If you’re bored by Battlefield and letting the Call of Duty go to answerphone, then you might really appreciate Gotham City Impostors, a downloadable FPS game for the Xbox 360, Playstation and PC. It focuses on multiplayer, with just three game modes and a single-player challenge game type, but is potentially all the better for it.
The idea behind the game is as simple as it is strange. Gotham City has become a battleground between rival groups of amateur heroes and villains seeking to emulate Batman and The Joker, but their skills and budget don’t quite match their idols. So rather than stealthily taking out henchmen with non-lethal martial arts before jumping in the Batmobile, these heroes rely on guns, knives and boots with giant springs on them.
With a licence from Warner Brothers and DC Comics, this means that developers Monolith have been able to go pretty far in twisting the already fairly warped Bat world. Comic fans will instantly be reminded of the classic Alan Moore ‘The Killing Joke‘, which mixed violence and black humour in a way that not only refreshed the idea of Batman, but also wiped out the memories of cheesy 60’s TV shows. Gotham City Impostors doesn’t match the the graphic novel in terms of literary brilliance, but everything about it suggests there was a copy on the desk of everyone at Monolith.
Following a short initiation mode to explain the controls, which work in some cool gadgets to your standard FPS layout, you get the options of three gametypes – Team Deathmatch, Fumigation (A three-point capture the base mode), and Psych Warfare (Plant one bomb). Each match is a maximum of 6 vs 6 players on a selection of medium-sized maps based around Gotham, which keeps the action fun and frantic.
Call of Batty?
Much as the comic inspiration is pretty clear, so is the gameplay and character source. It’s clear that Gotham City Impostors borrows heavily from the same mechanics employed by Call of Duty. You can create custom Loadouts ranging from fast and light female characters to huge over-muscled tanks, and selected a main weapon, backup, support item (Grenades, hatchets etc) and gadget. Plus you can also selected a pretty good range of custom choices for your appearance, with outfits and catchphrases.
Weapons and customisation unlocks come via levelling up, and ‘Promotions’ occur every 100 levels, with apparently a max level cap of 1000 at the moment. If you’re impatient, pretty much every extra can also be acquired by spending some real money, along with calling cards to show your vanquished foes and mascots which will follow you around everywhere.
The main difference between Gotham City Impostors and most other FPS games is that gadgets have been integrated really well, and they change the FPS dynamic a lot. Grapple Guns and Gliders will probably be your first choices, allowing you to quickly fire out zip lines or jump on air vents to fly around the levels at high speed, with specific attacks to make the most of your momentum.
It makes for a high speed game, faster than the pace of Modern Warfare 3, but importantly the gadgets also make you feel nimble enough to make an escape if you’re cornered, although it doesn’t often work! Respawning is slightly less random than the immensely frustrating version in MW3, and you generally get enough time to recognise your position on the map before hurtling into battle. The range of gadgets is pretty good, as you unlock inflatable soles, spring boots and more to bound, double jump and hurtle around the levels.
There’s also a similar range of weapons, with the usual rifles, machine guns, shotguns etc, plus rocket launchers and a nice Falcon Blade sword. Everything is designed to emphasis the home-made heroism, with the rocket launches constructed from PVC piping, and guns seemingly from the local army surplus store (Although no less effective). There are the occasional superhero level guns to unlock, including a freeze gun, which is a nice incentive to keep playing.
Gotham City Impostors: The Conclusion:
In essence, Gotham City Impostors is as shallow as a one-inch puddle, and all the better for it. For many people, the single-player side of modern FPS games is a bit of a chore to be gone through quickly, and although every bit of comedy potential is shot, stabbed and punched to breaking point, the tone of the game is well-judged and is the perfect light-hearted break from pretending to be in the Special Forces every night.
There are limitations on the range of maps, and the level caps do feel a bit high – after securing the achievement for the first promotion, I’m not sure you’ll necessarily want to keep going much further. But as a downloadable game at a reasonable price (1200 MS Points), it’s been a while since we’ve seen an entry point like Battlefield 1943 or Team Fortress 2. And it’s Team Fortress which springs to mind throughout the game – that fast, light-hearted death dealing, rather than the more overblown attempts of Duke Nukem.
A free DLC update has already been released with an extra map and more costume options, and there also seems to be a pretty decent number of players at the moment. Certainly it seems possible to get into a match on the 1st or 2nd attempt 24/7, and most games fill up pretty quickly now that the update allows people to join games in progress.
Downsides? The three gametypes are FPS standards, so you may start to get bored fairly quickly, plus 100 levels per promotion means that weapon unlocks in particularly can take quite a while. Plus, if you’re an achievement addict, Gotham City Impostors is limited by the fact it’s a downloadable game, so you can only max out at the standard 200 Xbox Achievement points for what is quite a lot of hours to reach them all.
But having debated the arbitrary score at the end of the review, and whether a multiplayer-only downloadable game can stand beside the biggest titles in modern gaming, it all comes down to the fact that Gotham City Impostors is really a quick breath of fresh air in a genre that is in danger of becoming too overblown with ever-bigger franchises. It’s made me fire up a console and jump into a couple of quick deathmatches when I have a bit of time spare, and after levelling up a reasonable amount it can still make me chuckle when a grapple gun attempt goes wrong. And I’m still determined to unlock some more comedy voices to mock my fallen foes.
Gotham City Impostors 7/10