Ever since Gotham City Impostors was announced earlier this year, gamers have been questioning whether the world needs a team-based multiplayer shooter inspired by the mythos of Batman and the Joker. After all, Batman doesn’t actually kill anyone, so he naturally cannot be in a first-person shooter where people die. Joker is a bad a**hole, but he could naturally be in a game like this.
Thankfully, Monolith Productions has gone in an entirely new and unique fashion, allowing The Joker’s and Batman’s craziest fans to form gangs and battle it out during the daylight in Gotham City’s oddest locations.
So the big question in the game is where is Batman and Joker? Well, if Batman really paid that much attention to what his obsessed fans, calling themselves The Bats, were doing with their enemies, the Jokerz, he would have both sides arrested and put in jail. It’s just not his jam to join up with that. It’s for that reason that we won’t see Batman as a playable character, or a perk-based summon, or anything like that. Hell, it’s for that reason that the game takes place only in the day, as Bruce Wayne has…work…and the Joker is probably sleeping.
That said, Gotham City Impostors is designed for players to create their version of the one true Bat and Clown. Like any other XP-based shooters, players can earn points to be used on weapon modifiers, clothing, face paint, tools, and more. There are hundreds of items here, and considering everything from hairstyles to tutu skirts are gender neutral, expect to see many bizarre and outlandish characters people will create. With five body types offering speed and damage bonuses, as well as unique faces for each type, the ludicrous customization works very well. My favorite item was the slightly subversive briefs with a robin on the crotch.
While variations of your standard weapons are in the game, jury-rigged with household objects like sticky balls for grenades and soda bottles for an explosive rocket. Pipe bombs, boomerangs, hatchets, bear traps, jack-in-the-box bombs, body armor, healing energy drinks, and even an airspace denier that stops mobility tools are all unlockable tools. The game gets even more insane with a drinkable potion that causes invisibility at the expense of speed and weapon usage, or a megaphone that heals. Later items include targeting goggles and ninja smoke bombs, and all of them are available in the custom load-outs. It’s campy, cheesy, and fabulously fun.
Unlike other shooters, Gotham City Impostors shines with the mobility tools. Instead of your traditional “speed boost” modifiers like other shooters, the impostors have access to roller skates that speed the player and launch them off specially placed ramps, a grappling gun that can take them to new heights, springs that launch players skyward, special insoles that allow a double jump, and a glider that can take them easily across maps. These tools make the game much more vertically oriented than you would expect, and they work fantastically.
At my hands-on session with Gotham City Impostors, we played through four maps, the run-down amusement park of Amusement Mile, the dangerous Crime Alley, the seaside region of The Docks, and the Ace Chemical plant. The Docks was the new map shown, a tight stage split in half by a gigantic shipping warehouse, with shipping crates stacked on one side and a crab shack on the other. It’s a good stage, with lots of small details that makes it feel like a true location of Gotham, as opposed to a perfectly-tuned multiplayer map that is then skinned to look like a Batman location.
That’s actually a case with all of the maps, as each one is a colorful and unique stage pulled from the Batman universe. I love how Monolith has been able to pull ideas and tropes from everything from the Batman animated series of the Nineties, the wacky slapstick of the 60's, and even some of the darkness and maliciousness of the Frank Miller era of comics. I chatted with the developers, and everything from the customizable characters to the weapons and tools, to the stages, are designed to be both unique to the game, as well as inspired by the overall Batman mythos. It’s a beautiful looking game, and you can tell that Monolith’s art department has been working overtime to fill out the world of Gotham with color and fun
Gotham City Impostors is a team-based shooter, and while the game has its standard team deathmatch, the game is at its best when presenting unique takes on classic game modes gussied up with a Batman sheen. Psychological warfare is your traditional capture the flag, except instead of flags or banners, players are trying to steal special radio devices that, once stolen and captured, mess with the opposing team with a psychedelic filter. Fumigation is Gotham City Impostor’s version of Domination modes, with control points placed around a map. Control more points on a map, and you’ll start hacking away at the point score of the opposing team.
One thing to note about the maps is that they are not symmetrical. To solve this problem, matches are done in rounds, with teams switching sides every round to make sure there is a consistent balance for teams. The whole experience is highly enjoyable, if perfectly subversive in a way that fits all aspects of the Batman mythos.
I’ve come away from playing Gotham City Impostors to view it as a goofy and addictive FPS game. Coming out on January 10 for PC, XBLA, and PSN, players can sign up for the beta now, in what is sure to be an addictive and fun ride.