Video games are more popular than ever this generation but such a thing has had a negative impact since it’s simply tougher for games to stand out or even survive. If a game isn’t the third or heaven forbid fifth entry in a core series then not only will it possibly not make a huge impact at release but it may become a distant memory a few months later. Back in the day it was relatively easy for certain games to stand out seeing as how we weren’t inundated with dozens of releases every month and we didn’t have addicting devices like smartphones during the PS1 generation.
Based on how the industry and we as gamers can enter a realm of forgetfulness a few months after a title has dropped I thought I would look back at a few games to not only see what their lasting impression is but if they’re still worth playing. By no means will I be looking at games in a hidden gem type capacity, but it’ll be more along the lines of examining what’s still entertaining, what’s an absolute dud, and what may be worth resurrecting. Looking back at a game six months after it has been released may not sound like it’ll be proper for a proper examination, but these days six months might as well be two years based on how quickly we zip between games and occasionally have the memory of a young dog.
Since most of us are still endlessly talking about The Dark Knight Rises and whether it’s the best thing ever or a yet another example of the 3rd film jinx I thought it would be fitting to take a look back at Gotham City Impostors – the Batman themed FPS from WB Games and WB Seattle aka Monolith.
Vigilantes and Criminals Still Run Rampant In Gotham…
Six months removed from the release date of Gotham City Impostors one may think that the game would be on life support. The premise of a FPS set within the world of Batman may sound like it would be enough to carry a game, but both prior and after the release of the game the general buzz around Gotham City Impostors was kind of lukewarm. I myself wasn’t that fond of the game when I played it at E3 and PAX Prime 2011 as the gameplay didn’t impress me and the exact purpose of it somewhat befuddled my mind as a gamer.
With that said, Gotham City Impostors has surprisingly maintained a stable community over the last few months. People are still playing the game in a rather large capacity and a few have even managed to gain high ranking XP levels such as 150 or even 200. Seriously, who has that much time to sink into a game and do mass XP gaining? Such an event may come across as a sign that people don’t have taste, but I think the answer is quite simple: the game is just fun. I know that it may come across as a shock those who either haven’t played the game or played it for five minutes before bailing out League of Shadows ninja style, but that’s just the honest truth. Even with some shoddy matchmaking issues (uneven teams, no auto fixing) the community has nonetheless stayed with Gotham City Impostors
Being A Protector or Destroyer of Gotham Can Still Be Fun…
By no means is Gotham City Impostors a perfect game as it still has some rather glaring flaws, which I’ll of course get to later. But beneath those issues at the core of the experience is a rather straight forward FPS game that while not filled with deep tactical opportunities is simply an old-school FPS wrapped up in a somewhat schizophrenic experience. The way Gotham City Impostors presents certain things is odd, but I really can’t properly describe how good it feels to go on a rampage all while using the grapple hook to zip around a level going from one kill to the next.
It may still be easy to brush Gotham City Impostors aside as a Call of Duty clone, but the game kind of has its own vibe which is still best described as a hectic arena shooter. In this era it’s rather refreshing to see a game which promotes movements rather than combining the perfect Perk load-out. The foundations of Gotham City Impostors is slightly off kilter in the sense that the guns don’t react in a realistic way nor is there any kind of major recoil, a sign to some gamers as an “inferior” game. But at the end of the day Gotham City Impostors is a fun FPS with an arcade style sensibility as it encourages constant movement, clever use of certain skills, and itchy trigger fingers.
There haven’t been too many FPS games released on the PSN or XBLA since February of this year, so it’s somewhat hard to judge Gotham City Impostors to what’s on the market now. I’m still in the mindset that the game is fun, but I haven’t taken a whiff of the Joker’s laugh toxin so I’m not going to say it’s the best FPS to appear on digital platforms nor is it good enough to be in a Top 5 list sort of thing. Gotham City Impostors is a game in which fun is usually delivered in a minute to minute sort of way; especially now that mostly veteran players are playing so idiotic newbies aren’t running around ruining the fun for everyone. With that said, a great many of the issues found in Gotham City Impostors can be found in two things: design and execution.
Gotham’s Henchmen and Would-Be Boy Wonders Are Lonely And Unemployed…
There are some major issues with the visual approach taken in Gotham City Impostors but one thing that both impacts the visual delight the game offers and the actual gameplay involves the gangs gamers can play as. From a commercial point of view it makes sense to have the core gangs in the game are vigilantes based on Batman and criminals based upon the Joker. The constant battle between the Batman and the Joker will likely be forever timeless and hopefully will never reach a point similar to seeing Superman face off against Lex Luthor i.e. total boredom and silly plot devices being used (OMG Kryptonite continent!).
The one negative effect in having the Batman and Joker gangs is that it doesn’t present much variety to the actual game as both forces play exactly the same. Outside of cosmetic differences and having a different ear screeching commentator chime in during matches, both the Batman and Joker gangs play the same and don’t have any unique attributes. Perhaps presenting such a design element was made to keep things balanced, but in the long run it does bring down the replayability a bit along with making the game feel a bit hollow. Simple things could’ve been employed to give the two factions more of an identity such as having different weapon sets or even special attacks such as actually summoning Batman or the Joker as a special team attack bonus tactic.
There’s actually a greater issue at hand when it comes to the gangs the game provides as its sorely lacking any kind of representatives from Batman illustrious rogues gallery. Why not have a gang of femme fatales based on Catwoman or even one based upon Black Mask? The small nature of the game may have meant that Monolith couldn’t put tons of resources into devising half a dozen different gangs and subsequently designing unique costumes and skins, but having two more gangs in the mix would’ve provided that extra element of character. More importantly having an additional gang could’ve provided some cool fanboy moments such as seeing a Bane inspired squad take on one modeled after the boy wonder Robin.
Being A Hero Is One Thing But Looking The Part Is Another Issue…
Upon first hearing about Gotham City Impostors way back in early 2011 I think the general reaction of people was “why does this game exist?”, and “why does it look like a faux Batman inspired Team Fortress 2?” Such questions may still not be answered to this day but in a way asking why the game looks the way it does is a very legitimate thing to ask. I’m not slowly creeping into a graphics whore induced rant as I don’t have a problem with the visual fidelity of Gotham City Impostors as it’s by no means bad nor is it overwhelmingly good. Instead, I’m more disappointed with the general art style and aesthetic the game strives for add it’s even more disappointing to see that nothing was done over time to enhance the game, especially through the release of new maps.
The problem with the presentation of Gotham City Impostors is that it looks like a faux Batman game. In the context of the game such a thing may make sense due to the fact that it revolves around people trying to mimic the look of both Batman the Joker. But in the end the greatest disappointment of the game is that it doesn’t instill a look of any Batman’s various incarnations over the years. The various stages may be odes to different elements of Batman’s lore, but key things like the Arkham Asylum stage lack a distinct visual feel and vibe. A somewhat gothic sense of architecture may be found throughout the Arkham and the rooftop 25th Floor stages, but instead of feeling like I was doing battle in the home of Gotham’s criminal elite it simply comes across as an elaborate gothic looking church; almost instilling the feeling that the small hint of Arkham is a façade akin to a fake city in an amusement park.
I don’t feel it was necessary for the team at Monolith to go in an artistic direction that wasn’t true to what they want to do or simply didn’t fit, such as drawing inspiration from Rocksteady’s Batman games, but Gotham City Impostors is kind of a dull game when you look at it. With most of the stages taking place during the day there’s a very distinct lack of A TRUE Batman experience, or at least one pre Nolan opting to end a Batman movie in an afternoon brawl/chase sequence.
This is as visually moody as things get in Gotham City Impostors.
Monolith had a variety of routes they could’ve taken the game artistically but they simply ended up with one that almost seemed too broad and generic for its own good. As I mentioned earlier the game does suffer from a lack of personality and unique feeling amongst its crazed characters and that’s felt even more so since the world itself doesn’t seem to be all that whacky – even in a satirical way that Frank Miller would devise. Gotham City Impostors makes no bones about featuring an exaggerated tone, but it’s odd to see that isn’t reflected in the environments as they’re all rather boxed in and lack details that seem off kilter or differentiate enough from the standard traits one would expect from a multiplayer map. Ultimately the lack of stylish, either of a noir or cartoony source, may be one of the reasons why Gotham City Impostors didn’t become more popular as it wasn’t flashy or immediately memorable enough for people to talk about or even try out.
Is This The Game Gotham Truly Needs?
Over the last six months Gotham City Impostors has maintained a solid base of gamers which is the most important thing for an online only multiplayer shooter. The community may still be there but it’s disappointing to see the game has literally gone nowhere in the other key departments (DLC, patch updates, enhanced play through the community exponentially growing). Additional stages may have been released for free but the base business model of the game still seemed to revolve around mass micro-transactions and doing mass XP gaining in order to acquire base items like different pieces of clothing.
I still think that Gotham City Impostors comes across as a free-to-play game that just so happened to have an initial price tag since the way things are structured almost mirror that of f2p games, with the only exception being gamers need to do mass XP grinding to unlock simple things instead of paying $1 for fifty different items.
As a game I don’t think Gotham City Impostors has matured as much as it should’ve over the last few months but by no means is it a video game equivalent of a bad wine. The ever lasting impression of the game may not be classical by any means of the imagination, but I do think it’s a property that WB Interactive may be prudent to follow-up on in the future. Seeing as how Warner Bros. has yet to do a major Batman spin-off game other than ones which involve cutesy Legos I think the potential resides within the Gotham City Impostors brand to do something special. If the base of Gotham City Impostors is refined a bit through added personality in the character and theme department then we may have a shooter that while still unorthodox for the Batman brand could still result in a game that’s fun and provides some much needed variety for Batman’s video game exploits. Whether or not WB actually opts to return to the Gotham City Impostors brand is another question seeing as how staff cuts were made to WB Seattle, the studio in which Monolith now resides.
For what it is I think Gotham City Impostors was an interesting experiment, both from a game design and business model perspective as it gave us elements we knew in a package that was familiar to us yet at the same time was unique for the property in which was it was based upon. Maybe a year from now the game will forever faded away into our memory, but for the time being it’s still fun to drop into Gotham with an itchy trigger finger to have a bit of fun.