s slow and clunky, and it just doesn’t feel right. From what we have seen of the Batcycle in other media, this thing should be a speed demon zipping across Gotham, but here it’s just average at best. Don’t worry, though; there are other ways to traverse the city. Once you have progressed a bit in the game, you get the option to unlock the “Knighthood” tree for each character by doing a simple challenge and completing a few crimes across the city. Once you have unlocked the tree, you are greeted with a small cutscene, and you unlock the heroic traversal ability for your character. With those unlocked, Batgirl can glide. Nightwing uses a glider. Robin can teleport short distances, and Red Hood can make a mystical leap across the city. I like this a lot; the fact that each hero traverses Gotham in their own way adds to their character and personality even more. You do have to unlock these individually for each character, but it takes about 15 minutes, so it’s not a big deal.
Let’s talk about the skill tree a little. Without saying much about it, I’ll just tell you that the skill tree for each character here is awesome and definitely adds to and changes the way they feel and play. You share skill points, so don’t worry. If you have invested only in Red Hood and you decide to switch to Batgirl, then you’ll have the corresponding number of skill points available for her to invest in. There is a decent amount of build diversity that you can work with using the skill trees here, and all of your Knighthood skills can only be unlocked by completing challenges associated with them.
There is also crafting here, and it’s bad. Well, it’s not bad; it’s unneeded and unnecessary. Just craft the thing with the highest numbers next to them, and you’ll be fine. The good part of crafting comes when you can craft suits, and this is the one thing that needs to be universally praised for this game. The amount of suits you can unlock and craft for each character is commendable, with each suit being highly detailed and unique. You can even further customize those suits by changing the symbol, the cowl, the gloves, and so on, making your characters look more befitting to your tastes. All in all, the suit crafting is awesome, while the gear crafting is perhaps the most unnecessary thing in this game. It would have been fine if this game were a live-service title, but it isn’t, so what’s the point here? You gather crafting resources by beating up thugs and completing missions and don’t worry, you get plenty of them, so there shouldn’t be a need to grind later on.
Finally, they recently added a 4-player co-op mode called Heroic Assault that features 30 floors of combat arenas and is the endgame activity of sorts for this game. It’s challenging, and it’s fun, with 30 floors full of enemies for you and your friends to conquer. For a free addition? This game mode is awesome.
That pretty much covers the basics of the gameplay of “Gotham Knights.” It’s fun overall.
If it wasn’t obvious, Gotham City is your playground here, and it’s vast and gorgeous. The criticism it gets is that “it doesn’t feel like Gotham,” and truth be told, it completely does. If Gotham were a real city, I am sure it would look like how it’s portrayed in “Gotham Knights,” with its skyscrapers, streets covered in puddles, fog all over the city, and neon signs. This rendition is very neo-noir, and despite what anyone says, I freaking love it. The city is lifeless, though; that’s something that bothers me and is inexcusable. The city is also full of collectibles, Easter eggs, and some traversal challenges sprinkled throughout its five islands. The aesthetics here is really good and fitting of what Gotham City is like in the comics and even the movies. I’d cover more of the world of “Gotham Knights” separately, as, despite its emptiness, it deserves some attention and love.
The Technical Stuff
This is controversial as the game runs at 4K resolution but only at 30 fps, with no performance mode as an option on consoles. It uses raytraced reflections, and it does look and play well, especially after a series of patches, but in general, the package could’ve been so much better if only it had a 60-fps toggle. The sound design is actually good, the music is ominous, and despite some cringy dialogue, the voice acting is really well done. This game could’ve been so much better, but what we got in terms of its technical side is just fine. The game looks good but doesn’t look “next-gen,” and it definitely doesn’t play like a current-gen title. I also want to take a second here and say that the UI for this game is by far the worst UI I have ever seen in any video game. It’s so bad that it’s infuriating. Overall, “Gotham Knights” is a serviceable and slightly above-average package as a whole when it comes to the technical side of things, and I don’t wanna beat a dead horse here, so I’ll just move on from this section.
At this point, the general consensus for this game is that if you hate it, then you are cool. I strongly disagree and say that there is fun to be had here, and it’s a decent game. The combat is fun, the story is predictable but interesting (minus the ending), the world is empty but stunning in its own right, the characters are mostly well-written and acted, the music is fine and does its job, and this is overall a decent co-op superhero game set in the Batman universe that you can play right now. It’s definitely not worth $70, but if you can get it for $40 or below, then go for it; you will have a good time. “Gotham Knights” kind of left me disappointed, as I had high hopes for it, but to say that I got no enjoyment out of it would be me lying. I cannot, in good conscience, say that “Gotham Knights” is a bad game, but I also cannot recommend it to anyone at full price either. Check it out when it’s on sale, as there’s no rush to go and play this game right now at this very moment.