A first person shooter based on the Batman franchise? Hmmmm, sounds like a square peg forced into a round hole if you ask me…….well, if you’d asked me a few weeks ago that is. The fact is, despite Gotham City Imposters proving one of the more bizarre uses of the Batman license to date, as a game, the combination of Batman license and gadget-fuelled first person shootery actually works rather well. By forgoing the core characters and a uniquely linked tone to any specific movie or comic book series, Gotham City Imposters and its array of Batman and Joker wannabees just about manages to forge its own identity without feeling out of place in the larger Batman universe.
While the gunplay isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the relatively small number of core weapons do have a hint of the Call of Duty about them. They aren’t exactly inspiring but they are solid and give very decent feedback. What does inspire however, and what inevitably makes Gotham City Imposters a worthwhile gameplay experience, is the games myriad of brilliantly budget gadgets.
Looking like they were put together by Fathers for Justice, these low-cost gadgets include homemade gliders, springy shoes, grappling hooks and super skates. Each of these are widely available and lead to battles that are fought just as readily on the roofs of buildings and in the sky above as they are in the alleyways and buildings below. With ramps and vents aplenty, it’s actually possible to spend most of your time killing from above……until you invariably get shot down yourself that is.
Be it in the air or on the ground, at its heart, Monolith (developers of the Condemned and F.E.A.R series) have created a very solid multiplayer shooter. Even without the Batman license, this is a game with the potential to find that middle ground between Call of Duty and Team Fortress 2 that Shadowrun filled for such a short period of time back in 2007. Whether or not this suffers the same fate as that game did back at the start of the Xbox 360’s lifecycle is yet to be seen, but with a license as strong as Batman to back it up, I’m guessing that Gotham City Imposters might well find itself a foothold in the market.
As good as the game’s underlying mechanics and use of the license are however, there are some major issues that might hold this game back from becoming as successful as it could be. For one, while I accept that this is a digital download game released at a budget price (in comparison to full retail releases anyway), the measly 5 maps and limited number of game modes is a cause for concern. The maps available are tightly designed and varied enough to warrant multiple plays, but considering the snail’s pace in which you level up and unlock new items, the limited number of maps do begin to wear a little thin faster than they otherwise might have.
The same goes for the game modes – there is a basic single player campaign that pads out the package, but it ultimately proves little more than a training tool for the main event, and with only 3 modes available, things do start to get a little repetitive after a while. With Team Deathmatch being self-explanatory and Fumigation little more than Domination in everything but name, it’s down to Psych Warfare to imbue the game with a little invention and long-term appeal. A clever twist on Capture the Flag, this mode has your team attempting to get a battery pack back to your base. If defended long enough, propaganda begins to play that leaves the opposing team unable to do anything other than slap attacks for the remainder of the round and subsequently turns them into little more than cannon fodder for the members of the winning team. It’s a brilliant mode and one that does give the game extra legs, but whether it’s enough to keep players coming back for the long haul remains to be seen.
Again though, as good as Psych Warfare may be, and as solid as the content available is, there really isn’t enough there to justify the outrageously slow unlock speeds. Of course, I’d love to put this down to a poorly judged development decision, but I fear that the truth might well prove a tad more underhanded. You see, while all the cool gadgets and weaponry in the game can be unlocked by those willing to put in the truly heroic shift required to unlock them, they can also be unlocked via the unholy abomination that is micro-transactions. I do appreciate that these are a part of modern day gaming, but in this case, the levelling and unlock speeds seems to have been slowed down quite deliberately to encourage additional purchases. Very sneaky.
In fairness, the loadout and class options from the start are reasonably varied with numerous skills and Bat/Joker-wear to choose from, but if you’re just starting out and you run across a group of players who have made the purchases or worked hard enough to unlock the top-tier equipment, expect a pretty rough ride when starting out.
Despite the dubious micro-transactions and the limited game modes and levels available, Gotham City Imposters is nonetheless an enjoyable 6 vs 6 first person shooter that does a great job of doing something unique with a well worn license. The Unreal Engine powered visuals look great for a download only game, and while some might argue that it is tonally incoherent, I quite liked the fact that Monolith decided to pick and choose different aspects of the Batman universe as they saw fit. It’s not the best first person shooter on the market by any stretch of the imaginations but it has managed to find something of a niche within the genre to call its own, and when you have the Batman license behind you, well, you’ve always got a decent stab at success don’t you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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