Gotham City Impostors
Possibly the first tie-in to a comic book not starring the main character, Gotham City Impostors is an entertaining mess of a game. About a year before its release, a tie-in storyline was introduced in Detective Comics, featuring a gang of vigilante Batmen (Batmans?) fighting a gang of Joker-serum infected lunatics. Obviously, Batman and Joker wouldn’t approve of such behaviour. In the comic there were reasons for these deluded people to take up arms or batarangs and fight, in this game, it’s simply fanboyism and mental problems.
Gotham City Impostors has several problems, but also several merits. It’s difficult to stand out in a world where there are a million different ‘Manshoots’, each with their own minor mechanic (or just the clout of their existing success, like Battlefield or CoD) and here, even the Batman IP struggles to claim a significant presence, meaning the mechanics have to take over.
Starting out, you have two gun-slots to fill, choosing a simple loadout and going from there. The guns themselves are the least distinctive being simple SMGs, shotguns and so on. When things get bigger, they become more interesting. The rocket launcher is a length of pipe with a bottle rocket – it’s a messily customised and belies the amateur nature of these combatants pretending to be Batman. After guns, you have gadgets, starting with the best of them, the grappling hook. With this device, you are a makeshift Spider-Man (wrong license, I know), able to leap all over the map. This can be replaced by bouncy boots, hangliders, enemy-detecting goggles and so on. It is the grappling hook that really stands out though.
As you level up, it’s possible to change the killstreak bonuses and innate abilities you have, as well as the body type and the bonuses/drawbacks it provides. The problem with this customisation is that you have to put in a lot of work before you’re able to make use of it, much like Brink. Costume parts take an age to gather coins for, but when you’re able to be a man in his pants, a card mask, t-shirt and a towel as a cape, it’s something grand to behold. The slow customisation is balanced, albeit slightly, by the fact that when you level, you get ‘keys’. These keys allow you to choose what you’re unlocking from their specific category. There are different keys for weapons, weapon-mods, body types, rampages, ‘fun facts’, gadgets and so on. Of course you could pay some Moon Dollars to automatically unlock costume bits, or a floating mascot to follow you. There are promises of free DLC in the future, which might allow some early game customisation.
The look of the game is great. It doesn’t feel at all like its Batman-based, you may as well be the red and blue team, but despite that, if looks great. The home-made weapons have a kind of appealing ugliness. The levels are brightly-coloured and set at the daytime, which seems anathema to Gotham City. They aren’t that big, and thereby funnel people into constant confrontation. Aesthetically, the level are appealing and easy to tell apart, ranging from a theme park, docks and Crime Alley (sans dead Thomas and Martha Wayne, of course) to name a few. Each one has sparks of brilliance and stick in the memory after just a few games, but don’t feel like they belong in the Batman IP.
Of all things, Gotham City Impostors shares similarities to the multiplayer in Bioshock 2. It has a nice style to it, a few interesting mechanics and some fun character customisation, but Bioshock 2’s multiplayer felt tacked on and like the community would vanish in a heartbeat. Gotham City Impostors is like that but without the single player to back it up. It’s a shame, as this is an interesting world and would be fun to explore if there was something more than a sparsely-populated team deathmatch which will always be second to the generic-looking off-brown manshoots.
The most damning aspect of Gotham City Impostors is that the tutorials and the NPCs stand out as the main highlight, which for a multiplayer focused title is a considerable problem. Add to this the slightly whorish way in which DLC is pushed to the fore, and you have a game that sadly lives up to its title; in other words…it feels like something of an imposter.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version, supplied by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
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