Co-Op Might Already Be Ruining Gotham Knights
Gotham Knights seems determined to hurt me, personally. While everyone else fawns over RTSs, SRPGs, FPSs, ARGs, JRPGs, TBSs, BRs, MOBAs, and MMORPGs, my favourite video game genre has always been BASAJDAFAB – Be A Superhero And Just Dick About For A Bit. Spider-Man was my favourite game of the last generation, and Batman: Arkham City of the generation before that. I got Avengers at launch and I'm still prepared to defend the campaign, while Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League is one of my most anticipated games, along with Spider-Man 2. Gotham Knights should be perfect for me then, but every single clip I see of it just makes me more wary. The latest example of this has been the awkward character trailer at Summer Game Fest, and the recently shown off co-op system.
I was sold on Gotham Knights from the original pitch. It's Batman without Batman, letting you play as his four proteges. I get to be Batgirl, I'm into it. I know the game can't just come out and spoil itself, but it's a little bit annoying how much the marketing is leaning into the idea that Batman is dead when it has already told us it’s adapting The Court of Owls – one of the most famous Batman stories of the modern era, and one which sees him fake his own death. Either you wink at us that he's still alive or you keep the Court of Owls hidden, that's the play here. It's like when Avengers told us Cap was dead, even while revealing special skins you could unlock for him alongside a full tutorial for his combat system in the opening mission. It starts to feel insulting, and the longer the charade is continued, the less impactful any kind of reveal will eventually be.
Let's leave that aside for now though. Back to what we've just seen. Nightwing is my least favourite of the four anyway, but even without that bias, I'm struggling to see the point of the character trailer for Nightwing we had thrown at our eyeballs during Summer Game Fest's opening night. In a showcase with world premieres, tons of reveals, and two whole interviews with Troy Baker, why exactly did we need to see a short clip of Nightwing specifically? He does kicking! And hits people with a stick! And… you know, other Nightwing stuff! He didn’t even have his trademark ass.
It would have been awkwardly placed had it been any of the four, but at least the others are worth caring about. Especially if it had been Batgirl and there was an attempt to explain the Super Crip cliche that she was able to recover from a bullet wound to the spine because she simply wanted to. Nightwing though? I know he's the original Robin, and I get that Tim Drake doesn't exactly have megafans, but is there anyone out there who enjoys Nightwing that much that you use SGF to make him the de-facto star of the game?
That's all just marketing though. It matters as much as you want it to matter, which means none of us really have to care about it at all. What concerns me more is the co-op functionality of the game. It's not couch co-op, and while I know that's dying out, this seems like the perfect game for it. It's single-player and co-op, which usually means a little bit of compromise on both sides, but the game looks so empty and lifeless that I can't imagine wanting to bring anyone along for the ride. I'll still play it – it's a BASAJDAFAB – but it doesn't look like playing with a friend online would be all that fun when there are a million other games we can play together. Playing in co-op looks pointless to the extent that I'm beginning to think it might as well not exist, and that the single-player experience might be more shallow because of it.
There doesn't seem to be anything that interesting for us to do in co-op, but is that the point? Is it just battleground, battleground, battleground because it expects everyone to play every minute of it in a party of four, and so it needs to be open and chaotic enough to support that. Arkham City and Spider-Man worked because they gave you freedom to just BASAJDAFAB, but Gotham Knights doesn't seem to understand that. In some ways, we haven't seen enough to judge the game, but on the other hand, it's out in four months so that's not really my problem, is it?
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