A good way to judge a Batman game is with the Freebird rule. No, this is not the same Freebird rule that is a fixture in tag team wrestling. Rather, this is where the quality of the fighting gameplay is judged by how cool they feel when accompanied by the song ‘Freebird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd, much like the famous scene from the first Kingsman movie where Colin Firth beats up a church full of feral bigots. I hate to report that Gotham Knights does not follow this rule.
If you have read my retrospective on the Arkham games then you understand my position on how high the bar Rocksteady set is. However, this recent entry into the archive of Batman video games falls short of achieving the same sort of experiences that were intrinsic to the Arkham Saga.
The best way I can describe this game would be Shadow of Mordor if Sauron was replaced with Batman’s ghost. A lot of the gameplay feels the same without a lot of the atmosphere that exploring middle earth provides. No matter what you do in Gotham Knights, it ends up feeling considerably slower in order to account for the online co-op capabilities.
When I first started Gotham Knights, I was surprised at how buggy the game was. It has since gotten less buggy with game patches but it still feels hollow. I managed to beat the game in roughly four nights. In contrast, it took me three weeks to complete each Arkham game, simply because i didn’t want it to be over. The side quests featuring Batman’s Rogues are over as soon as they started to grip me and always felt anticlimactic.
Having only three recognisable villains to pursue while you’re able to explore all of Gotham City with your friends seems to be such wasted potential. Maybe they are planning to add more in future DLC, however with a price tag that’s already £70 with a £20 costume pack to make the characters look how they do in the comics, it’s essentially daylight robbery to ask for more money for something that other Batman games included in the base price.
One of the major selling points for the game, much like Arkham Knight, was the ability to drive a Bat Vehicle. However, unlike Arkham Knight, the execution is really poor, the Batcycle is simply a way to get around quickly but it always feels a lot slower than just grappling from each rooftop so is ultimately pointless. The other method of transportation changes for each character, flying trapeze for Nightwing, mystical leap for Red Hood, weird teleportation for Robin and gliding for Batgirl. However all of these, bar Batgirl, are needlessly tedious and as such are unnecessary for doing anything.
Robin’s Slideways ability is a pain because the teleport area selector moves at a snail’s pace so it essentially makes it redundant for going anywhere and makes stealth missions far too easy to be enjoyable. One part of the game involving clayface and the Batcycle proves how unimaginative the gameplay truly is.
The combat is the most unforgivable part of the game. The removal of the counter function in place of a dodge removes the same flow that was so enjoyable in other Batman games. The inclusion of a levelling up system, similar to games like Shadow of Mordor, removes any sort of challenges from the fights because if you do enough fights, which the game rewards you for doing, the fights become insanely easy and very boring.
The best parts of the game are the graphics and performances by the voice cast, but the decision to make Talia al Ghul speak with a British accent is quite baffling since she’s not a British character. The story is quite gripping due to the Court of Owls making their first video game appearance. However, it is let down by the disappointing final boss that interprets increased difficulty as being longer than previous boss fights.
In summary, I had hope for this game being on the same level as the Arkham Saga, however the myriad of clunky mechanics and overall lack of content in place of boring repetitive fights and investigations makes this the worst Batman-themed game I have ever played – although it is not quite the worst game I have ever played.