Games come in all shapes and sizes. Some games are given love, some, not so much. Most importantly (to me), some games have direction and some do not. With Gotham Knights, you can tell there were certain directions they chose to go with and everything in the game focuses around that. Are there things we wish could be in the game? Sure. However, does the lack of those details hurt the game? Let’s find out.
Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room. 30FPS fixed framerate on consoles; a lack of player choice in the graphical sense. Where do you feel this the most? Grappling. The moments you zip line / grapple to another location you can feel that 30 FPS instead of 60 FPS. Other than that, I’ve not found anything that lags, stutters, or pauses throughout my time in Gotham, and there’s a lot of Gotham. The 30 FPS cap is so that co-op is more streamlined and smooth. This conscious choice by the creators makes it easier for me to overlook the fixed frame rate and lack of player choice when it comes to the graphical settings. I understand this can be a dealbreaker for some, but in my 19 hours with Gotham Knights, I can’t say it was a problem for me. All of that stated, the remainder of this review is going to focus on gameplay, characters, and story, and good golly Batman, there are a lot of characters in this game.
The game starts with a literal bang. I don’t want to spoil anything during the scene, but we’ve all seen the trailer. Batman is dead. During Gotham Knights, you have at your disposal four of the most iconic characters in the DC universe; Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Robin. Each one is unique and directly reflects their time and training with Batman. Nightwing is the acrobatics, Batgirl is the technology, Red Hood is the brute strength, and Robin is the detective. Each one also represents Batman in an emotional way as you’ll see as you play through Gotham Knights.
Something that really stood out to me is the number of “sweet” conversations. In an open world full of rain, crime, and darkness, you have these moments of pure candor from the characters either with each other or with Alfred. One of the first ones you can get in the Belfry is between Dick and Jason (Nightwing and Red Hood) where they’re preparing food and Dick remembers a memory of cooking with Bruce (Batman). Jason doesn’t remember, ya know, due to the whole being dead for a year thing and gets a tad irritated. Dick then apologizes saying that he shouldn’t have made Jason feel like an outsider. It was a sweet moment and as a fan of DC comics myself, it was nice to see that the developers really took time to truly understand the characters they were writing.
Another sad but touching character is Alfred. In the Batman universe Alfred is always the one who cares the most about the heroes. He patches them up when they’re hurt, brings them tea or coffee when they’ve been up working a case, and helps keep their identities secret. However, in Gotham Knights, with Batman gone, Alfred feels the profound weight of his perceived failure. He’s a little sadder than we might be used to, but it doesn’t take away his spirit. He’s there for the Knights and anything they need. The characters may drive the narrative, but moments with Alfred create the buy-in from the player. With how strong these relationships are between characters and the clear need to figure out the cases in front of them, I believe Gotham Knights has the roster to achieve that.
From iconic characters such as the Penguin, Harley Quinn, and Doctor Freeze, the headliners are the Court of Owls – the super rich who want to control all of Gotham. They have power, they have favor, and now with Batman gone, they want to control the entire city. Batman was onto something, and your job is to figure out what it was, how specific other villains are involved, and what ended up being the case that got Batman killed. Each story mission really does have a fun ending, either through combat, puzzles, or a conveyor belt trap trying to kill you. This is a classic Batman story, through and through. There’s nothing negative about that statement. Sometimes classic is what you need for the experience to work. While there are some twists and turns along the way, it’s a good ole Batman story, only this time starring the Bat Family and not Batman. Plus, it makes sense for Nightwing to be a part of the Court of Owls story arc depending on which DC continuity you’re following, comic book wise. Since this review comes out before launch, I don’t want to add too many spoilers, so we’ll leave the story to you.
There are also several smaller Challenge missions that you can do in Gotham Knights, including Momentum Ability (Challenges to unlock Momentum Abilities – which power your character’s special abilities), Knighthood (“Knighthood” status gives you one of the coolest costumes in the game ), Contacts (provides bonuses in Gotham City for helping the citizens) , Harley Quinn missions, Training Missions, Crafting Missions, and Collectibles to find all over Gotham. Each one is different in its own way and worth doing since most of them give you experience or opportunities to level up your characters.
Given we’re on the topic of missions, let’s talk about progression. As you gain XP, you gain levels, and for every level you gain an AP point that can be used to get new skills in the skill tree. As you might expect, the better the skill, the more AP points. My favorite skill took three points but allows Nightwing to continuously avoid gunfire by doing backflips, somersaults, and more in order to avoid damage. Each character has their own completely unique skill tree, encouraging you to play through again with a new character. When they are this different, it might just be worth a revisit. You’ll be able to change freely between heroes in the Belfry in between missions.
Throughout my time running through missions, I was also given chances to craft new costumes with the parts you gather from the boxes during missions, from enemies, and from finishing missions. While you can use the costumes you craft, you can also use the “style” section of your character menu to overlay the costume you like the most. Finally, there are no microtransactions, which is a win. While there are a few suits that are locked by either progression or challenges, I was surprised by the amount of costumes I could craft just by playing through the game. Each of the costumes are quite fun to go through, with each one being customizable in their own way. While there are some moments where a costume piece clips into another piece, having such a wide range of costume customization is worth the small complaint.
The skill trees are standard, but unique for each character. During my playthrough, I mostly played as Nightwing. I really loved the acrobat skill tree which allowed you to add momentum bars and chain evade movements. This is how I’ve always imagined how Nightwing would fight. The developers really put in time to understand the Knights as a whole. Each one is extremely unique and their skill trees showcase that. Similarly, you’ll see the same character interactions differ depending on which character you are playing, some of them in a wildly different way. It’s a cool nod to just how much the WB Games Montreal team loves these characters.
Something I really love about Gotham Knights is the score. They’ve done a great job blending different styles of music to fit different situations. While fighting the Freaks (one of the main gangs in Gotham) you have more rock and roll music playing from their speakers. Meanwhile, when doing a mission versus someone like Penguin you’ll probably hear more of a “normal” Batman style score. One of the early missions includes a Harley Quinn mission in which you’re chasing something and leads to a big fight. During that fight, a Pop-Punk version of Livin’ la Vida Loca. While it’s not the normal score, it’s a nice touch and again shows they understand the general vibes of the rogues gallery and Gotham in general.
Gotham is giant. It feels very similar to the way the map feels in the Spider-Man / Miles Morales games we’ve had in the past few years. Each section has their own gangs, iconic buildings, and lots of side missions. When you leave the Belfry for the night, you’ll open up the full Gotham experience. During that time, I’ve never hit a pause or a stutter as the world loads. During my time with the game I never waited more than five seconds on the PS5 before it was ready to go. You really feel like you can drive from one side of Gotham to the other with nothing in your way.
There are a few ways to traverse Gotham. On foot and by rooftop is always fun and iconic, and with some of our more dexterous heroes it feels a lot like Assassin’s Creed’s free running. You also have the Bat Cycle, which has been my favorite way to travel. It’s a SIGNIFICANT upgrade from the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight. While there are some missions that rely on the bike, it’s nothing as tedious as that opening mission for Arkham Knight. You can also do some neat tricks with the bike including wheelieing onto a bridge arch, zipping in between traffic, riding through buildings, ramping off staircases, and more. While I did try to drive on the train tracks, I couldn’t find a way to get it up there, though I’m sure people will find a way.
Another way to travel is by the new glider. Thank goodness for Mr. Fox, who always makes things easier. It’s a quick way to open fast travel spots for our heroes so you’re not running around wildly, especially if you’re in a rush. While I like the bike most of all, there are lots of ways to travel across this beautifully created city.
Speaking of, one of the best parts of my experience playing with Gotham Knights so far was teaming up with our Lead Editor David Burdette for some Co-Op. Let me take you through the steps we had to do in order to play together. We booted up the game. I went to the social menu. I clicked on David’s name, I hit square, and I joined his game. I was then greeted as Nightwing (who I chose in my server) by Robin (who David was playing as in his server). It was a cool little moment of “oh, that worked, and it was so easy.” Given how many games have been a chore to play cooperatively, it’s great when it’s as seamless as it is here.
Partnered up, we ran to the door and left the Belfry. The entirety of Gotham lie ahead of us. We found the nearest crime and ran up to see how it would work with co-op. Turns out, it’s absolutely flawless. There was never a lag spike or a stuttering during our two and a half hours of playing together. It makes the 30 FPS trade-off worth it since we got some really cool moments together, stopping crime and being superheroes. There was even a moment where I saw a bad guy about to hit David and I yelled “Robin, behind you!” David performed a dodge to not take damage and then used a finisher to get that guy out of the way.
Another cool feature is the “team-up” mechanic. When you get a bad guy held, you can hit X (on PS5) to trigger the Team-Up ability. If your partner hits X as well you perform a cool Team-Up attack which is always way cooler than it should be. Since the game supports a full customization system, using costumes you earn by playing the game on your own, playing with friends, or crafting (for some of the costumes), you’ll also appreciate that you can also see the costumes you’ve both chosen while running around in Gotham. My time with co-op was an absolute blast, and I can’t wait to do more.
There was a negative part of co-op that I do wish could be changed somehow, and that’s a lack of cross-progression. I joined David’s server, we did a full mission, and when I returned to my server I had to do the mission again myself. I wish there had been an option to skip the story if I had played through it with a friend, however, that was not the case. I was able to get the mission rewards for playing through it in co-op, but not the progression. A small complaint, but one that needs to be discussed, especially with the foundation of the game being cooperative play. While I understand it’s not as simple as it might sound, it would be nice to be able to play the whole game co-op and everyone progress together.
Our Editor in Chief Ron Burke spent a few hours with the PC version of the game, and has provided nearly 30 minutes of analysis of Gotham Knights running on an RTX 4090. Rather than just simply benchmarking it, he looks at each setting, how they might affect framerate or visual quality, and showcases some of the ways they impact framerates out in the world – there is no 30 FPS lock here. You can find that video below.
Gotham Knights is ultimately a love letter to fans like me, delivering a wonderful experience whether you play the game solo or with a friend. The standout performances from the cast, the engaging story, and the varied ways to play makes it a must have for any Bat-Fan.
Gotham Knights is filled to the brim with character and nods to the Bat-Family. While the locked-in 30 FPS might be a dealbreaker for some, the flawless co-op experience Gotham Knights provides is an amazing time for those who want to fight crime with friends. A fully immersive Gotham City for you to travel in your way, either straight through the story, or complete every side mission you can; your time in Gotham is up to you.