Reviews for Warner Bros. first Batman game since 2015’s Arkham Knight dropped today, and they are not reassuring. While a few critics like Gotham Knights just fine, many are underwhelmed by its story, bored with its repetitive missions, and report issues with framerate drops and other aspects of the game’s performance. It sounds like the loot-centric multiplayer brawler is middling at best, a major disappointment after such a long wait.
USA Today called Gotham Knights a content “checklist,” while Gamesradar accused it of not knowing what it wants to be. “For all its potential, the game falls flat,” reported NPR. IGN gave it a five out of 10, and Gamespot gave it a four. The Metacritic score currently sits at 69, with Digital Foundry’s John Linneman tweeting that the game doesn’t look nearly as good as Rocksteady’s seven-year old Arkham Knight. While some critics praised the story, the button-mashing in-between seems like a real chore.
Out October 21 on PlayStation5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, Warner Bros. Montreal’s Gotham Knights follows Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood as they attempt to maintain order amidt the chaos after a terrorist plot by the Court of Owls kills Bruce Wayne. Unlike the Arkham games which focused on exploration, stealth puzzles, and a Metroidvania-like arsenal of gadgets, Gotham Knights is primarily combat focused, with players teaming up to grind out missions that progress the story and unlock better gear. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like the pivot to co-op mission grinding quite paid off.
Here’s what Gotham Knights reviews are saying:
But then, as I played it for 30 hours, it just kept hitting me with bad news: WHAM! Underwhelming combat. POW! A weak, predictable story. BIFF! Puzzling progression design choices. THWACK! Sub-30 frame rates. I’m left wondering how it went so wrong. Some good parts manage to shine through, like the impressive open-world Gotham sandbox, but its problems never let me enjoy the moment-to-moment crime fighting nearly as much as Bat-family fans deserve.
Then, of course, Freeze got away, and the only way to continue the open case was to roam the open world map, find Regulators committing crimes, and interrogate them to find Freeze’s next location. This revealed new missions, and sometimes big heists or kidnappings, that my hero had to resolve while tracking down the big bad cold guy. This is the wax and wane of the game, and it flows in a way that I personally find more engaging than the similar structures that have appeared in games like 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Here, it feels like real Batman stuff—like you’re hitting the streets and coming back with hard data about the supervillains piloting ice mechs in a bid to control the weather.
But past conventions overwhelm the new tone. The Knights may criticize the way the police act in Gotham, but they don’t ever interrogate policing in a coherent way. Moreover, the Knights can’t get away from the Bat-shaped shadow of their fallen mentor. Even though Batman may be dead, no one can stop talking about him. And by the time it felt like the new kids’ own stories were about to begin, the main plot was over.
There’s a compelling game in Gotham Knights, but it’s hidden away behind a messy UX, needless crafting and customization systems, and combat mechanics that have been stretched paper thin to accommodate four heroes. I do believe that WB Games Montreal is capable of greatness, but this isn’t the game that Gotham deserves after the death of Bruce Wayne, and it’s not the one it needs right now
Instead of having a diverse toolkit at your disposal, the majority of your offense in Gotham Knights is restricted to basic melee strikes tied to one button input. Sure, you can press another button for ranged attacks, but if an enemy is up-close (which is often the case), you really don’t have a lot to work with, even after acquiring upgrades. The Arkham games make liberal use of the controller’s buttons, encouraging you to experiment with different gadgets and attacks. Gotham Knights, on the other hand, doubles down on unnecessary gear systems and RPG mechanics that do nothing to mitigate the sluggish button-mashing combat.
Warner Bros. Montreal deserves significant praise for its approach to two-person cooperative play. The drop-in, drop-out experience is seamless and enjoyable, readily adjusting difficulty so that both players are on par. Players can work in tandem in a single fight or range far across the city from one another—without a hitch. It’s a multiplayer system that works so smoothly that you won’t notice any complications beyond the chance to beat up some bad guys with a buddy—and that’s as it should be.
Gotham Knights is a great cast, iconic villains and solid writing undermined at every turn by lackluster combat, terrible enemy design, a redundant gear system and an open world structure hell-bent on grinding your enjoyment to a halt.
Interior areas ran much better, but considering the bulk of the game has you sifting through the city, it was a pain to have to manage frame drops without falling off a perch and alerting an entire group of enemies. I also experienced a handful of crashes when I entered story missions and the Belfry, but they largely cleared up after upgrading to the latest Nvidia drivers and restarting my PC. Other PC Gamer staff reported framerate issues as well at 1080p. None of my issues made the game unplayable, but it’s concerning for players with lesser hardware, and made an early chunk of the game a pain to play as I adjusted settings.
There’s even a peculiar lack of endgame content. Normally these loot-centric games are built on the long haul, but here the game has all the markings of a loot grind without any purpose to perform it. If my gear is good enough to beat the final boss—and it was—then what incentive do I have to keep playing to improve that gear? I suspect the forthcoming four-player co-op Heroic Assault mode launching in late November may better answer this question, but waiting five weeks to go back to a game that isn’t very good in the first place isn’t in my plans.
And that might, honestly, be enough. I often found myself frustrated, in the 40 hours or so I’ve spent with it, with the decisions that ˆ makes. (Really, WB Games Montréal? You’re going to bring out not just one, but two boss battles with Mister Freeze—whose Arkham City incarnation is still a regular on lists of “Best Boss Battles Of All Time”—and have them be such dull, Video Games 101 slogs?) But all these unforced errors are being applied to a framework that’s so solid that it’s still hard not to have fun with it for a decent proportion of the time. The worst thing you can say about the game, really, is that in reviewing it, I’ve been unable to avoid mentioning what’s ostensibly a whole separate series of video games in pretty much every paragraph. That’s how beholden the good in Gotham Knights is to Rocksteady’s work—but that good is still present, nevertheless.