It only took me a single game to realize that Gotham City Impostors was partially created in a fashion that would appeal to Call of Duty fans everywhere, because its mechanics were unquestionably modeled after it. Aiming, moving, even the control layout is nearly identical down to using the right analog stick to knife opponents and the left to sprint. But what I realized in my second and third games is that GCI contains what the latest CoD content has severely lacked – innovation.
Gotham City Impostors is a multiplayer-exclusive FPS featuring 6v6 gameplay along with dedicated servers. Put simply, the game will instantly feel familiar, and in a sudden moment will turn into something completely fresh and original. The game follows a fairly straightforward plotline. Batman and Joker imitators are popping up all over Gotham and while some want to assist Batman and his justice-doing, others are looking to watch the world burn.
Gotham City Imposters will instantly feel familiar, and in a sudden moment will turn into something completely fresh and original.
Remember the copy-cats from the beginning of The Dark Knight? The ones that somewhat resembled Batman himself? Yeah, these are more of the kind of guys who got tired of their day-jobs and thought they’d try their hand at being superheroes. The kind of guys who get tired from running to the front door to pay the delivery guy. But these impersonators have no shame. They wear their makeshift Batman logos over their “Pizza” shirts and wield their PVC pipe rocket-launchers proudly. If this all sounds somewhat stupid, it is. Yet the idiocy and cartoonish style, neither childish nor mature, is partly why GCI succeeds. Very few games can pull off humor successfully, but GCI does so in a wildly outrageous and entertaining manner. The game manages to capture the hilarity of imposters portraying superheroes from the opening cinematic and continues throughout the “Initiation” tutorial. While you learn the game’s ins-and-outs, two “higher ranking” Batman impostors humorously explain that while Batman can afford the best in high-tech crime-fighting equipment, they cannot, so they must resort to more “homebrew” methods. This of course meaning that any household material they can find will be utilized as some sort of weapon or gadget.
It’s all comically entertaining, sure, but people don’t buy games because they’re funny. So, what about the actual gameplay? If you happen to be an avid FPS player or fan of the Batman universe, or any combination of the two, Gotham City Impostors is an absolute steal for its $15 price tag. For those who think this game to be nothing more than a mod, play it before vocalizing that opinion. As a shooter, it does in fact often feel familiar but nonetheless engaging and fast-paced, and the customization is as extensive as you will find in any FPS on the market. What will keep you coming back after the first hour however, are the innovations that Monolith Productions implemented that prevent GCI from becoming another hackneyed shooter and turn it into an FPS unlike any other.
The most obvious of which, come in the form of Gadgets – mechanisms that allow you to navigate across maps in a variety of ways. Rollerskates get you from quickly from A to B without the need for any extra apparatus. Springboots launch you into the air but require a short re-charge before use again. A Glider option is available for those eager to utilize the air vents strewn across each map, which vault you upwards and allow you to glide for a significant distance. One perk that results from gliding is the “divebomb” feature, cleverly included from Batman’s own repertoire. Should you happen to find yourself gliding above an enemy, having the Glider as your chosen Gadget will give you the opportunity to perform a very effective kamikaze-like attack. One of the more popular Gadgets is the Grapple, allowing you to attach onto any rooftop, ledge, or flat surface. I found that the Grapple provided the most practicality, giving me several aerial positions that gave me considerable advantages whether it was for predatory purposes or simply surveying my surroundings.
Gotham City Impostors also boasts a pretty unique weapons selection. Your choices of “Ready Weapon” (the weapon you start with at spawn) are typical of any FPS genre title with the usual assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and snipers. The “heavy weapons” on the other hand are anything but ordinary. The “Deep Freezer” fires a chill mixture that freezes enemies upon contact, while the “Shredder” shoots half-inch, steel bearing balls that you certainly don’t want to be on the wrong end of.
If weapons like the Deep Freezer and the Shredder intrigue you, GCI’s list of Support items will have you chomping at the bit to do battle in Gotham. Aside from your commonplace grenades, the “homebrew” element is really hammered home by hilariously brutal items like boomerangs, pipe bombs, ninja stars, and bear traps. This lethal homemade arsenal will be at your complete disposal, and depending how well you channel your inner fat guy-superhero, they all have a substantial degree of effectiveness.
The leveling up process in Gotham City Impostors is what you’d expect from your run-of-the-mill FPS, with a few tweaks here and there. Players gain XP from killing enemies as well as completing objectives in certain gametypes. When a player gets to the 100 level cap, they have the opportunity to accept a Promotion in which they rank up. The system’s a carbon copy of the CoD leveling structure in the sense that accepting a rank-up also resets your purchased items and Feats of Prowess – in-game challenges that assist you in gaining an extra chunk of XP and endow with you other unlockables upon completion. Each time you get the required 100 levels to rank up, a new Mascot will be unlocked. Each Mascot, almost resembling floating stuffed animals, is inspired by a character from the Batman universe, and they don’t do much more than add another aesthetic element. Including Mascots in the loadout really gives experienced gamers an extra challenge as they’ll follow you into battle, but at the same time the only assistance they’ll give you is giving away your position to the opposing team. Don’t let their cuteness fool you, it’s usually best to keep them at the loadout screen.
Throughout each game, mini care packages called Prize Boxes are dropped at some place on the map. The boxes include a temporary advantage like added shields or faster sprinting ability and are awarded to the first player that can reach the box and open it. They’re a nice little touch that can add possible momentum boosters to teams that may find themselves on the losing end. Also worth noting is GCI’s health system, which really takes the best from an RPG-style system and blends it with the typical regenerative system often found in modern FPS games. Your spawn health will depend on the class you choose, but Monolith’s implementation of health stations throughout each map proves to be life-saving, literally. A solid awareness of a map’s health stations can often be the difference between winning and losing, particularly in closer games.
The class system in Gotham City Impostors is extremely reminiscent of the one that exists in Team Fortress 2. Each class type has distinctive features, yet all serve an equally important purpose. The Defender class starts out with a hefty 322 HP, while the Medic starts with 220, the Striker with 180, the Scout with 140, and the Sniper with 100. As you can imagine, each class has a distinguishing skill set as well as weaknesses for enemies to exploit. While Defenders are tough to take down, they also move sluggishly, so they can be counteracted with more speedy classes like the Scout and Sniper. Contrastingly, Scouts and Snipers are quick, but a couple of well placed shots can take them out rather easily. The best strategy, as with any game that allows extensive customization, is to find a playstyle that best suits you and create a custom loadout which supports that style. Luckily the customization element of Gotham City Imposters is without question the game’s selling point, because it is immensely absorbing.
Character face type and voice are also customizable, so you can begin to see the depth that you’re getting for $15.
Customization begins at your pre-game loadout screen in which you can choose your primary and secondary weapons. These of course can be altered with customary FPS modifications like red dot sight, reflex sight, silencer extended mag, etc. You can also choose from an unlockable list of camos, or “paint jobs” for each weapon. Different Support items and Gadgets can also be added to your customized loadout, and you’ll find that different presets work with particular classes better than others. For example, Snipers may want the Springboots or Glider to scope out and reach a map’s best vantage points. You can also choose your character’s body type as each has their own defining attributes broken down into three categories: health, melee, and movement. Larger body types can withstand more damage and melee is significantly increased, but movement is obviously much slower, and of course the opposite is true of smaller body types. Character face type and voice are also customizable, so you can begin to see the depth that you’re getting for $15.
Additionally, each loadout is equipped with two Fun Facts – special attributes that make your particular character unique. The first set of Facts you’ll be able to choose from include options such as faster regenerating health, the ability to be revived by teammates after being killed, and being invisible on enemy radar. The second set includes taking less damage from explosions, more powerful ammo, taking less bullet damage, and not taking any extra damage from headshots. You also get one Rampage, which you can think of as your character’s “special” of sorts. Rampages are activated once you dish out a specific amount of damage, or die a certain amount of times in a row, if you so choose, and each one has a different temporary effect related to the way in which they are triggered. You’ll have the option of choosing double damage for all weaponry, reduced damage from enemy weaponry, quicker movement, and the showing of enemy positions on your radar.
“That’s quite a bit of customization,” you say? It doesn’t stop there. Calling Cards are the game’s way of allowing you to taunt enemy players. Once you’ve been killed, your killer’s Calling Card will be displayed on-screen next to current in-game footage of them playing. They can be customized with a distinctive background, symbol, and catchphrase. The cards are a cool take on the FPS insignia element, but Gotham City Impostors truly soars over any FPS of similar price due to its costume customization. Not only are the costume options utterly hysterical, they’re incredibly expansive. Each and every aspect of your character’s costume can be altered, and the game allows you to customize both your Bats team costume as well as your one for the Jokerz side. The options for the torso, hands, legs, and feet are essentially the same on both sides save or a few design changes, but the Bats costume allows you to modify your cowl, bat symbol logo, and cape, while the Jokerz apparel features different hairstyles, facepaint, and flair.
As crazy and as stupid as you want it to be, and that’s half the fun!
I suppose you can say that Gotham City Impostors succeeds as a zany FPS because it “knows what type of game it is.” Monolith is most likely aware that the game will not win many GOTY awards, but that was never the intent here. GCI works because it is completely unrelenting and unapologetic in its style. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in the game’s costume customization. Replace Joker’s bowtie with a flower, or perhaps an effeminate scarf. Choose your favorite provisional Batman logo that has been haphazardly duct taped to the front of a “Pizza” t-shirt. My personal favorite happens to be the spray-painted paper plate. Outfit your character with tighty underwear or a Scottish kilt. This game is as crazy and as stupid as you want it to be, and that’s half the fun.
Once you reach level 12, you’ll be recruited by Gotham’s five Gangs, which you can choose to join or deny. The Gangs aspect is a part of the game’s “Turf War” concept in which the city’s five gangs compete for control of Gotham. Each Gang owns a higher percentage depending on how many members they have and also on the in-game successes of its members. Each Gang has their own background and territory (a particular map) with which they’re associated. Once you join a Gang, you’ll start earning “reputation points” with them, which will unlock rewards specific to that Gang.
The gametypes of Gotham City Impostors mostly put a spin on old favorites, but that definitely doesn’t make them any less entertaining. Aside from your standard Team Deathmatch, there’s the equivalent of Domination/Territories titled, Fumigation. Each map has three “gasblasters” located throughout, and the objective for each team is to control all three to reach “critical mass” (100% of the “control” meter). Once it’s reached and depending on what team had control, a deadly gas will be released, killing all members of the enemy team and ending the game. Should the Bats win, a bat pheromone is released which sends deadly swarms of bats to kill all Jokerz. If the Jokerz have control, a nerve toxin is released killing all Bats immediately.
Perhaps the game’s most entertaining and inventive gametype is Psych Warfare which plays as your common Capture the Flag game, yet is anything but. Each team has a brainwashing machine. The problem is that only one battery exists on the map, so it is in each team’s best interest to get the battery and bring it back to their respective machine and guard it while it charges. If the enemy team fails to steal it back, the machine is activated and players of the losing team will lose control of all weapons and Gadgets. But it’s not all bad being on the losing end, because here’s the kicker: should you lose control of your items you gain the opportunity to slap and kill enemies who are trying to mop up you and your defenseless teammates. Very few games give players on the losing side incentive to stay until the end of the match, but this is as good as any. There is nothing more satisfying than humiliating members of the winning side with an utterly embarrassing slap-kill. Think knifing in Counter-Strike, but multiplied. In addition to the three main gametypes are five Challenge maps. These are timed courses that test your skills with each of the game’s Gadgets.
The game boasts a number of aspects that make it exceptionally unique, but the level design simply isn’t one of them.
If there’s one area of Gotham City Impostors that falls slightly short, it’s the variety of the map design. Each map is inspired from different places in Gotham including a Joker themed carnival and an Ace Chemical industrial plant. Certain maps stand-out more than others, but none really have enough signature elements to be particularly memorable. The game boasts a number of aspects that make it exceptionally unique, but the level design simply isn’t one of them. Other criticisms I had are already being addressed in a DLC update. For example, more weapon choices are being added to each category, and a “join-game-in-progress” feature is being implemented. I could go on about how I disliked so many of the game’s elements that were so blatantly inspired by CoD, but it’s difficult to criticize a game taking an admittedly great mechanics system and employing subtle creativity to make it fresh.
What could be better than a small developer that knows how to produce a great FPS for a minimal purchase? How about one that also understands how the concept of DLC should work? Come March, Monolith will be releasing a major DLC pack, all for free. It will include a new map, over 100 new customization options such as new weapons, support items, fully themed costume packs, and Calling Card elements. It will also provide matchmaking improvements and the join-in-progress feature as mentioned before.
There are few XBLA titles that we can honestly say are worth double the amount you’re required to pay for them, but Gotham City Impostors could unquestionably be one of them. 2012 is not the brightest of years for gaming if you happen to be an FPS fan. GCI however, is one shooter that is not to be overlooked in this regard. It can serve as an excellent time-consumer as you await the release of your most anticipated AAA game, or it can equally be a game that you find yourself coming back months from now. It contains the fast paced action of Unreal Tournament and combines it with a balanced multiplayer and massive customization scheme that rivals any big-budget FPS that you can think of. Its lasting appeal is evident within the first few hours as it employs enough innovations, particularly the game’s implementation of the very imaginative Gadgets, to keep gameplay wholly original in what might otherwise be a stale and clichéd shooter. If nothing else, Gotham City Impostors will at the very least make you laugh. It is so absurdly bizarre that you cannot help but occasionally enjoy its humor. For $15 and even a slight interest in either FPS games or the Batman universe, Gotham City Impostors succeeds in appealing to the lighthearted Dark Knight inherent in every one of us. It truly deserves to be tried.
- Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Published By: Warner Bros.
- Developed By: Monolith Productions
- Genre: First person shooter
- US Release Date: February 7, 2012
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
- Quote: "2012 is not the brightest of years for gaming if you happen to be an FPS fan. GCI however, is one shooter that is not to be overlooked in this regard."