The Batman IP clearly isn’t going anywhere. While Arkham Knight might have been the end of what we know of as the Arkham trilogy in the Batman universe, and with that the end of a certain era of Batman games in a sense, it doesn’t look like WB games is even close to done with that world, as WB Montreal’s Gotham Knights is looking to exist in DC universe with a similar look and feel as the Arkham games yet, the same time, start its own thread of it with a bit of a shift of emphasis on to different characters and a different type of game that’s certainly has a shot that not only keeping the iconic DC IP alive and thriving, but also planting a new flag in a slightly different action sub-genre with Gotham Knights.
One thing that fans of the Arkham games will definitely notice is the darker grittier look to Gotham Knights that the Arkham games had in spades. Gotham Knights does seem to be taking its foot off the pedal a little bit in that regard, with splashes of color here in there that livened things up a bit, but overall, it looks pretty similar, and the moment-to-moment gameplay seems to follow suit as well. Whether or not this will amount to something that feels a little too safe or something that feels comfortably familiar will probably depend on the player, but I think at this point we have more reason to think Warner Bros Montreal knows what they’re doing than not.
The city looks big and populated as driving around on the streets of Gotham looks as chaotic as it should people running out of the way and trash floating about the city. Moment-to-moment combat also should look familiar with the systems that the original Arkham game pioneered in polished off well before. Again though, it does look like they know not to play it too safe with the systems of the Arkham games as there are lots of different attacks and styles that can be utilized depending on the character that you play which gracefully leads me to my next point- multiple characters.
This is definitely one of Gotham Knights strongest elements. In this game you can play Batgirl, Robin, Red Hood, and Nightwing, and take advantage of all of their various styles and unique abilities. A nice dose of icing on top of that cake is that you can play through the main campaign either solo or co-op with somebody else. I’m not sure which element I like better the ability to play so many characters and give the game four distinct flavors, or the fact that you can do the whole thing with somebody else that alters the combat and makes missions that much more fun. I’m glad that both of these elements exist in the game though because it not only sets it apart from the Arkham games stylistically but also creates a unique experience from the narrative action adventure genre entirely that we rarely see.
When the game does co-op right it can greatly enhance the experience and add untold amounts of replayability. Some games (like Dead Space 3) certainly had their issues, but we’re made exponentially more fun with the addition of thoughtful co-op modes that didn’t just plop multiple characters in the same situation, but rather allow the addition of multiple players to create a different shade of the same experience that could either enhance the main playthrough or add value in making multiple playthroughs of the same campaign. Gotham Knights seems to have a handle on this in a way that, say, the recent Avengers game somewhat missed the mark on. Here there are finishing moves that can only be performed with two people playing together.
Boss battles change dynamically with the types of attacks that a character like Mr. Freeze might use depending on how many players are attacking him and even what levels they are, which definitely speaks to the attention to detail that Warner Bros Montreal is seemingly giving this game. While this could very well be experienced in a similar way to how the Arkham games were, and there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that if that’s how you wanted to play it, to have these options of introducing another character to your campaign or playing it with different heroes introduces a nice depth to experience that the previous Arkham games and other action games similar to this just don’t seem to have.
Another element that definitely seems to be in line with our expectations of this IP at this point is the overall look of the game. Now I definitely touched on the aesthetic similarities earlier but I’m actually talking about just overall graphics and detail right now. Most of the footage that we’ve seen so far is, according to Montreal, pre-alpha footage. So while some of the faces might look a little soft, and some of the special effects perhaps a little flat, I think for pre-alpha footage this is looking pretty nice and definitely up to snuff with that least Arkham Knight on last-gen consoles.
It’s also reasonable to assume that because of all of the different characters, how big and full Gotham City is going to be this time around, and the addition of online co-op, there is a possibility that the general fidelity of the graphics could take a hit in the final form of the game. We’ll have to wait and see on that obviously, but even if that is the case, I think given everything that’s going to be in this game that’s probably something that will ultimately be forgivable, especially if the game runs well and delivers on its promises on a large, dynamic, expansive, and replayable adventure into this universe.
Whether Gotham Knights ends up out doing the Arkham games is something that will likely come down to your personal taste. If the best part of the Arkham games for you was the grittier more centralized single player story, then Gotham Knights might not totally eclipse that for you. It doesn’t look like Gotham Knights is reinventing the wheel when it comes to stories in the Batman universe. But at the same time the good news is it seems like it will at the very least keep pace with the Arkham games with a story that honors them and doesn’t shy away from its gameplay connections to those games.
On the flip side of that though, if the Arkham games’ dynamic combat and mission variety were what kept you coming back, then Gotham Knights should be a pretty easy sell for you, as it’s looking like it’s going to have all of what those games offered and more, especially considering that you can have several different flavors of it and share it with a friend. There’s a lot to like about what we know so far of Gotham Knights. From the healthy change of pace from the Arkham universe in some areas, to the continuation of it in others, it’s looking like Gotham Knights is on the right track to be one of the better games in the series, and at the very least one of the biggest games of this year.
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