Some of you may remember a plot introduced in Detective Comics a few years ago regarding new gangs popping up in Gotham City. An altered, non-lethal strain of Joker Venom is released on the streets. Instead of killing the exposed, it twists them into frenzied, psychotic hooligans. Those affected begin painting their faces dressing like Joker, and even go so far as to call their gang The Jokerz. A few of Gotham’s citizens grow tired of being harassed by the thugs. They decide that if one masked vigilante is what it takes to stop Joker, to stop a gang of them, they would need a gang of their own. Thus, The Bats are formed.
The story is the general principle behind Monolith Productions’ newest title, Gotham City Impostors. Impostors is a class-based multiplayer first person shooter in the same vein as Team Fortress. In fact, the similarities between the two titles even extend to the sense of humor infused in both titles. While the story arc in the comics was handled a bit more seriously, the game is executed with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.
For better or worse, the Jokerz and Bats don’t have Bruce Wayne’s billions or Joker’s pilfered technology. What they have is cardboard, duct tape, household appliances, and surplus weapons from the local military supply shop. Instead of body armor, your character might strap a garbage can lid to his chest. Instead of remote-controlled explosive batarangs, you get a rocket launcher made out of PVC pipe. You get the picture.
The game is still in beta testing and, as one of the lucky few selected to test, I had the opportunity to spend the better part of the weekend getting blown to bits by children 10-20 years younger than me.
For the beta, there are two game modes available: Fumigation and Psychological Warfare. Both modes support 6 on 6 action. Fumigation is a variation on a command point capture match. The endgame results in either nerve gas or killer bats being unleashed on your opponents, respectively. Psychological Warfare is a capture the flag variant, and it seems to be the more popular of the two modes.
Each team’s base houses a propaganda machine. In the middle of the map is a battery. Whichever team can retrieve the battery and attach it to their machine effectively captures the flag. However, that doesn’t end the match. At that point, your propaganda machine starts brainwashing the opposing side. If you’re on the receiving end, your screen starts to look like a bad acid trip while a soothing voice explains to you that you cannot win, you might as well go home, and to give up because you suck. While you’re being demotivated, you can’t use your weapons. This makes you easy prey for the opposing team to rack up some XP on kills. However, you can still flail your arms helplessly in front of your face in a girlish slapping motion. Slapping the winning team’s propaganda machine will detach the battery and end the penalty. Also, you can gain huge amounts of XP if you manage to get a slap kill on one of your assailants.
Once you choose your game mode, and the matchmaking is complete (more on that in a second), you get to choose your character. At the beginning, you’ll have to choose one of the pre-created templates. They should be familiar to anyone who has played Team Fortress. You can choose from a Scout, Sniper, Soldier, Medic, or Heavy class. Each character has its own unique loadout, movement speed, and health.
Impostors combines their frenetic and comical spin on the class-based multiplayer genre with the progression systems found in modern FPS titles like Modern Warfare and Battlefield. Each completed map earns you experience and costume coins. Each successive level unlocks new features for your character. After gaining a few levels, you unlock the ability to create your own custom loadout. In a few additional levels, you are able to customize your appearance. This is where the game truly starts to shine.
Monolith Productions has really been touting the customization options in Gotham City Impostors. Once you’ve gained enough levels to create your own personal Impostor, you really get a sense of what they were going for. You’re no longer restricted to a basic class. You can be the huge brute character, but carry a sniper rifle and smoke bombs. You can be the speedy scout character wielding a shotgun and rocket launcher. Whatever body type, voice type, costume, and loadout combination you want is at your fingertips. All you have to do is earn the XP to unlock them.
The full game boasts a level cap that tops out at 1000. That’s not a typo. You cap at level 1000. That is ample time to unlock every gun, mod, gadget, support item, perk, bonus, and costume in the game. The beta, however, tops out at level 25. Judicious choices are a little more necessary here.
My time with the beta itself was mostly positive. In fact, the only negative I have is with the matchmaking itself. I’m not sure if this is indicative of the finished product or a result of the limited users on the beta test, but the matchmaking is rather slow. Every time I’ve started a new game, whether I’m playing Fumigation or Psychological Warfare, I’ve had to sit in the lobby for up to ten minutes waiting for a group. However, once a game gets started, after a few rounds we can easily find all 12 player spots filled.
It would also be helpful if they added a “mute all” button in the lobby menu. I’m sure the reason for that should go without saying.
The game itself plays extremely well. The controls are everything you’d want from a FPS. The combination of wacky characters, oddball weaponry, and insane objectives give the game an addictive charm. I’m not really a fan of shooters, mainly because I suck at them, but I’ve been having a blast online. One of the reasons I liked playing Team Fortress like 15 years ago was because of the classes. I’m never going to be the guy with the highest kill/death ratio, but with different classes I can still be rewarded for my contributions to the team’s success. My KDR is something pathetic like 0.22 (basically, I die five times before I get a kill) and I generally have the most deaths on my team. However, I usually finish high enough to land in the police line-up (the list of top players) at the end of the match.
That’s the one thing I’ve noticed. Maybe more than in Team Fortress games over the years, most of the players in GCI seem to be in full on Rambo mode. Neither of the game modes available are deathmatch, but a vast majority of the players seem more interested in KDR than completing objectives or working as a team. I’m content to mop up XP with support tactics like healing teammates, capturing objectives, and assisting kills with my team. In the several hours I’ve spent playing the game over the weekend, I’m the only medic (or now, slutty Joker medic with a shotgun) I’ve ever encountered. I’d assume this will change with the full release, as someone willing to pay for the game will probably have a good idea of what they’re getting into. Hint: it’s not Call of Duty.
Gotham City Impostors is set to release February 2012. While a firm date in February hasn’t been announced yet, this beta test goes through 2/6, so it’s very likely the game will be available to the public as soon as 2/7. A price point hasn’t been discussed either, but this seems like a game that will run $15-$20.
If you were a fan of Team Fortress, or you’re a shooter fan looking for something new, I’d suggest giving Gotham City Impostors a try (assuming the game retails for my estimation of $20 or so). It’s got a quirky, comedic beat to it, tight gameplay, and a dense leveling system to encourage replayability for hundreds of hours. Keep your eyes out on Xbox Live and Playstation Network this month, as you could be seeing it available in as soon as a week.