Gotham City Imposters beta field report

By Steve Watts, Dec 19, 2011 2:00pm PST

When I first heard of Gotham City Impostors, I wasn't sure what to think. Even casual fans of Batman had to recognize that "madcap multiplayer shooter" are three words that don't belong anywhere near the franchise. I bristled, wondering if Warner Bros was simply attempting to exploit a popular property to help sell an otherwise run-of-the-mill downloadable shooter.

I'm a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong. Though I'm still not sure the Dark Knight motif quite fits, the taste I received during the beta convinced me it's a game that stands on its own merits. Impostors is a wildly fun multiplayer title with a clever idea or two, and personality to spare.

The game uses tried-and-true FPS class structure as a starting point, and adds level progression with perk load-outs. The balanced Striker, the heavy-duty Defender, the fast Scout, the support-class Sniper and Medic all make appearances, each with their own health and movement attributes. They also pack their own suite of tools, including unique weapons, movement abilities like roller skates or a grappling hook, and a support weapon like throwing stars or a pipe bomb.

Impostors mixes a dose of customization in as well. I found myself enjoying the Scout's speed and ability to disappear, and the Defender's rocket launcher and boomerang support item. After a handful of level-ups gave me the ability to unlock customization options, I crafted my own class with a mix of equipment, along with specialized perks. All of this worked to make me an easy-to-kill target, but you'll have to see and catch me first.

Everything is given a slight skew toward the bizarre. The profile is a "Secret Identity." Perks are "Fun Facts." It all helps to paint this world as an off-kilter, colorful view of comic culture. This isn't quite Batman's world, but it's how the familiar city of Gotham might look through a kaleidoscope.

The skewed city is never better illustrated than in the maps, which are made to look like hodgepodge arenas crafted from spare parts. Though the beta only offers two maps, they're both strong showcases of how the game offers a variety of traversal options. The maps are smartly designed to make every ability feel useful, and every class feel at home.

Like so much of the game, the two modes offered in the beta aren't particularly unusual. Fumigation is a standard control point mode with teams fighting over a few key areas, and Psychological Warfare is essentially capture-the-flag. But again, the game's personality shines through. Fumigation floods the battlefield with separate rewards for winning -- a flurry of bats or Joker's trademark gas -- and Psychological Warfare centers around brainwashing the other team once the ever-present MacGuffin is secured.

The game even apparently plans to take partial advantage of a microtransaction model. While the functionality isn't live in the beta, clicking "Buy" on a weapon or ability when I lacked the in-game points would bring up a prompt to unlock it with Microsoft Points. The weapons feel balanced enough to keep me from worrying about players buying their way to victory, but I'll have to reserve judgment for when the game has more room to breathe in its final version.

In its current state, Gotham City Impostors was a pleasant surprise. It charmed me into forgetting about concerns over the Batman legacy. It stands on its own as a solid multiplayer shooter with a few smart new ideas, wit, and a great sense of personality and humor. Based on the beta, it's shot its way to one of my more anticipated downloadable games in the year to come.


Field Reports provide our first-hand experience with the latest games, but should not be considered a review.

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