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Hands On with “Gotham City Impostors”

by  in Video Game Comment
Hands On with “Gotham City Impostors”

The the world of Batman in video games has been clearly covered, hasn’t it? As if the Dark Knight’s reputable (and not-so-reputable) releases weren’t enough, the 2009 release “Batman: Arkham Asylum” is definitely a classic. (And if you don’t believe us, just check out CBR’s Top 10 Comic Book Games of All Time — Batsy clearly rules the number one slot.) If it’s a sequel you want, “Batman: Arkham City” is ready to swoop in and dominate the gaming market on October 18, for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

But that isn’t quite enough to satisfy Warner Bros. Games. The company still wants to get the most out of the Batman franchise, but how to do it without going into overkill territory? An original concept — that’s exactly what they’re delivering with “Gotham City Impostors,” a game that pits fans of both the Dark Knight and his greatest adversary, the Joker, in a battle throughout Gotham City’s streets. Oh, and here’s the kicker — it’s a first-person shooter.

Knowing Batman has a strict “no killing” policy, an FPS based on the Batman universe may leave some scratching their heads, or wondering if Warner Bros. is laying a golden egg the size of the “Green Lantern” movie. But there’s actually some good stuff at work here, thanks to the development team at Monolith, who previously worked on the moody, horrific games in the “F.E.A.R.” franchise. This one isn’t to be taken as seriously, though. In fact, they’re going for an over-the-top style that could easily fit the crown prince of crime like a glove.

Rather than feature Batman and the Joker themselves, “Gotham City Impostors” instead focuses on everyday folk, living their lives by day and turning into gun-toting lunatics at night. The characters include Justin the masochistic accountant; Nick the paranoid trash man (he might want to be careful about what bags he handles); Joe the passive aggressive plumber; and Bridget the tyrannical student (pray for the teaching staff.) Once their alternative lifestyles take over, they join up in teams of four and don clothes that resemble either Batman’s dark crime fighting wear or the Joker’s colorful wardrobe. From there, they grab guns and set out to take Gotham City, one section at a time.

“Gotham City Impostors” is built for multiplayer enjoyment. You won’t find much of a story structure here, just a series of battles where you join your side and gun your way to victory. Up to eight players can take part in a match, brandishing a number of weapons and tools designed with your team in mind to help you gain the victory. Granted, you’ll need the skills to match, as these Bat brains and fool hardy Joker wannabes won’t go down without a fight.

Each character has four different items available. There’s the primary weapon, which will be used over the course of battle; a special back-up weapon that can be used sparingly; a support item to help gain an advantage over opponents; and gadgets that can either distract an adversary or assist a teammate. The primary weapons usually consist of handguns or assault rifles, stuff that comes standard in the common criminal. Secondary weapons get a little more creative since they’re all handmade. We especially like the homemade rocket launcher featured in the trailer, spitting out fireworks without the need for a match. The nitro-launching slingshot is a nice touch, too — and ideal for large clusters of baddies.

Then we’ve got the support items. These can consist of anything — pipe bombs to ambush enemies with to traps that can be placed randomly and an energy drink that salvages any lost health over the course of a match. You’ll find these strewn about, so keep an eye open. Some work better than others though, such as the boomerang to attack multiple enemies at once and an axe that’s perfect for instant kills. (Fans of “Modern Warfare 2’s” tomahawk will love this.)

Finally, the gadgets exist to enhance player performance. You’ll have your choice of one single gadget to use in a match, and each one comes with an advantage and a disadvantage. Using a booster to reach higher areas will give you a better shot at camping snipers, but could leave you in the sights of ground forces. Roller skates will accelerate you quicker, but also inhibits control over movements. A winged glider gives a spectacular aerial view of the area, but you could end up a sitting duck for a sniper’s gun sights. Choose your gadget carefully, because you’ll need to use it properly.

As you can see from the game’s trailer, there are various body types available for each team. You’ve got your big guys, your average build dudes, and slender girls, all of which have performance quirks to them. The Tough class, for example, lets you take extra damage, more than the other classes would. Speedy, on the other hand, can move much quicker to cover. The best way to decide how a class fits you is to play around and see which one works best. There is no wrong answer here, though. No matter which one you go with (of the five provided), you can still do damage on the battlefield.

Along with character types and weapon selection, “Gotham City Impostors” also features a dynamic customization system, one that lets you design your Bat-freak or Joker crony any way you see fit. As you complete each match throughout the game, you’ll access a number of new accessories including bat cowls, wings, skirts, make-up jobs, gloves, capes, shirts and much more.

This unlocks through a progressive experience points (XP) set-up. Once enough points are accrued through matches, players can shop around and unlock items, building their collection and further strengthening the gun-toting maniac they’ve always wanted to create.

Monolith and WB Games haven’t gone into too much detail about what kind of multiplayer match-ups to expect, though the trailer suggests a variety of modes to keep players busy. We did discover one: Psychological Warfare. Essentially, it revolves around finding a battery for a mind-scrambling device, then activating it before the other team can stop you. If you’re able to accomplish this, the other team will be forced to drop their weapons and fend off attackers with… slap attacks. Have you ever sees someone dressed as Batman go off on a bitch-slapping frenzy? With “Gotham City Impostors,” the possibility isn’t far off.

Though “Gotham City Impostors” is clearly a far cry from the universe it created with “F.E.A.R.” over the past few years, Monolith isn’t taking this playful first-person shooter any less seriously. As you can see from the trailer, the Joker and Bat crews have a blast fighting through what looks like an abandoned carnival, with its flashing lights and structural set-ups. More maps will be introduced over the next few months, but if they’re equal to the quality of this one, consider us excited. Our only hope is that the developers include some familiar locales from the Batman universe, such as Arkham Asylum (these guys ARE crazy, after all) and perhaps even the Joker’s hideout.

What’s more, there’s a sharp frame rate on display thus far, even when battles are heated. It’s cool to watch some of the aerial attacks take place in the game, with Joker henchmen jumping in for the kill or a Bat-man (not the Batman, mind you) temporarily paralyzing a foe so he can do him in with a quick melee attack. It’s fast-paced, and more importantly, looks like a lot of fun — especially for a downloadable game.

As for the audio, it’s on an equally playful setting. You’ve got both sides yelling taunts at one another as they subdue their opponents, while plenty of weapon effects keep things interesting. As for the in-game music, we haven’t heard enough of it yet, so we’ll hold off judgment for now. Probably shouldn’t expect anything too serious, though. “Arkham City,” this isn’t.

While we were skeptical at first upon hearing about the development of a Batman first-person shooter — especially considering the guy doesn’t use any sort of projectile-shooting weapon (outside of a traditional grappling gun) — but Monolith and WB Games have a great idea with “Gotham City Impostors,” and they’re taking it further than expected. There are still plenty of details to come, including match types, more classes and what kind of DLC is in store for the game once it releases, but good things come to those who wait. For now, enjoy the trailer and pick your “Impostor” side. The battle kicks off early next year as a download on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

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