PSN Review – Gotham City Impostors

Gotham City Impostors is an enigma of Riddler proportions. On the one hand, its a  multiplayer only first-person shooter that apes on many of the trappings and tropes of the Call of Duty franchise. But instead of taking the tried and true multiplayer mechanics of those games and wrapping them in a modern military vaneer, Monolith Productions instead decided to skewer the Batman mythos. What results is an unusual take on Gotham City the likes of which gamers will have never seen before. Impostors is fun even if there are some awkward design aspects that mar the experience.

Indeed, the first thing players will notice is the visual aesthetic and the time of day. This isn’t an Arkham franchise Batman game, and the dark brooding Gothic atmosphere of Rocksteady’s hit series is nowhere to be seen. It’s a Gotham City bathed in daylight (or at the least late afternoon/dusk light), where the real Batman is off living the more normal portion of his life as Bruce Wayne, and the real Joker is either in hiding or captured. So while the two nemeses are indisposed, their fans use the familiar landscape of the city as their personal playground. However, these disciples have no money or influence to afford the non-lethal gadgets of Batman or the deadly accouterments of Joker. Instead, they cobble together their suits and weapons from spare parts and loose craftwork.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this idea is how the visual aesthetic feeds into the game play. The first area where this is immediately apparent is traversal. If I had to give Impostors major kudos for anything, its the game’s ability to take the defunct concept of jump pads (think the Quake franchise) and apply it in a modern FPS. The jump pads in this case are trampolines scattered throughout each map allowing players to leap to high roofs with no trouble. Levels also feature ramps for players that choose to use roller skates to move around and air vents for gliding. Gliding, in fact, was my favorite means of traversal, as a knowledge of the air vents in each map allowed me to glide almost continuously and dive bomb unsuspecting opponents. Traversing each of the game’s five maps is so important that each player also has access to unlimited sprinting.

Impostors features two modes of play in addition to the standard team deathmatch. The other two modes are Fumigation, a capture-and-hold game type where each team is attempting to control gasblasters in order to instantly kill the opposing team and win, and Psych Warfare, a capture the flag game type where the object is to capture a battery to power your team’s propaganda machine. They’re interesting variants on the standard classics from other shooters and the funny bits of dialog from the announcers for each team add some flavor to the proceedings.

The arsenal of weapons in the game is also pretty satisfying and, despite the fact that I’m not an FPS expert, I found the ability to pull off head shots to be surprisingly easy with just about any weapon. A character loadout consists of two weapon slots, a support item, and a gadget. The gadgets contain the traversal items while the support item slot allows a player to carry things like pipe bombs, hatchets, and body armor. Here again, the improvised nature of the game’s visual aesthetic shines, as the items seem appropriate to a bunch of average Joes that one day decided to fight/commit crimes in their spare time. One hilarious touch is the body armor support item, which is just a hubcap with a logo strapped to the chest of your character. Aside from these items, each loadout also contains two perk slots, called Fun Facts, and a kill/death streak bonus, called a Rampage. The last item within each loadout is the Psych Profile. These don’t unlock until level 30, but affect the way that experience can be earned. One example is the Sadistic profile, that provides an XP bonus for inflicting damage, but penalizes a player for being killed by a damaged target. As an added Easter Egg, each Psych Profile certificate is signed by Dr. Jonathan Crane.

Players also have a choice of body types for their characters which impacts their speed, health, and melee damage. During my time playing the game, I used my first unlock to get the Mighty body type, the largest body type available. I didn’t mind the reduction in my movement speed as traversing the map can be performed through means other than running. Moreover, the Mighty body type also doesn’t suffer from movement penalties for using heavy weapons like the smaller body types do. It’s a trade-off that gives players something to mess around with in terms of finding what suits them best for each situation or game type. There are also faces specific to each body that can be unlocked, and voices which can be pitched up or down for comedic effect. Though the voices are not specific to body types and can be mixed and matched. Here, the only complaint I can make is that there is no option for creating a male or female character. In fact, the only body type that is female in the game is the Nimble body type. It’s a small pet peeve, but it does affect the design of some of the outlandish gear that is available.

And my, what a plethora of gear there is in Impostors. The currency for purchasing clothing in the game is separate from unlocks for loadout items such as weapons. The range of items varies from cardboard cowls for the Bats to face paints for the Jokerz. All of the clothing in the store can be purchased using in game Costume Coins or can be bought directly from the PlayStation Store. One could count this as a huge minus for the game, but the tendency for microtransactions is offset since everything available in the game can be unlocked from normal leveling and progression. So unless one truly desires a custom XP booster or other premium items, you’re better off just spending the base $15 for the game and then playing to unlock everything else.

Despite the fun and hilarity of running around as a makeshift hero/villain, the game does have a few major problems that hold it back, the first of which is that the  matchmaking system takes too long to get players into the game. Once it does, it can sometimes place players in a game with no opposing team. The developers have already stated that mid-match joining is planned for the first free downloadable update, but that’s something that should have been in the game from day one.

Second, Impostors uses a very bizarre auto-balance system. There were more than a few occasions where I found myself on a winning team only to be switched to the other team with no warning or notification. I’m not sure whether this is a bug or not, but it’s annoying to miss out on some XP or a trophy because you got switched in the closing moments of a game due to a strange balancing algorithm. Lastly, synching up my existing WBID with the game proved to be a huge hassle. It took me several tries with WB support staff over the course of two days to finally get it working. It’s annoying and honestly shouldn’t happen in an age where tying online accounts to console games has become ubiquitous.

Stripped down shooters are a dime a dozen these days, and I must admit that, initially, I was skeptical of a game that made no secret of the fact that its central concept was derived from the opening scene of The Dark Knight. However, after spending time with Gotham City Impostors I can say that I had a good time, and would like to see Monolith do something more with the idea in the future. In fact, I would love to see a humorous single player campaign to go along with this experience. Gotham City Impostors provides an oasis for those of us tapped out from modern military syndrome, and an original variation on the Batman theme. If the community continues to grow, it can only get better.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Satisfying shooting and a decent variety of weapons and mods.

+ Traversing the environment is blast using the available ramps, trampolines, and air vents in conjunction with roller skates, grapple guns, and gliders.

– Matchmaking takes longer than it should and matches are hampered by bizarre team balancing issues.

7 out of 10