Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if Batman decided he needed to kill some fools? Of course you have. But have you ever wondered what it would be like if it all took place under a Team Fortress/CoD scope, ya’ know, without actually playing as Batman? Me either. But you know what? Monolith did – and Gotham City Impostors would have been a great game if it weren’t for some hang-ups.
GCI’s premise is simple: someone must protect Gotham while The Batman is indisposed, and who better to fend off Joker’s minions than copybats (zing!) equipped with their own versions of Bats’ famed gadgetry, as well as some more deadly homemade creations. Slapstick comedy permeates the experience right from the beginning, providing many unexpected chuckles and genuine laughs. Most come in the form of sound-effects that boing-oing or flop and splat when utilizing weapons or gadgets, and the grenade-in-a-box is simply a blast. Humor is used to help keep gametypes like rush and conquest refreshing, until you realize that three MP modes and just as many maps doesn’t quite cut it.
On the surface, Gotham City Impostors looks like another class-based shooter, which Monolith nails pretty well. As you delve deeper in and it attempts to become something more, however, it falters. Many class-based shooters seem to pigeonhole you into a class that can only use certain weapons, abilities, or body/armor type. GCI, however, allows for a deep amount of customization.
Any combination of body type (a total of five), weapon, gadget or sub-weapon can be utilized in the custom load outs, though some body types will be more efficient with heavier weapons or gadgets than others. Gadgets range from grappling hooks and glider wings to roller-skates and bouncing shoes, all of which provide a ton of fun at first. Though the traditional weaponry leaves a bit to be desired, the creativeness behind the gadgets helps to make up for it with originality and humor, yet still could have benefitted from more variants.
Gotham City Impostors is definitely not without its limitations. After the initial gadgetry love affair wears off, gameplay essentially breaks down to a combination of Call of Duty and Team Fortress. By no means an outright bad mashup, but GCI doesn’t go out of its way to bring anything new to the table, especially after you get bored with the limited amount of gadgets that are a pain to unlock in the first place.
A heavy contributor that prevents GCI from becoming really great is level progression. Painstakingly slow on what is basically a paid “freemium” model, unlocking new gadgets, body types, weapons, costumes, and everything in between can take many, many, many hours. (Un)luckily, you can purchase EVERYTHING from either the PSN or XBL, which feeds into the freemium model, though one which needs to be paid for first.
I have no problem with freemiums, and think Gotham City Impostors would benefit greatly from using a true one. However, having to actually pay for the game first is just silly. Monolith tried to have the “best” of both worlds, but it fails. There were times where I thought $1.99 wouldn’t be so bad to unlock that new gadget, weapon, or costume, but then I’d remember I'd already paid for this game, and promptly threw that thought away.
The multiplayer modes are fresh and amusing takes on some old favorites, but with only 3 maps, not including the very forgettable training missions that offer no substantial reward, boredom has a tendency to overwhelm extended play periods. More modes and maps are certainly on the way –as one just dropped very recently – and I’m pleasantly (and genuinely) surprised they’re being made available as free updates rather than paid DLC. Even with the added map, however, the game just becomes too boring, too quickly.
Contributing to the mundane undertones are the generally uninspired level design, lackluster character models, and non-existent music. While it all takes place in Gotham, different locales other than the city streets could have been used to breathe some life into the boring selection, as rooftops and sewers would have been a great change of pace. Character models are generic, but the large amount of customization options available help to correct that. The sound work –that is, the sound effects– are pretty solid, both in terms of humor and quality, yet GCI utterly lacking in the music department. It doesn’t really detract from the experience, but it certainly doesn’t help Gotham City Impostors be any less mundane.
Gotham City Impostors has many of the right parts in place, yet stumbles finding the correct formula for greatness. The mixture of CoD and Team Fortress styles work well for the most part, but after the gadgets lose their luster and the small amount of maps and modes begin to usher in boredom, it’s difficult to remain interested in a game where all the upgrades and unlocks can be bought with real money. GCI could do great things with a freemium model, but in its present state, it's simply average.
This review is based on an XBLA copy of Gotham City Impostors.