We see what Warner Bros. have done here and we approve. With the last Batman game only a few months old and another one already hinted at, rather than overuse the character they’ve decided to instead base a game around the Batman universe. There’s nothing we hate more than seeing a character or franchise milked for all they’re worth. Even now the hysteria that the Crazy Frog created is still fresh in our minds.
There’s no plot in this team-based online shooter, but there is a premise – when Batman is out fighting crime, wannabe super heroes and super villains fill the streets and battle. Just as Batman has his handcrafted tools to get the job done, the stars of Gotham City Imposers likewise have their handmade weapons and armour such as rockets made out of fizzy drink bottles and outfits formed of dustbin lids and cardboard.
Presentation impresses. The menus are made to look like a scrapbook full of sketches, and characters can be customised right down to the pitch of their voice. There’s a degree of strategy to consider when character creating – large characters are slow but can take plenty of damage while small characters are nimble but weak. You can’t dive into customising a character until you reach experience level 8, which takes around two hours of play. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot you can do when starting out – all the good stuff such as new weapons and perks (known here as ‘Fun Facts’) are locked at first and slowly drip-fed to keep you playing.
Borrowing an idea from the App Store’s biggest and most popular games, the impatient can unlock items instantly providing they’re willing to spend actual money on top of the 1,200 Microsoft Points the game already costs. For 80 MSP you can also double the value of XP for an hour. We’re not sure why anybody would want to do this – it’s a very generous game with XP as it is, with points handed out for even the slightest of kill assists and for just partaking in matches.
Out of all the online games we’ve played, it rather ironically reminds us of the first we ever experienced – Quake III on Dreamcast. This isn’t just down to the small levels, but rather the amount of objects in them that send your character airborne. Respawns are almost instant too, while it’s almost impossible not to notch up a few kills by firing rockets and lobbing grenades in an enemy’s general direction. Or to simplify in FPS speak: frag rounds have large splash damage. Although we approve of instant respawns, many of the play mechanics on show now feel dated and clunky. The game engine occasionally stutters too. Seeing that every second counts in the single-player only challenge mode, it simply isn’t up to the job.
Visually it’s as dated as the way it plays – a world full of blurry textures and horrid looking character models. We didn’t expect the visuals to rival Arkham City, but we didn’t expect it to look like about five years out of date either.
So what we have here is an odd mixture of old and new – modern day presentation and structure mixed with ‘old school’ play mechanics. The £10 or so that it costs isn’t bank breaking, and it’s hard not to imagine some people wanting to play it until everything – no matter how pointless – is unlocked, but with only five levels on offer and three different game modes a similarly priced copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 or Halo: Reach would be a much wiser purchase.
Like the Doc Martin boots that pretend superheroes no doubt wear, Gotham City Imposters is clunky but almost certain to achieve cult status.