After an ARG chase across the internet, we've finally got our eyes on what exactly Batman: Gotham Knights is going to be when it arrives next year. Warner Bros. Games Montreal revealed not only a trailer for the game, but an extensive Gotham Knights gameplay trailer, which gave us a fantastic look at the characters, combat, villains, and, of course, Gotham City.
According to Patrick Redding, creative director on Gotham Knights, said there have been "three consistent ideas at the heart of Gotham Knights."
"First is having a whole cast of playable characters that can continue to grow and reinvent themselves. Second is a real, living, breathing Gotham City, that keeps challenging you, keeps serving you up danger. And finally, it's that fantasy of the superhero team-up and we really wanted to deliver that in co-op play."
But, for now, let's look at all the details we pulled from that Gotham Knights gameplay trailer, and try to get a sense of what we can expect from this exciting new Batman game.
1. Batman is dead
From what we've seen, that game starts with a 'Code Black', fancy hero talk for 'Batman is dead and the Batcave has been blown up'. That leaves Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood as vigilante protectors of Gotham. With Batman gone, the criminals of the city are quickly rising up and attempting to claim territory, and it's up to the four heroes to fight against the rising tide of crime that is emerging in the wake of the World's Greatest Detective's death.
2. The city has turned on heroes
Gotham Knights presents a bleak vision of Gotham City. In his posthumous rallying cry to the remaining members of the Bat-Family, Bruce Wayne paints a dark picture. He explains that the city is in ruin and that nobody can be counted on, outside of the close circle of vigilantes turned heroes that have received his message – and yes, that includes the Gotham City Police Department, who turned against the vigilantes after Jim Gordon was killed. Given that Batgirl – A.K.A. Barbara Gordon – is still part of the unit, there's a good chance there's more to this story than meets the eye.
3. There are four playable characters
With Rocksteady handing the reins of the Batman games over Warner Bros. Games Montreal, the studio is clearly eager to leave its mark on the character and city that surrounds him. It's doing so by plunging Gotham into chaos, killing The Bat, and thrusting the spotlight onto four characters that will no doubt be familiar to many of you: Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and the Red Hood. While the gameplay released thus far didn't make this explicitly clear, it would appear – thanks to the drop-in co-op demonstrated in the gameplay trailer – that you'll be able to pick one character, switching between the others as and when you need to. And you'll want to, given that each hero would seem to come equipped with their own movesets, combos, strengths, weaknesses, and specialities.
4. Batman's left the Knights access to all his tech
In his little "if you're watching this, I'm dead" speech, Batman mentions that he's left the keys to all his various gadgets and tech to the Gotham Knights, which is going to be super helpful taking down all the nefarious sorts that are running amok in Gotham City. Again. We've already spotted the Batcycle and a lot of other Batman-related kit that you'll no doubt be able to take advantage of regardless of the Knight you're currently playing as.
5. Combat builds on the Arkham games
If you ever played any of the Rocksteady Arkham games – or Arkham Origins, the 2013 game from Warner Bros. Games Montreal – then you'll no doubt feel a welcomed sense of nostalgia wash over you from watching Gotham Knights in action. The game appears to build off of the fluid melee combat system that those games were so famous for delivering. This time, however, you should expect that to shift and change depending on which hero you're controlling. Gotham Knights would appear to be a little faster than that of the Arkham games too, no doubt a reflection of the fact that these four heroes are younger and more acrobatic than an aging Bruce Wayne.
6. Each character has a speciality
Although the emphasis is seemingly on customisation, there's certainly a strength to each character when it comes to combat. Red Hood uses high-tech weaponry alongside more traditional firearms, while Robin has a background in psychological warfare, and in combat uses a quarterstaff and stealth. Batgirl uses martial arts and a tonfa, alongside hacking abilities, and Nightwing uses Escrima sticks for his acrobatic attack style. Finding which one is your favourite will definitely be a fun process.
7. Gotham Knights retains the XP levelling system
Gaining XP has been a core mechanic for all the Batman Arkham games, and like the combat system, it seems XP is here to stay. The developers have stated that they want you to build the superheroes that you want them to be, it's not about building your own Batman. No doubt gaining XP through things like long – and impressive – combos in freeflow combat, doing takedowns, finding collectibles, and completing missions. However, there's also some kind of badge system that's seemingly tied into the XP system that you can see popping up along the left hand side of the screen. They're like little emblems with scores underneath, but it's unclear as yet what exactly they mean for the game.
8. It's drop-in co-op
While the gameplay looks a lot like the old Arkham series there's drop and out co-op with other players able to tag in as the other heroes mid-mission. A "ROBIN joined the session" message is shown in the gameplay as another player appears. It appears to be seamless, with the action and dialogue apparently encompassing the new addition without missing a beat – the story and combat simply continues as if they were always there. How that works in terms of scaling or stealth waits to be seen but the game seems geared to allow new players in and out with as little fuss as possible. Gotham Knights will support either solo or two-player co-op.
9. Co-op takedowns look amazing
There are plenty of benefits to co-op gameplay, of course, but is there much better than a super impressive, totally shareable, co-op takedown? We don't think so. During the sequence where Batgirl and Robin are working their way through some kind of museum, we see them team up for a co-op takedown on a guard that Batgirl is holding hostage. It'll be interesting to see just how many combinations of takedown assists we'll be able to unlock with all four of the Gotham Knights.
10. What exactly are you collecting off the bodies?
Holy Batman, is there crafting in Gotham Knights? We sincerely doubt it, but both Batgirl and Robin collect something from a few of the bodies post-combat. The icon is like two white sheets of paper stacked on top of each other. Documents? Letters to lovers? Eulogies to the great B-Man? Crafting materials? We can but guess right now.
11. The Batcave's gone and the Gotham Knights are operating out of The Belfry
It looks like part of the whole 'Batman being dead' thing includes the destruction of the Batcave. Without it, the Knights are operating out of the Belfry, a secondary base of operations left to them by Batman. In the original Gotham Knights comic, The Belfry was built in the Old Wayne Tower by the Tim Drake version of Robin. We don't know if that carries over into this incarnation but classically it's been one of the tallest buildings in Gotham, which is ideal for heroes that enjoy easy access to rooftops.
12. It's set in a different universe to the Arkham games
Warner Bros. Games Montreal is yet to confirm this, but it looks almost certain that Gotham Knights will be set in a different universe to the Arkham games. Let's put the visual changes made to key characters – such as Bruce Wayne and Mr. Freeze – aside for a second and focus on some of the details. With Jim Gordon dead and his daughter, Barbara Gordon, alive and well as Batgirl, we're already seeing a huge shift from the continuity of the Arkham universe following the conclusion of Arkham Knight. Expect this to be a brand new slice of Gotham, a space where Warner Bros. Montreal can grow and experiment across the next generation.
13. There are going to be epic boss battles
Expect some of the most iconic villains in Batman's rogues gallery to assemble now that Bruce Wayne is out of the picture. The Court of Owls is known for its propensity to control the inner machinations of Gotham City from the shadows, and so you should prepare to face off against some powerful, emboldened villains. We see just one in the gameplay trailer, with Batgirl and Robin going up against a Mr. Freeze hell bent on unleashing a deadly storm across the city with his… ahem, Storm Engine. In the boss battle we can see numbers flying off of Freeze while both characters get their hits in, all of it chipping away at a massive boss bar complete with damage modifiers. Expect boss battles to be a little better with a friend by your side.
14. Welcome: the Court of Owls
That the Court of Owls would be a central piece of Gotham Knights has been one of the industry's worst kept secrets, but we weren't expecting to see the studio tease that the organisation is just one of the key threats in the game: "The mystery in Gotham Knights is way bigger than the Court of Owls," a studio representative teased. Who are the Court of Owls? It's a shadowy organisation that has secretly controlled Gotham City since its earliest foundations were laid, an Illuminati-like group that runs the city from the shadows. If Bruce Wayne is really dead, if the criminals are running amok, and if Gotham is on its knees, you better believe the Court of Owls has something to do with it.
15. There are multiple bat-outfits
While we've only seen Batgirl and Robin in action so far, they are clearly wearing very different outfits at different times – both in the official reveal gameplay, and the accompanying screenshots. The developers talked about being to make your own hero so it looks like fashion choices will be part of that. It's not clear yet whether it's just cosmetic, or whether outfits will unlock different abilities and damage modifiers – like in the Infamous fighting games – but it looks clear that you'll be able dress everyone up just how you like. Given the comprehensive options in the previous Arkham games, be prepared for a wardrobe full of fan-favorite gets ups to be made available.
16. You'll need to use special abilities carefully
It would appear that there's some limitation to what you can accomplish as a hero in Gotham Knights. If you look closely, you'll notice a tiered purple bar beneath your health bar. We can't be 100% sure what that governs, but looking closely at the trailer it appears to limit your special abilities. Batgirl, for example, shifts gracefully out of the way of a ranged attack, expending a bar from the meter. Each block also appears to regenerate by downing enemies, or slowly as you're juggling attacks and combos against multiple enemies. It's safe to assume this will be the key to unlocking some powerful, hero-specific powers and abilities throughout the game.
17. Gotham Knights is coming in 2021
Gotham Knights is scheduled to launch 2021, for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. With the game set to release next year, that would mean that Warner Bros. Games Montreal has been tinkering away at its next project for over seven years, with Batman: Arkham Origins launching all the way back in 2013. Still, after so many – and I can't stress this enough, many – years of teases and rumours, it's just great to see the studio return with such a convincing punch.