It’s time to grab your cape or your clown makeup, because Batman has left Gotham and the gangs want to take up his mantle—and the same with the Joker’s sycophantic minions. Venture forth into Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Gotham City Impostors, developed by Monolith Productions, which has recently gone free-to-play and hitched their wagon to Valve’s Steam service. Also, I should take care to mention DC Comics for kindly giving their IP to this game so that everyone can play as a wannabe Batman or wannabe Joker.
From the get-go there’s a nostalgic feel about the old live action Batman show starring Adam West—well, potentially nostalgic for people who are either 20 years older than I am or people like me who used to watch it at 2am because it was the only thing on cable. The characters are white trash commandos with clown makeup or mismatched Batman costumes (and there’s a very nice costume generator involved as well.)
Much of this game appears to be wrapped around its nature as a highly customizable first-person shooter experience. Everything is unlocked through game play but if you want to skip ahead in the unlocks you can buy keys from the Steam store for a small fee. As I played, all the way to level 10, numerous things from weapons, to avatar costume pieces, to gadgets, were all unlocked and made available. It’s obvious that even the most staunch FPS players who cannot stand to be at a disadvantage will like unlocking new things (and may be more willing to buy their way into their favorite weapons.)
With the aesthetic of an urban-styled Batman vs. Joker game, GCI feels like a very good game in that it attempts to innovate as much as possible.
Graphics and Sound: It’s a Batman’s Batman with good sound and graphics to go around
The power of the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine can be seen in full swing in this game with fairly good visuals and excellent sound. I have absolutely no qualms about textures, framerate, or the way that the game plays when it comes to rendering—in fact, during the adrenaline-and-blood grim beat of the action gameplay, I often don’t have enough time to stop and enjoy the interesting maps that have been built.
Much of the regions are very well done, this game suffers less from “brownification” as other games do and the colors are rarely muted. In fact, it’s easy to tell corridors from outside, finding places on maps, and there’s a lot going on in them—after all, I mentioned “vertical play”, it’s not uncommon to discover that there are places to leap to or stand on just by looking up into them.
All of the weapons have nice models, and their effects are demonstrable when they’re in play—for example, I was once killed twice by a sort of rocket launcher that spews a slow moving, bouncing, ball lightning that sparkles and lights it way through dark corridors. Talk about an experience.
The sound is reminiscent of Batman to a “T.”
You get used to people shouting out taunts and joking when deaths happen (oh and this isn’t the voice feature of the game, there is VoIP built in through Steam I believe.) There’s also the sounds of the homing parrots, the tin rat-a-tat-a-tat of the guns being fired, brass hitting the ground, and people dying from various weapons as you race to the objective or just kill whoever is nearby.
I know that I can hear my own footsteps when I’m running; but I have not tried to listen to the game through my headphones with stereo cranked up to see if I can detect the movement of nearby players via their footstep sounds. It seems like the game should be able to do that; although there’s numerous items that enable players to locate others through the map already (meaning that it greatly reduces the benefit of camping.)
In all, the game is somewhat silly and does not take itself seriously. The sound effects and music add into this nicely.
Gameplay: Standard FPS with weird gadgets, classless characters, and a nice array of weapons/tools
Gotham City Impostors is a classic of the tried-and-true FPS style in that it enables players to choose between dozens of guns, gadgets (mostly movement based), utility items and such. In fact, it adds a great deal of vertical play in that there are movement gadgets from grapplers to spring-heeled-shoes for allowing players to leap around the map. In this way, it’s very similar to the Call of Duty series and less similar to Team Fortress 2—but there’s also no kill streaks, although there is a single kill-streak ability called a “rampage,” I’ll go into below.
All new players are given a few “classes” they can choose from initially even before they’ve unlocked any weapons. This enables them to see how different types of characters might get put together without having to unlock the weapons and gadgets associated with them—for example, I might not have discovered the joy of using a fire-and-forget homing parrot to the face without a pre-made character with that as a piece of equipment!
Movement modes can be a big deal in this game. As a result, there’s a number of movement gadgets that can be equipped on characters from roller skates (for sliding swiftly), there’s grapple guns that allow line-running across the map, spring-heeled-shoes that permit high leaps from anywhere—of course, there’s also trampolines across many maps—and for those who want to get the full-on-bat-experience there’s gliders and hot-air vents. And for those who want the vertical gameplay at its finest it’s even possible to get a jetpack.
As a result, I more than once had to shoot down a Bat or a Joker as they soared overhead and tried to kill me horribly with death-from-above.
The “rampage” mode, as I mentioned above, is a type of kill streak. It’s a type of equipment as in it can be equipped on the character, enabling them to do something special at every 1200 points of damage or 5 kills—these rampages include putting all enemy players on the map, resisting damage for a few seconds, running faster for a few seconds, hitting a lot harder for a few seconds; etc. There’s even one, “The Angry Hedgehog” that’s triggered by 5 deaths without a kill. Most of these are triggered by hitting the “Q” button and can really change gameplay at the right moments.
There are a number of game modes with which everyone is already familiar. Of course, for new players there’s the staid-and-workaday Team Death Match a 6v6 (which I played numerous times). Then there’s re-envisioning of other game modes. Starting with Fumigation which is a control-points game where three control points across the map must be captured and held by either team—winners get to see the enemy choked out by an animation fitting their team: when Bats the Jokers get killed by bats; when Jokers win the bats get poisoned by neurotoxin gas. Psych Warfare involves capturing a battery to power a “psychological warfare machine” that causes the enemy team a massive debuff and confusion as it runs down—lots of objective and teamwork play in that one. Finally there’s Bounty Hunter which is more-or-less just like Kill Confirmed where coins are dropped by downed enemies must be picked up for points and friendly coins can be retrieved to deny kills to the enemy.
Freemium: Gotta make a buck? Sell unlocks to weapons players haven’t gotten to yet…
…but make sure that all weapons and items can be unlocked through normal gameplay. Otherwise it’s going to be seen as a pay-to-win game—and this is not. All unlocks look like they can be earned through tediously playing the game for hours (or for fun, don’t forget that) and they can also be bought from the get-go to get a jump on having to grind through levels to grab them up.
Elites and freeps are on the same footing when it comes to getting into the warfare—elites can just get their sooner by buying their favorite guns as unlocks before freeps get at them. Eventually the playing field simply levels out and no harm done.
This is a Steam game, which means that it runs through the Steam store. Things that are not unlocked through regular play happen to be special costume elements and other aesthetic items—although there’s a lot of costume bits that do come through hours of play—seeing how well Team Fortress 2 did just selling hats, I see no reason why Gotham City Impostors cannot make a killing allowing people to look like the best trashcan-lid-on-my-chest Bat or crazy-ass makeup Joker they can be.
Concluison: J’suis Batman! (Taire, Joker.)
Making Gotham City Impostors free-to-play was probably the best decision that Warner Bros. could have done with regards to getting people into the game. It’s an excellent FPS with a lot of interesting elements—from the exploding present, bear-traps, to everyday guns. Unfortunately, it still suffers a little bit from having not enough people in my region; anything other than TDM makes me wait for minutes on end to find a team.
In fact, I have not been able to play Fumigation even once because nobody is showing up in that mode; the one time that I did get in, the team I was on kicked me from the game tout suite. Possibly because I was level 10 and everyone else was level 60.
Still, I see a great deal of fun to be had in this game. I would expect that they could make it even better if WB were able to draw even more players in so that all the game modes were constantly full. The attributes that make this game wacky and zany certainly deliver a game worth playing and it takes cues from games such as Call of Duty and developed a game that was different enough in style and gameplay that it can stand on its own.
Also: Fire-and-forget homing parrot to the face!