Gotham Knights review for PS5, Xbox Series X, PC

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, Xbox Series X
Publisher: Warner Bros. Games
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

My whole time playing Gotham Knights I tried to keep reminding myself the same thing over and over again: ?This isn?t a terrible game. This isn?t a terrible game. This isn?t a terrible game.?

That?s not to say it?s a good game, mind you. In fact, if I?m being completely honest, I kind of hated it. But looking at Gotham Knights objectively, I?ve definitely played worse games, and it generally works as it should, so that has to count for something.

But it doesn?t count for much. ?It doesn?t crash!? is a basic standard of competence, not an ingredient for game of the year contender. Add on top of that the fact that the way that it works is incredibly boring and mediocre in every way imaginable, and you have a recipe for a game that falls far, far short of the standard set by the Arkham series.

Admittedly, that?s a pretty high bar to have to clear, and it?s one that not many games would match. But seeing as Gotham Knights was made by WB Games Montreal, who had a hand in creating one of those Arkham games, you?d think that at least some of the magic from that series would be present here. But it?s not.

Of course, the Arkham game that WB Games Montreal were responsible for was Arkham Origins, which is by far the weakest of the four (at least as far as I?m concerned), so maybe it shouldn?t be a huge surprise that Gotham Knights is so middling. But Arkham Origins was still solid, and I?ve played it again recently enough that I can state confidently that Gotham Knights doesn?t even live up to that game, let alone the others.

What makes Gotham Knights so dull? A lot of the problems stem from the premise: it?s a Batman game without Batman, for the most part. Set in a world where Ra’s al Ghul has seemingly killed Bruce Wayne, you play as one of four members of the Bat-family: Batgirl, Robin, Red Hood, or Nightwing. All of them are trying ? and failing ? to fill Batman?s shoes, and their lack of success is obvious not just in the story, but also in the game.

You can take any of the component parts of the Arkham games, and look at how they?re adapted here, and you see a pale imitation. Take Detective Mode, for example: it?s an invaluable tool in the Arkham games, and it helps Batman uncover all the secrets Gotham has to hold. In Gotham Knights, it becomes AR mode, and it just feels off. You don?t see through walls as well, and there aren?t as many interesting secrets to discover, and it just generally feels like a weak imitation of one of the best parts of the Arkham games.

Similarly, the combat in Gotham Knights never feels anywhere near as smooth or fluid as it does in the Arkham games. You can chain together combos, sure, and you have different weapons depending on which characters you choose, but you never get the same visceral rush from shooting someone as Red Hood or slapping someone with a bo staff as Robin as you would from using your fists (and cape, and other bat-gadgets) when you play as Batman. Couple that with the fact that nearly all of the missions and side quests here consist of ?Go to point A, beat everyone up?, and you can see why the game quickly feels so much like a chore.

It should come as no surprise that traversing around Gotham isn?t anywhere near as fun in Gotham Knights, either. I never realized how much fun it was to swoop around with that massive cape until I found myself at the top of tall buildings in this game, and my main option for getting around was to fire grappling hooks from place to place. It?s nowhere near as smooth, and it?s hard to feel like you?re instilling fear in the hearts of evildoers with a rope and a hook. Your other option is zip around on the Batcycle, but it, too, feels like a pale imitation of the Batmobile. It feels weak and underpowered, and after an initial burst of speed it always feels like you?re just coasting along. One time I tried taking a shortcut through a pedestrian walkway, only to find myself stuck on a plastic-looking table in front of a cafe.

What?s worse, the more of Gotham you see, the more same-y all of it feels. You?ll run into the same bad guys doing the same things everywhere you go, and even after you clear them out from someplace, it?s not uncommon to return and find the same villains doing the same crimes the next night. I mean, it certainly makes it easy to earn all kinds of XP, but it makes the game feel very repetitive in a way that you never got in the Arkham games. What makes it even worse is that this version of Gotham is absolutely massive, but it none of the city?s many neighbourhoods feel all that distinctive from each other.

It probably doesn?t help that the art style is so bland. There?s lots of neon and lens flare happening everywhere you look, and while that undoubtedly sets the game apart from the grim and grimy world of Arkham, it also strips Gotham of much of its personality. It feels too often like you?re playing a game that just decided to slap on the Batman branding and names on something else entirely.

In fact, that may be Gotham Knights? most egregious crime: it feels like a cutrate, cosplay version of Batman and of the Arkham series. Nothing here is original, and everything feels like it?s striving ? and failing ? to emulate much, much better games. There?s an argument to be made, I guess, that if you stop thinking about it as a Batman game and just judge it on its own merits, it?s not half-bad ? but even if you do that, you?re still left with the reality that the game that doesn?t come anywhere near matching up to what the genre is capable of. This is a mediocre game through and through, and Batman branding or no, it?s not really worth your time.

Warner Bros. Games provided us with a Gotham Knights PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C-