Before going into Gotham Knights, I was already under the impression that this would be a polarizing game to cover. Perhaps it began with Warner Bros shooting themselves in the foot by admitting that the console versions would be locked to 30 fps on a Discord server nonetheless. While they claim it's due to the integration of "untethered co-op," the fact that this was revealed on a public forum than an official press statement was baffling. However, this was the main criticism I've seen from the title as it was shaping up to be an interesting one by default.
Rather than playing as the Caped Crusader, you play as one of four of his proteges, with a seamless transition to online from offline. Players can join with three others as they take on crimes and help restore peace to Gotham City. While the city was never known for its pristine reputation, the city has seen far better days in the past. I suppose this is what happens when Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne are both dead.
The death of Batman, or any major superhero for that matter, is not the most uncommon angle but the opening cutscene for Gotham Knights has a certain feel to it. The game opens with Batman fighting his assailant, Ra's al Ghul, who is arguable to Batman as Darkseid is to Superman. Meeting his match, Batman leaves off with the ultimate gambit; Blowing up the Batcave and everything with it, including himself.
His death sends a distress signal to his closest confidants, leaving a video on what to do next following his death. The quartet who receives the signal are Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. Better known to the public as Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, and Robin respectively. The first mission, which doubles as the tutorial, features the group attempting to figure out the connections Ra's had with Batman and what would become Batman's final case.
It's like Death Note, where L dies, but his mission lives with several people he entrusts to see to the end. Replace Mello and Near with Bat's proteges and partners, however, and it's a reasonable cast of characters. You have Dick, who Bruce treated as a son better than his son. Babs, who I swear to this day is Bruce's "niece" since Jim and Bruce were like brothers to each other.
Jason Todd and Batman routinely collaborated with each other and Tim Drake is a part of the "new blood." I suppose having Damien Wayne join the cast of characters would be too much. Imagine having your grandfather murder the person you dislike the most and having to pick up the pieces from there.
In the beginning, you're asked to choose a character of the four. That character will be the one you'll play through the first few missions although after the prologue you can switch to anyone accordingly. Each character plays differently from the other although the core gameplay is similar across the four.
Nightwing is the closest to playing like "Batman," with fast hard-hitting combos and the ability to get in and out of harm's way. Robin's abilities involve stealth and discreetly eliminating his enemies without drawing attention to himself. Red Hood is the muscle of the group as well as the marksman. Finally, Batgirl is the wiz kid, using her gadgetry to help take a hit as well as dish one out twice as hard.
Playing on the Xbox Series X, the "30 FPS cap" is definitely felt in outside cluttered areas. The city is bustling with pedestrians and traffic, but at times it feels like it's too much going on and it causes a framerate stutter. It's manageable, but for antisocial people like myself who prefer playing alone, it can get annoying. Indoors, the gameplay is smooth and it gives the player a choice on how to handle it. Some may opt for the stealth approach while others may want to go in loud.
Gotham Knights give players the illusion of choice when it comes to missions involving the GCPD. The game not only encourages you to avoid fighting the police as they are stronger and will outnumber you, but you gain zero rewards and XP for fighting them. I understand the incentive is to be a "goody two-shoes" and fight criminal organizations, but it also eliminates the "fight or flight" option as the option will always be "flight" when it comes to the boys in blue.
So far, it's too early to say if the negative traits affect the overall thought of Arkham Knights as there's a fully explorable Gotham City to glide and zip around. Crimes are there to be stopped much like there is in Marvel's Spider-Man. Whether or not this can be considered "DC's 'Spider-Man'" is too early to tell. Anyone who knows my thoughts on these things by now knows that I'm always one to give things a fair shot. I may end up liking the game more than the general populace, who knows?
Arkham Knights is now available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5.