The Gotham Knights gameplay trailer shows both promise and problems

Gotham Knights just gifted us with 13 minutes of gameplay footage showing how WB Montreal is iterating on the superhero genre. The footage focuses on Nightwing and Red Hood and their unique combat kits. We get to see some co-op play in action and the game’s RPG elements, too. Best of all, we get a good look at the sprawling, free roam-able Gotham City sheathed in moody smoke and the heroes’ center of operations, the Belfry.

Seeing Nightwing and Red Hood’s combat, however, it’s clear that the latter seems a bit out of place both mechanically and stylistically, and that the combat animations themselves look a bit stiff. Considering Gotham Knights just announced it’s forgoing a release for Xbox One and PS4 to “provide players with the best possible gameplay experience,” here’s hoping that these sorts of things get tightened up before its October 25 release date. 

Dynamic duo

Gotham Knights gameplay trailer

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Games)

With Arkham Knight seven years in the past, and Marvel’s Avengers leaving a bad taste in the mouths of superhero game fans, Gotham Knights is under a lot of pressure to deliver a fun, fresh take.. Co-op is a bold way to introduce some spice to the formula, and in the footage, it’s clear that Gotham Knights is well-suited for two-player fun – although until this point, it wasn’t clear if four-player co-op would be an option or not (it’s not).

We see the heroes fight side-by-side on a rooftop, disposing of bad guys with acrobatics (Nightwing) and “non-lethal” gunfire (Red Hood). After the two take turns separately beating on dudes, they queue up a co-op move clearly triggered by some type of prompt. Red Hood grabs a heavy enemy from behind and holds him in place before pistol-whipping him a few times. As the heavy enemy staggers back, Nightwing springboards off his chest, flips gracefully in the air over his head and comes down with two feet squarely on the dude’s skull. “Holy perfect attack, Nightwing,” he boasts as he lands. 

Gotham Knights is supposed to offer free-roam co-op play with seamless drop-in and drop-out, so when the gameplay switches to show us what Red Hood is up to, it’s safe to assume the player controlling Nightwing could still be in that game session. And with the sprawling map of Gotham City on display, my mind automatically goes to the possibilities here: you could drop into your friend’s game, hop on the Batcycle (which all heroes have access to), and zip down to the southside of Gotham to beat up on a few robbers while your co-op partner is on the other side of town chasing down a runaway vehicle. 

This could easily become a new favorite game to hop on with your bestie, especially if you’re voice chatting during your play sessions – you can coordinate where to meet up after separate mini-missions, talk shit in tandem, and support each other in difficult fights. Gotham Knights could be a serious gamechanger with this spin on the superhero game – but its co-op gameplay can only be as good as its combat.

Combat awareness 

Gotham Knights gameplay trailer

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Games)

The pressure on Gotham Knights to deliver an airtight superhero game means there are certain things in the gameplay trailer that can’t be ignored. Chiefly, the combat animations (which more than occasionally look stiff), and Red Hood, who sticks out like a sore thumb in virtually every way possible. 

Confusingly, Red Hood dual-wields pistols in a melee combat game, but still needs to use melee maneuvers too. As a result, much of the gameplay we saw has him awkwardly punching enemies with two guns in his hands, which seems counterintuitive. There’s also a ropiness to his mechanics and animation – there are moments where the character model stutters in between a move before settling into the next one, or fires off shots at bizarre angles, his shoulders seemingly capable of doing 360-degree rotations. 

Red Hood’s skillset is clearly WB Montreal’s attempt to create some distance between the four playable characters. Nightwing seems to play like Gotham Knight’s version of Insomniac’s Spider-Man with acrobatic moves that allow him to quickly close the distance between and vault over enemies, and an arsenal that lets him temporarily freeze up combatants or disrupt their attempts to fire weapons. He’ll likely be a top choice once Gotham Knights launches, but I can’t see anyone willingly playing Red Hood. 

After seeing some of this perceived clunkiness, I can’t help but draw connections to Marvel’s Avengers. In that game, certain heroes felt smooth and dynamic, while others felt ropey and awkward, and Nightwing and Red Hood slot right into those binaries. Here’s hoping that WB Montreal’s decision to only release Gotham Knights on current-gen consoles will free up some dev time to ensure the combat is rock solid, because the game’s core idea is strong. 

Along with Gotham Knights, there’s a ton of new games coming in 2022

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