Gotham City Impostors review
The Batman franchise has been riding high on the success of last year’s fantastic Arkham City, so we were a little surprised with the announcement of Gotham City Imposters. A team-based multiplayer FPS isn’t exactly what springs to mind when you think of the Dark Knight, but developer Monolith has managed to inject some much-needed originality into the genre.
With Batman mysteriously absent, Gotham’s slightly more sanity-challenged residents have taken up arms in his name to defend the city from the Joker’s crazed supporters. The quirky characters have none of the seriousness of the recent films, nor are they camp throwbacks to the 1960’s TV series – instead, there’s a great mix of personalities that suit the idea of regular people trying to emulate their heroes. It’s not often a balding, overweight office worker with a handlebar moustache gets to wield a bazooka (at least without getting on the wrong side of the law, anyway).
Each team is divided into classes, with each member having access to certain weapons and gadgets. They should all feel familiar to FPS veterans – medics can heal their teammates with a pep-talk through a megaphone, snipers can set traps and lay in wait for their enemies and the hulking explosives expert is slow but can take the most damage.
This alone is nothing new, but it’s the gadgets and support items that add a welcome new dimension to the gunplay. Being able to grapple up to raised platforms, double-jump with inflatable balloon shoes and swoop down from the skies with a glider opens up each level vertically, meaning you have to keep on your toes as an attack could come from any angle. Each of the game’s levels has been designed to take advantage of these abilities, with ramps for roller skaters to jump from, trampolines to send you flying and air vents to let cape-wearers take off.
Level variety is mixed at best. The brightly lit Amusement Mile is a real highlight, but others are more generic and dull. Considering Gotham City is ripe for interesting and unique locations, it’s a shame there are only five maps - it won’t take you long to learn the nooks and crannies favoured by campers and the quickest route to each objective. The basic game modes don’t add much to the action either – vanilla Team Deathmatch has been done to death and the twists on Capture the Flag and Domination both fail to add anything new to the genre.
Like almost every modern FPS, there are obligatory experience and unlock systems to encourage gamers to keep playing. There are a huge number of items to unlock, from weapons, modifications and camouflage patterns to character types, costumes and gadgets, but progress is painfully slow. Every rank increase rewards you with at least one unlock token, but the more you progress the longer it takes between levels. Cynics would say this is a deliberate move to force players to spend real world money on the DLC which can unlock certain items early, but you don’t have to pay any more than the cost of the game to get all its content – it could just take you a long time to unlock it all.
Based on the number of players online and the current state of the game’s netcode, even FPS experts could struggle to unlock everything quickly. Even with dedicated servers, we noticed a lot of lag in certain games, if we could get into them at all. Matchmaking forces you into groups, but with no way to switch sides if someone leaves, matches often dissolve into a game of cat and mouse as the last remaining player hides from six enemies. A patch due in March promises to fix some of these issues, but for a multiplayer only title this is difficult to forgive.
It’s a shame the online experience is so sporadic, as there’s a decent game behind the issues. If you’re jaded with Call of Duty and want something with a bit more variety and colour, Gotham City Imposters might be able to fill a void, but it’s worth waiting for some patches before parting with your cash.