Photo Credit: WB Games Montréal
Gotham Knights — out now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X — attracted all kinds of negative attention in the run-up to its release. Starting life as a series of cryptic tweets, heralding the inclusion of the enigmatic Court of Owls was an excellent way to build hype for the next chapter in the Batman: Arkham saga, or so we thought. Later, it was revealed to be a separate arc, focused on the Dark Knight's motley crew of sidekicks, much to the dismay of avid fans. Initial impressions were cold, as the new co-op component drew parallels to the bloated mess that was Marvel's Avengers in 2020. With pre-release footage rolling out, that fear grew into contempt, as displays of laggy gameplay and clunky mechanics threw a wet blanket over any prior excitement. Add to that WB Games Montréal cancelling the previously announced PS4 and Xbox One versions five months before launch, and we've got a launch overshadowed by complaints.
The aftermath of Batman and Commissioner Jim Gordon's tragic deaths has left Gotham City in shambles, begging for a new saviour as an assortment of volatile criminals take over. Restoring order becomes the utmost priority, with the remaining Bat-Family suiting up and operating from the Belfry, hoping to see a new dawn. One of my concerns with Gotham Knights was its open-world system, which seemed to borrow its design philosophy from mundane Ubisoft titles. While this remains true with respect to quests, on-screen icons, and world traversal, there is still a hint of classic Arkham DNA in there.
You're presented with a near-freeflow combat technique that demands extra attention for timed dodges, and a ton of erratic camera movement as you leap from one opponent to another. The Gotham Knights settings menu recommends that you leave motion blur off for better performance, but I'd say otherwise since a few extra frames won't solve the issue. To put it bluntly, Gotham Knights is poorly optimised on PC, causing minor stutters, even in cutscenes. Leaving motion blur on, however, helps smoothen movement, avoiding screen tearing.
The Gotham Knights PC control scheme is super RPG-like, with a medley of skills, status effects, and combat options that might seem daunting to newcomers to the genre. However, the biggest hurdle in regard to gameplay stems from general movement, which is super sensitive, and at times unresponsive, causing heroes to bump into objects frequently. This is worsened by the fact that you occasionally get stuck to corners or edges, so instead of simply turning the camera and manoeuvring out of that site, you're forced to take two steps back and reposition yourself.
For ranged attacks, you can mindlessly spam a button to inflict small doses of damage, as you regain composure. Meanwhile, the auto-aim/ tracking feature from the Arkham games — when manually hurling batarangs — has been removed in Gotham Knights. This can be simplified by visiting the accessibility settings, where you'll find plenty of options to make gameplay feel like a breeze.
For instance, configuring Precision Aiming to a button tap lets you focus on cursor alignment, instead of holding and dragging your mouse into foes. Likewise, you can take advantage of the colourblind mode, a voice reader that narrates menus, and subtitle backgrounds for those hard of vision. Lodged within the pile is a ‘Movement Smoothing' option, which does help a bit with the aforesaid sensitive navigation issues. However, when travelling through vents in Gotham Knights, I found characters to be moving in slow motion, requiring me to toggle it on and off, throughout the playthrough.
The graphics are possibly the highlight of Gotham Knights on PC, partly carried by the moody lighting which adds to the helpless tone of the city. But what's holding me back from fully enjoying this game is the character art design, which is in sheer contrast to its surroundings. It's clear WB Games Montréal has invested a decent chunk of its time in working on the vigilantes' suits. In fact, part of Gotham Knights' marketing campaign involved showcasing unlockable outfits, and the inspiration behind each of them. However, the developer seems to have overlooked how shadows will affect these costumes, and the characters wearing them — for the most part.
Halogen lights throw proper reflections and tint effects, which are extended onto the tall, menacing shadows behind you. But, when facing away from light in Gotham Knights on PC, or just roaming through some dark alleyway, the suits have a weird glow, which merely exists so you can appreciate their finer details. This is prevalent even during combat, creating some disparity between you and oncoming goons, with flat colours that would be more appropriate in a mobile game.
In my time with Gotham Knights on PC, I only found illumination to be consistent in two places — cutscenes and time spent within the Belfry. That tower of operations is the only place you see daylight, as you link clues and chart the next steps in your course of action. Even on the ‘Low' graphical preset, you're greeted with visible dust particles, long shadows from the clock's mechanisms, and a blinding sun-kissed effect that looks beautiful.
Like most modern AAA titles, upon first launch, Gotham Knights on PC configures graphics settings for you. The results looked disappointing for me, playing on a medium-spec build. The game automatically adjusts the maximum render resolution to the 60s on its sliding scale, creating jagged edges on our vigilantes and a scrambly effect on hair and shadows, which is hard to miss. I would recommend raising this to at least 125, and also tweaking the sharpening level, depending on what GPU you own — AMD's Fidelity FX sharpening, or Nvidia Image Scaling — to reach an acceptable level of detail. Sadly, visual flair is minimised once you head outdoors, as you're slapped with lifeless, dated architectural assets such as brick walls and foggy windows, whose textures see nary an improvement even on the Highest preset.
Cruising through the lanes of Gotham City, I noticed several artefacts, streetlights, and entire backgrounds popping in and out of the frame. To the developers' credit, it was (unintentionally?) clever of them to set the game at night, making it difficult to identify such hindrances — albeit the jarring changes in lighting effects were always a dead giveaway. Switching from the lowest presets to beyond, the most significant change in Gotham Knights on PC has to be reflection quality and quantity. What appeared as a blurry smudge at Medium or lower settings forms a complete mirror image of its parent object at higher presets, with rippled edges that emulate the sense of a downpour.
The effects of rainfall are also seen in character outfits, as water droplets calmly trickle down your suit or dry off when under shelter. It's such minor details that demonstrate a level of passion behind Gotham Knights on PC. But in the larger scheme of things — the narrative, combat, open world, and overarching shadow of the Batman: Arkham games — a lot of it can go unnoticed, and rightfully so.
Even as WB Games Montréal threw a near-endless barrage of unpolished gameplay demos at us in the runup to this game's launch, I held a positive outlook, for two main reasons. A: It's rare to see AAA developers being fully honest about their games, giving you a clear idea of exactly what you're spending money on. Because let's be real, nobody wants another Cyberpunk 2077 situation. And B: I was hoping that this game's glaring issues would be fixed by launch time. Having spent about a week playing Gotham Knights on PC, I can now confirm that I was wrong about the second part. This title plays exactly as advertised, featuring wonky gameplay and constant dips in performance, no matter what graphics configuration you set.
My test rig consisted of an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G 3.6GHz processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU with 6GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, and a 500GB SSD — a build that's usually sufficient to smoothly run modern titles at Medium–High settings, at 1080p. Gotham Knights, however, demands a lot more horsepower, setting the baseline at a GTX 1660Ti GPU for 60fps gameplay at the lowest settings. What the developers never say outright is that those numbers are best-case scenarios. In simple terms, Gotham Knights has two main graphics options: Indoors and outdoors. With the former, my PC delivered a solid 50fps average at Medium settings, as I tackled the main campaign missions and interior segments.
But the story is wildly different on the streets of Gotham City, where riding around on the Batcycle tanked my frames to an average of 30fps, with frequent drops to the 22fps region. This trend continued across all graphical presets, resulting in a sluggish traversal experience that was also heavily impacted by the slightest camera movement. The world of Gotham Knights is far denser than the studio's previous outing, Batman: Arkham Origins, teeming with lifeless civilians, vehicles in motion, smoke effects, neon lighting, and a lot of rainfall — all of which are responsible for pronounced performance fluctuations in the open world. Even by reducing the environment density and setting everything to low, I could not achieve a stable 60fps on my PC. Combat segments would usually max out at 34fps, while cutscenes with rain were capped at 40fps.
The optimisation here is bafflingly inconsistent. What better way to convey this than take you through one of my personal experiences? Early on in Gotham Knights, you're tasked with breaking into the Blackgate Penitentiary and meeting with Harley Quinn to follow up on a lead. As you might expect, she sends you on a wild goose chase. This involves a mix of stealth segments and an all-out prison brawl. What's interesting here is that throughout this whole sequence, at Medium settings, Gotham Knights on PC never dropped below 59fps — it even hit 70fps once (yay?) — but then I got my hands on the quest item.
Presumably, the next course of action would be to simply retrace your steps through the same hallways, and deliver the document to Quinn. But the very second I turned around, Gotham Knights plummeted to 35fps on my PC, even in the following cutscene, up until I made my way back to the Belfry. In fact, as I rode into the subway tunnel leading to the hub area, I noticed a massive lag spike. Performance dropped to 12fps, and completely disoriented my camera positioning. With such abysmal optimisation, it's not surprising that the console — PS5 and Xbox Series S/X — versions of this game have been locked to 30fps.
Clearly, this isn't a good look for Gotham Knights on PC. But, if you're still interested to know how a mid-range system might run this game at higher settings, please refer to the table below:
|Gotham Knights PC Performance (all values are in fps ranges)
WB Games Montréal clearly bit off more than it could chew here, resulting in a bloated mess that fails on a technical level. Running on Unreal Engine 4, Gotham Knights on PC can look visually appealing at times, but constant frame drops and high-end PC requirements essentially doom it. At the end of the day, the game itself is tedious to play, and because of that, it's hard to see players waiting around for months for the performance issues to be resolved. Remember Batman: Arkham Knight on PC?
Rating (out of 10): 5
Gotham Knights is out now on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X.
Gadgets 360 played Gotham Knights on a PC with AMD Ryzen 5 2400G 3.6GHz, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU 6GB, 16GB RAM, and 500GB SSD.
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