Game Rant’s Brian Sipple reviews Gotham City Impostors
Gotham is on fire. A rogue strain of the Joker drug has instilled anarchy and mayhem into the minds’ of its users, and while the Dark Knight looms in the background, everyday citizens have split into dueling factions of Batman and Joker impostors— the Bats, who want to restore order (but have an oafish way of showing it) and the Jokerz, who aim to lay Gotham to ruins.
Straight out of DC’s Detective Comics, that’s the backstory for why players will be duking it out in downloadable multiplayer FPS Gotham City Impostors by Monolith Games. It’s fitting, too, because everything about Gotham City Impostors oozes a charming and outrageous cartoon-like appeal. But rather than spending their Saturday mornings of late watching animated Batman reruns on TV, it’s quite apparent that the developers at Monolith have been playing a ton of Call of Duty — and the fruits of their inspiration are nothing to scoff at.
The action in Impostors plays out against five beautifully designed Gotham locales like Ace Chemical and Amusement Mile. With the exception of some fun challenge modes and a tutorial, the game is purely an online experience. None of the modes are revolutionary — there’s the obligatory Team Deathmatch, Fumigation (think Call of Duty’s Domination or Battlefield’s Conquest with deadly fume emitters), and Psych Warfare (a battery replaces a bomb as players fight for its control to charge up and defend propaganda machines) — but they provide a unique enough twist to accommodate a shooter that stands well on its own.
Impostors has control options that players would expect out of any modern arcade shooter such as sprinting, crouching, and a knife button. However, it’s the speed and verticality offered by some of the game’s unique gadgets that would have the Caped Crusader smiling on this ragtag collection of wannabes.
To name a few examples, players can lace up in a pair of roller skates and breeze by opponents on the ground or launch into the air off ramps and staircases. Those who prefer flight as a primary mode of transportation can don a glider rig, gaining air through vents or well-placed trampolines and then gaining the ability to “dive-bomb” unsuspecting foes. The tool that steals the show however, is the grappling hook. Latching on to buildings and surfaces and reeling across the map is immense fun and offers players a ridiculous amount of mobility, and firing it at enemies for crafty kill was almost as enticing as using an assault rifle or shotgun.
The only hiccups with gameplay controls occur during close up battles. The speed of this game is breakneck, and thus, the swift movement of each character can lead to some awkward uptight encounters with many a wayward shot and failed knife jab. The knifing and sprinting mechanics also seem occasionally slow to react in cramped quarters, but these are minor intrusions on an otherwise airtight control scheme.
Customization is the name of the game in Gotham City Impostors, and it’s the main plea Monolith makes for players to keep coming back. Gamers will work with some familiar Call of Duty formulas as they create custom classes, makeup their characters with personal outfits and hairdos, and choose from a catalog of “calling cards” to be displayed on a victim’s death screen (my first demise was at the hands of a French bread enthusiast). If you really want to show off though, the game affords players the ability to carry around personal mascots that, while they don’t add any combat bonuses, are great for revealing your position (and ego) to the enemy.
There are also enough weapons in Impostors to keep Gotham’s arms dealers in good business. Players can carry two primary weapons at a time, with a wide selection ranging from the fundamentals (assault rifles) to the Burt Reynolds (the “Bear Stalker” hunting bow) and each has its own tree of modifications and paint skins. Support items like pipe bombs, boomerangs, throwing axes and more assist gadgets in adding further fun to every loadout possibility. Additionally, players can buff up their abilities with two fun facts (perks, in essence), a special “rampage” ability that can be built up towards in a match, and a passive attribute that affects the earning of XP.
Speaking of XP, not all of these character selections are available right away, of course. Just about every option in Impostors is unlocked throughout a robust 100-level system. Players are awarded XP through in-game actions and rank up to level 100, along the way earning unlocks for weapons, gadgets, costumes, calling card elements, etc. Upon reaching level 100 you’ll have the option to
prestige get promoted, resetting weapon loadout unlocks but maintaining everything else. Promotions do seem to accrue quickly — about as fast as Modern Warfare 3 — but hardcore levelers will still have to work for everything the game has to offer. Well, that or they can shell out cash for everything on the game’s “Black Market.”
Mixed in with a formidable FPS is the affectionate aura of Batman’s comic book roots. The characters embody zany Team Fortress-like physiques based on their class, and their pension for spouting off random obscenities during a match (and the ensuing bleeping mechanism that’s employed) creates a comedic effect not echoed in the tactical “target acquired” dialogue of serious shooters. While Impostors’ graphics are a year or two behind today’s eye candy treats, its flavorful color palate and sugary frame rate are easy to enjoy.
The real test for Impostors will be how long the game can hold out on the foundation of multiplayer alone. It’s a good value for $15, but with only a handful of maps and game modes, the huge collection of unlockable costumes, mascots, and levels seems tailored around the eventual purchase of DLC. Whether in the form of new expansions to flesh out the experience or everyone feeling pressured to fork up on the Black Market, it may prove dissuading for latecomers to the party.
On its face though, Gotham City Impostors is a creative and refreshing distraction from the standard fare of military shooters — even if it takes a hand from them to stand on its own two feet. The swath of weapon variants and gadgets, combined with the numerous methods of traversing each map create a huge wealth in possible approaches to gameplay. This ties in perfectly to a deep persona creation system and enough unlockables to last for the long haul. Fans of DC’s storied Batman universe should have no trouble carving out a niche for themselves in this farcical, stylish take on the Winged Avenger-Joker rivalry.
Gotham City Impostors is available for download on the Xbox Live Arcade (1200 MS points) and PlayStation Network ($15). Game Rant played the PS3 version for this review.
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