E3 2011: Gotham City Impostors Hands-On Preview – Welcome to the Fun Hole
Written Saturday, June 25, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
With Batman: Arkham City casting a gigantic bat-shaped shadow on the horizon later this year, what you'll be wanting to play after you're finished with that is a first-person multiplayer shooter set in Gotham City, right? Granted it's not the most obvious idea for a Batman-licensed game, but Gotham City Impostors might just bring something a bit different to the Xbox Live Arcade, with a madcap game of competitive team-based multiplayer that's not unlike Call of Duty to play.
Yes, yes. We know that CoD has been flogged to death when it comes to first-person shooter comparisons, but Gotham City Impostors takes its control system wholesale from Modern Warfare, which on the plus side means that any shooter fan will be able to instantly pick up and play it. Impostors is about as far away as you can get from a po-faced military shooter though, pitting the Bats against the Jokerz in a crazed battle to implant propaganda into the opposing team's minds. You start by customising your secret identity, so you might be an accountant who dresses up like Batman or a lawyer who spends their evenings running around dressed as the Joker, and you can choose your outfit, gadgets and weapons before jumping into a match.
For our hands-on, we engage in a best-of-three match-up to seize control of a battery in a capture-the-flag-style game mode called 'Psychological Warfare'. The aim is to retrieve the battery from a designated zone on the map and take it back to your base, where you need to defend it until your propaganda machine is able to fire up. Once the machine springs into action, the opposing team transform into gibbering buffoons, who can only walk in a hypnotised stupor, flailing around wildly as the only means of attack, while their screens become obscured by hallucinogenic colours.
When you're not on the receiving end of a nasty bit of brainwashing from the propaganda machine, you'll have access to a flexible array of gadgetry and weapons, with some characters packing a grappling hook and zipline enabling you to quickly zip from surface to surface, while others have the ability to dive and glide, using updrafts of heat from vents dotted around the maps to momentarily boost upwards. The boomerang and rollerskates do what they say on the tin, while spring-loaded boots are another useful gadget, that enable your character to perform death-defying jumps all over the place, which is fun, but makes aiming difficult. It's all about balance, you see...
During the 3 versus 3 Psychological Warfare match where up to 4 versus 4 is supported, we're drafted into the Jokerz team fighting against the Bats and find the grappling hook an indispensable bit of kit. Using Impostors' homebrew weapons, the FPS action is fast and furious, with an insane, OTT comic book-style look that's pretty much in a league of its own as far as the shooter genre is concerned. Coming from Monolith, the development studio behind Condemned and the first two FEAR games, Gotham City Impostors plays like a suitably slick FPS, moving at a fair lick with quick and responsive controls. The developer's first-person experience is plain to see and the variety of weird and wonderful weapons as well as more conventional guns keeps things interesting, as do the aforementioned gadgets.
Reaching half-time in the match means changing sides on the map while obviously remaining with the same team, just to keep things fair and square, so for the next round, we start in another section of the trippy, psychedelic amusement park, jumping and grappling between different levels to try and get a good vantage point for defending our battery. Annoyingly, the Bats beat us to the punch, grabbing the battery and piping out their propaganda, causing the team to go insane as the babbling from the loudspeakers taunts us mercilessly and the screen turns into a clown's nightmare. Well, it is a clown's nightmare, of sorts. Activating the propaganda doesn't necessarily spell the end of the round, although it is tough to come back from, as our outclassed Jokerz team soon discovers.
We do our bit with the shooting and killing, but retrieving the battery proves a bit too difficult and the final round goes to the Bats again, meaning that good triumphs over evil. Or something. Whatever the case, Gotham City Impostors is nutty in all the ways a game featuring teams of pariahs dressed as Batman and the Joker should be, with colourful visuals, insane weapons, gadgets and equally crazy environments. What's surprising about Monolith's game though, is that it works when we really didn't think that it would. Gotham City Impostors could be something of a genre-bending curio then, taking the intrinsically mad world of Batman and the Joker, and their insane rivalry, spinning it into an online multiplayer first-person shooter unlike any other you'll have seen before.
Gotham City Impostors will be spreading its propaganda on XBLA in 2012.