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Gotham City Impostors - Hands-On [E3 2011]

As a kid I absolutely adored Batman and loved every aspect of the character. My appeal to Batman wasn’t just limited to the comic books or the first Batman film starring Michael Keaton (it makes me feel old that some of you have no clue what I’m referring to), but instead I was just attracted to this character that wore a cape and cowl and dished out justice to guys wearing white make-up or green outfits.  As I grew up my Batman fandom spread to other facets of the character such as the ultra-camp 1960s TV show starring the soothing voice of Adam West and of course the kick-ass Batman animated cartoon that aired on FOX TV in North America. 

Recently my fandom of Batman hit an all-time high level since I finally had a good Batman game to experience – Batman: Arkham Asylum.  I won’t go into detail as to why the game was so awesome, but after being shafted for almost fifteen years we finally received an adventure of the Dark Knight that gave us everything we wanted.  Now WB Games is taking the Batman franchise is a different direction but I think Gotham City Impostors is a game that is simply giving us everything we don’t want out of a Batman game.

Ok, so in a way Gotham City Impostors isn’t a Batman game per say as Bruce Wayne, Batman, Dick Grayson and even Bruce Wayne’s son don’t make an appearance at all in any sort of fashion.  Instead, Gotham City Impostors is a complete Batman side-game as gamers are put into the shoes of would-be vigilantes who are modeling themselves after Batman and the Joker, the two sides of good and evil.  Gotham City Impostors is a game that I think in concept could work amazingly well since it could allow the developers to take a slightly referential and off kilter route with the game which we haven’t seen in a Batman game before. But after playing the E3 demo for Gotham City Impostors, I think I can safely say that this will be WB Games big misstep if not complete face plant fumble with the Batman video game franchise.

Going into Gotham City Impostors I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much from the game since the concept of playing a Batman inspired FPS game was a bit tough to swallow.  But I did open my mind a little bit in the hopes that I would be pleasantly surprised as the brief glimpses I saw of the game being played looked interesting.  After being placed on the Batmen team (I played a dude wearing a Batman baseball hat and a grey t-shirt with some Japanese text on it) I proceeded to roam around a weird carnival like Joker style environment as I tried to take out the opposing team: the Jokers.  Roaming through an area armed with a machinegun was just an odd situation to be in for a game set within the Batman world and after three minutes I wished the game was locked up in Arkham Asylum to never be seen from again.

As a 3 vs. 3 shooter Gotham City Impostors just isn’t fun at all.  As a Batman game there aren’t any elements to remind you that you’re experiencing a game set within Gotham City as there’s no brooding colors or gothic architecture. Instead, I just traversed a level that seemed like it was ripped out of another FPS, perhaps a PC mod of some sort that had a few wacky things in it such as a trampoline that gave me access to other areas. The vibe of Gotham City Impostors is definitely a wacky one since there was a persistent amount of stylized Batman graphics that appeared like a Catwoman inspired cat and the loading screens featured a Bat-Mite like character near the loading icon.  The on the surface wackiness of Gotham City Impostors somehow doesn’t translate into a fun game experience since there’s absolutely nothing fun about the game at all.  Shooting a gun or firing a rocket launcher (there are different classes each with different weapons) feels just as it does like in any other FPS game on the market. Perhaps if developer Monolith took the wacky vibe of Gotham City Impostors to the next level by including some on-screen hit indicators like giant BLAM! or KAPOW! text and sound effects, then Gotham City Impostors would have some actual character to it instead of feeling like a ho-hum FPS game with the Batman license attached to it.

In one way it is interesting to use a makeshift grapple tool to glide across the environment, but the essence of the Batman universe just isn’t anywhere to be seen in the game. Yeah, I was shooting enemies that were dressed up like the Joker, but me shooting a clown with a Krusty the Clown hair style or a female character that’s a Joker/Harley Quinn mix still didn’t convey a complete feeling of this being a Batman inspired game nor was it engaging at all.  I just can’t really convey just how boring and uninspired Gotham City Impostors since it’s literally a standard FPS game (I played a match in which I had to capture an object and place it in an area) that has a few novelty elements thrown in to make it appear as if it’s a Batman game.

I may have only had a simple taste of what Gotham City Impostors had to offer but I feel as if the E3 demo is pretty much indicative of what the final product will offer.  Some gamers and comic book fans may welcome Gotham City Impostors with open arms since it is unlike anything we’ve seen before especially compared to the standard licensed games we see such as the Green Lantern.  But the combination of visuals that really aren’t that beautiful or convincing, map designs that are rudimentary at best and a lack of compelling gun action and game content will probably make Gotham City Impostors a massive dud once it arrives later this year on the PSN, XBLA and PC.