Is it Batmen or Batmans? Or neither, considering there is no Batman?
A Batman game without Batman is insane. A Batman game where multiple Batmans might employ assault rifles is arguably more insane, which is probably why the folks at Monolith decided to drop the Dark Knight when they were charged with making a downloadable ,multiplayer focused first person shooter set within Batman's beloved Gotham City. And here we are with Gotham City Impostors, a game features those intense - but well meaning - idiots who pretend to be Batman locked in eternal struggle against a similar group of miscreants whom pledge allegiance to The Joker. On paper that sort of sounds like gentle tragedy but in practice, honesty, I was surprised at how much fun I ended up having with the game.
Gotham City Impostors combines the charms of two influences, neither of which it attempts to conceal. Both the control scheme and general pace are feel identical to Call of Duty's current offerings, and the class based foundations and wacky weaponry owe clear inspiration to Team Fortress 2. Under these terms Gotham City Impostors might appear to be another contestant in the long line of "flavor of the week" budget-priced first person shooters, not unlike Lead and Gold and...and...Do you see my point? It's a wonder these titles are still coming out when so much of the market is soaked up by Modern Warfare, Halo, and Battlefield, and while you have to admire the persistence behind a fresh point of view, the odds of success were certainly not in Gotham's City Impostors' favor.
But then a funny thing happened. After thirty or so minutes, amidst all the doubt and despair over what might unfold, I noticed I was having a really good time. This comes with the qualification that I've only dabbled in Call of Duty and Team Fortress and haven't seriously played a competitive first person shooter since Counter Strike compromised my college education a decade ago, but, with that in mind, I really started digging Gotham City Impostors.
Take the innocence of the tutorial. A ramshackle warehouse with obstacles that look like they were built by people with a minimal understanding of basic construction is a playground for a bunch of toys that look equally amateur. Aside from your standard variety of automatic weapons, you get to try out gadgets like a cape that blasts you into the air upon traveling over gas vents, roller skates that seem particularly adept at jumping over ramps, self-explanatory spring shoes, and a slapped together grappling hook that, quite miraculously, works perfectly. Mechanically these ideas too have been done elsewhere, but never with the ridiculous aesthetic that defines their existence. Almost every weapon or gadget in Gotham City Impostors feels like it was made for laughs, and game is consciously and constantly aware of that fact.
In any case, you don't actually have to use all of that stuff at the same time. While the ability to highly (highly) customize your class and load out arrives after gaining a few dozen levels, Gotham City Impostors begins with five distinct classes. The sluggish Defender is your standard tank with explosive weaponry, a huge clip machine gun, and a cape good for gliding and dive bombing. The nimble Scout has a shoddy looking slingshot, an invisibility potion, and a couple shurikens for good measure while the Medic's paltry weaponry is balanced out with a health restoring/buffing megaphone. Both the Sniper and the Striker are blessed with the grappling hook, though expectedly boast vastly different weaponry for precision and assault, respectively.
But, like I said, after some, well, a lot of leveling Gotham City Impostors begins to open up into a virtual Mr. Potato Head of possibilities and customization. Eventually you're granted access to creating a load out for a main weapon, a crazy secondary weapon, a support item, and a gadget. You also get to fiddle with your character's specific body types, which greatly affect health and mobility, and Fun Facts are Gotham City Impostors nonchalant interpretation of stat boosting perks. Costume Coins can be earned and spent to customize your avatars appearance (or you can buy those items with real dollars in the marketplace), all of which leads to universal truth that there are no two Batmans, and Jokerz I guess, alike.
The love/hate part is that all of Gotham City Impostors impressive commitment to customization is the giant wall of experience points that gates it all off. The initial rush of discovery, as defined by the hour or two where you're learning the game and discovering how well it stamps its own brand on familiar mechanics, might not completely hook everyone. Warner Brothers offers assistance in inducing addiction by offering to sell the player a bunch of cosmetic items and a cheap consumable pills that doubles earned experience for a limited amount of time, should you want to fast track your pursuit to, apparently, level 1000. Of particular interest is a different consumable that gives double xp to your entire team which is neat if a bunch of your friends are playing, but is also subtlety awesome if you happened to be randomly matched with a Good Samaritan.
All of these options are filtered through three game modes. Deathmatch pits a six on six team of Bats versus Jokerz, as one might expect. Fumigation is Gotham City Impostors' take on Domination with the two teams rushing all over the map to maintain control of checkpoints. Despite it basically encompassing the rules of Capture the Flag, Psychological Warfare is by far the most interesting. Taking a leaky car battery to your base, hooking it up to a machine, and defending it until the machine starts working is standard, but upon success the machine starts brainwashing the opposing team, rendering them incapable of operating their weapons for a brief period of time. That was fun, but better was being a member of that afflicted team and still pulling off a kill without weapons. Gotham City Impostors also boasts an easy to overlook Challenge Mode, a solo collection of small missions that tasks the player with grabbing gold medals in a series of weapon and gadget related challenges across the game's five maps.
Thankfully most all of this is in service to decent shooting. Initially I found the sensitivity of the twin sticks to be a little too high for my tastes, though after a couple hours I got the hang of its quirks (sensitivity is adjustable, I just prefer to always play default). The guns feel okay, if not a little boring in the same universe as all of their ridiculous counterparts. It feels like the team at Monolith created a creative gadgetry. Does it lack inspiration in that regard? Sure, but Gotham City Impostors’ absence in its peer's retail space and a $15 price tag can forgive such minor sins.