Giant Bomb Review

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Gotham City Impostors Review

4
  • XBGS
  • PC
  • PS3N

The framework of Monolith's new multiplayer shooter might not be wildly original, but its nonsensical humor sure is.

The shooting in this game is fine, but the shooting isn't necessarily the point.
The shooting in this game is fine, but the shooting isn't necessarily the point.

There's nothing especially original about Gotham City Impostors' mishmash of multiplayer modes and character progression, but the game goes to such absurd lengths to distinguish itself from the vast field of modern-military mediocrity that you can't help but love it at least a little bit. I thought I was just about done with team deathmatch and carrot-on-a-stick multiplayer unlocks, but those things feel a lot fresher when they're full of vigilante faux-Batmen on rollerskates, and mohawk-wearing Joker minions running around spouting high-pitched superhero nonsense.

Mechanically, the game isn't a unique multiplayer shooter, but it's a good one. Capture-and-hold and one-flag CTF modes are mixed in with the team deathmatch, and the shooting feels nice and solid. The requisite character-progression system is robust enough to give you a huge number of options in building out your character, from five body types that dictate your speed and health, to a ton of weapons that range from typical rifles to freeze guns and boomerangs. The perks system feeds into the comic book motif by framing your peripheral abilities as fun facts (like you'd see on a trading card) and a psych profile. And a selection of gadgets--most of which come in the form of modes of transportation--make the gameplay feel more mobile and dynamic than your typical Call of Duty clone, since you can soar around on glider wings or shoot a grapple gun to get you up to higher ledges. Using the gadgets to get around the map quickly is key to winning, especially in the objective game types.

But forget weapon mods and killstreak bonuses. What sets Gotham City Impostors apart is the ludicrous attitude that colors it front to back, from the ridiculousness of the two teams' makeshift Batman and Joker costumes to the frumpy little hand-drawn, business-suited "Office Bat" who runs around the game showing you how everything works. In the character creator, you select a voice... and then move a slider that hilariously pitches the voice way up or down. The unlockable costume options include a bath towel for a cape, a Batman mask made out of a cardboard box, and a lack of pants that turns out to be the most expensive piece of non-clothing in the game. When you bring the flag, which is a battery, back to your base, which is a propaganda machine, the people on the other team hear a bunch of subtle suggestions about their inferiority and become so demoralized they can't use weapons for a bit. But they can still flail their arms around helplessly...which is a one-hit kill. There's a refreshing, gleeful devotion to absurdist humor here that reminds me at least passingly of some other recent games. It helps that the subject matter lets the developer play so fast and loose with--and poke some fun at--the Batman license and its associated tropes.

Take it from me, Shirtless Batman is a real jerk.
Take it from me, Shirtless Batman is a real jerk.

You can unlock everything in the game just by playing it--though, given that some items have level requirements into the hundreds, that's going to take you a while. Thankfully, leveling up is the only way to access weapons, mods, and other gameplay-relevant trinkets. But you also have the option to pay real cash money for the cosmetic-only costume pieces, as well as some other doohickeys that are only for looks, and a temporary boost to experience. If the game were holding a bunch of content back behind a required paywall, it'd be a lot easier to get incensed about the number of microtransactions stuffed into a game that's already 15 dollars, but since you can access everything that matters just by unlocking it, it's hard to get too worked up about a set of convenience fees that's easy enough to ignore. What you're buying here is strictly a multiplayer game, though there's a big list of offline challenges involving the various gadgets that you can run through to earn experience. And once you rank up, you can join a gang that serves as one of several factions in a persistent turf war that will hopefully encourage people to stick with the game for a decent chunk of time.

It's harder to ignore the problems with the PC version of the game. While I didn't run into the matchmaking issues other players have been reporting, you may have worse luck and find it tough to get a game going. The performance problems I ran into on our ATI-based office PC are unforgivable, though, with a frame rate stuck in the teens at best and occasionally dipping into an outright slideshow--and this was after dropping detail settings down considerably. There, the game was completely unplayable, but on my Nvidia-based home machine the game ran at a perfect 60 frames per second and played great. (Whether there's some kind of GPU-specific driver issue like Rage had at launch is open to speculation.) With all these potential issues, I'd recommend you not go anywhere near the PC version until it's properly patched, although by then, who's to say if the game will still have an active community? It's a shame, because the PC version should by all rights be the best one. I had no trouble playing on both consoles, but the PS3 game had some unsightly texture pop-in, so the 360 version seems like the safest bet right now.

The idea of a multiplayer-only downloadable shooter is a sound one, offering a lower-priced, stripped-down version of that Call of Duty progression model for people who don't care about campaigns and just want to focus on the headshots and skill unlocks. But given that most of the games in that category have been biting Call of Duty on every level, even in appearance and tone, it's been hard to get too excited about any of them. By contrast, Gotham City Impostors shows how far a clear sense of personality and humor can take you even when you're making the same old style of game.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+