Gotham Knights Review (PS5) – The Capped Crusaders

Though it dazzles in cinematic trailers and 60fps PC footage, Gotham Knights’ sexy marketing spandex hides stretch marks. Beneath the cowl, on PS5, at least, it’s the very portrait of either overambition or imperfect technical know-how. Maybe even a curious Two-Face of both things combined.

This is the cold, hard truth from a critic who desperately wanted to adore it. An open-minded Rocksteady Studios fan, willing to wade through WB Montreal’s Prince-level obsession with purple, to accept The New Thing. Essentially, I granted Gotham Knights a reasonable amount of Arkham asylum (Ba Dum Tss – Ed)

Honestly, how could one not be keen for this fledgling to succeed? There’s a solid “diverse co-op posse replaces Batman” concept. And, hey, it’s been a 7-year drought for Bat-ventures.

Gotham Knights Review

Be that as it may, Gotham Knights’ technical flaws arrive early and hang around all Knight. Much like Clayface’s plot to ruin municipal waterworks with system-clogging smegma, this game has fluidity problems. Globs of performance and mechanical issues.

With regards to the former, parched PS5 owners are largely unimpressed with being forced to consume a 30fps-capped game. That said, only the thirstiest will be able to swallow the true reality here.

Gotham Knights’ frame rate is skippier than a TV show about a crime-solving kangaroo. Unsightly chugs bubble up everywhere. You’ll cop them in conversational moments when the camera’s in tight and no action is afoot. They often rear their head during sandbox traversal—be it grapple-hooking over rooftops, gliding over canals or commuting via batcycle.

Obviously, if there are too many goons on screen—interior arena or out on those mean streets—it’ll manifest as well. In the early game, it’s a manageable eyesore. However, if you’re end-gaming on any difficulty that needs you to nail “timed hit” damage bonuses, well, 25-30fps becomes a foe worse than the cameoing Harley Quinn, Penguin or Mr Freeze.

As a coping mechanism, I tried to imagine this technical flaw as an invisible, time-altering supervillain. I call him The PowerPointer. His M.O.: trip heroes up with random time-pauses which interrupt their valuable “perfect dodge” counterattacks. His origin story: dude fell into a vat of intermittent annoyance.

To make this situation even weirder, The PowerPointer exists in spite of (what sure looks like) a series of measures to stop him. He stalks us, even though the last-gen versions were scrapped to allow greater dev focus on PS5/XSX. None escape his wrath, even though a 4-hero story was weirdly constrained to 2-players max. The PowerPointer lives, even though sandbox detail is barely on par with a 2015-version Gotham. It also has all the pedestrians and traffic of a locked-out Sydney at 4 a.m.

As for a lack of mechanical fluidity, you need only look at the player-bogging stuff baked into the combat and gear systems. Specifically, forget any dreams you have of the intuitive, inventive and rhythmically flowing fisticuffs of Arkham Knight. In its place is a slower, floatier facsimile that no longer rewards consistency and skill.

Nope.

Sheer brute force and dodge-spam will serve you just fine here. You need simply hold-to-charge molasses slow projectile/melee heavy attacks. Now it’s a matter of building meters with impunity, then you’ll unleash one of four special moves via a shoulder button modifier.

Incidentally, if your selection was a projectile special, it may not aim to target reliably. Ten-to-fifteen seconds of meter-mash-earning may uselessly ping off in the wrong direction. Swear accordingly (especially if you needed it to disrupt a ninja enemy who evades all other attacks).

Repeat cycle.

Worse, this inferior combat is tied to a convoluted gear and levelling system. All the lite-RPG chestnuts come out: a befuddling array of currencies to collect, plus a glut of snap-in mods tied to elemental plus and minuses. There’s also the need to return to home base (and “end” a reward-stacking night patrol) for the honour of switching into yet another “numbers moar bigger” suit, gun or melee unlock.

Confusingly, you also have to end your night patrol to push a side mission along or even just to switch between Batgirl, Red Hood, Nightwing or Robin. To WB Montreal’s credit, that quartet are indeed worthy, nuanced individuals with very much their own powers/tactics/weight/personal story beats. There’s not a bad one in the bunch, honestly.

That said and not to WB Montreal’s credit, the suggestion that we can “just swap between them as you go” isn’t convenient. Yes, the three heroes you neglect will auto-level alongside your main (think: XP, perk points, story progress, mods and gear blueprints). But a bunch of key things do not translate.

Firstly, you have to bash out missions to unlock their fourth skill tree of potent ‘Knighthood’ perks. More annoyingly, you have to unlock each of their “hero traversal” options, even if your main has done so. In essence, the simple ability to glide (over pain-in-the-arse rivers) is locked behind far too much tedium, times four.

Speaking of making things convoluted—not-so-fast-travelling! Earning the right to map-hop doesn’t involve a daring outpost seizure or the skilful scaling of a tower, followed by a swan dive into a hay cart. GK’s take on this includes all the fun of sitting, paying attention, waiting patiently and scanning things. Drones in this case— slow-flying flocks of them that must be perved upon from just the right spot. Sometimes three times per spot before it unlocks.

This sort of needless grind is everywhere. So much so, you don’t have to be The World’s Greatest Detective to spot evidence of a games-as-a-service title that’s been forced to make a u-turn. Just a theory, of course. A wild, baseless hypothesis that includes a game called Marvel’s Avengers, plus its poor critical reception and abysmal sales.

But I digress, let’s finally cover the good to great things about this production. The narrative may have ‘twists’ you’ll see a mile off, but it’s still quite engaging for its 16-hour runtime. Every hero has a ton of self-centric cutscenes, too, which justifies three full NG+ replays. You can also bolster that with a bunch more hours of investigating side-quest chains tied to the aforementioned baddies.

I’m glad I took the time to sniff them out. But none of these diversions are as compelling as figuring out why [redacted] clipped the Bat. I also loved unravelling The Court of Owls, a bunch of non-pornographic Eyes Wide Shut types running beneath Batman’s radar.

Also, though it’s marred by The PowerPointer as well, 2-player co-op on Very Hard (yes it really was the best way to play – Ed) was fun with a mate. Wading into mobs of the mob is gratifying, thanks to the ability to grab, hurl and tag-team K.O. between yourselves. Likewise, coordinating stealth strikes on Owls is a hoot, too. Lastly, props to the devs for allowing one hero to go loud as another goes quiet in the same vicinity.

Sadly, however, those two positives— a solid yarn and bustin’ heads with a bud— aren’t enough to save Gotham Knights.

It’s graphically underwhelming on a macro level, and also in the context of current-gen competitors or spiritual predecessors. A frame rate that’s more schizophrenic than the Joker obviously doesn’t improve things.

Furthermore—like the moment when a sweary punk rendition of Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ just layers in out of bloody nowhere—bizarre decisions abound. Even if this game was patched to not lose frames more frequently than Gotham’s henchmen do teeth, it’d be fundamentally grindy.

Literally and figuratively, Gotham Knights concerns a new generation fighting to get out from under the shadow of a legend. In that quest to stand apart, however, this less seasoned team jettisons too many time-proven techniques and teachings from the master.

End result: a certain level of competence and success, but also needless inelegance and iffy execution. Basically, Gotham Knights got pushed out of the belfry when it was only barely, kinda, sorta ready to fly.


Gotham Knights was reviewed on PS5 using two codes provided by PLAION and Warner Bros.

Gotham Knights
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Pros
Intriguing Court of Owls mystery
Likable, distinct heroes versus interesting foes
Co-op with a like-minded vigilante is cool
No microtransactions, but a tight skin game
Cons
Consistently unreliable frame rate
Combat is a step backward from the Arkham franchise
Grindy systems shoehorned in
Dull, easily solved or skipped puzzling
Livin' La Vida Loca
6.5
Overall
Adam Mathew
Adam Mathew
I grew up knowing and loving a ludicrous amount of games, from dedicated Pong console onwards. Nowadays you'll find me covering and playing the next big things. Often on Stupid-Hard difficulty. Because I'm an idiot.

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