Being a fan of any product, as most on the internet would point out, sometimes colors your perspective on a project. A lot has been written and said about those who wear blind goggles or gloss over the flaws in whatever it is they love. What many don’t talk about is the other side of the coin where they tend to be the most hyper-critical group when a product doesn’t live up to their lofty expectations.
I’ve never hidden from my Bat-dom, honestly if you love something I don’t see the point in hiding it. And recently, we have been blessed with some truly amazing games in Batman: Arkham Asylum and City as well as Batman: The Brave and the Bold. So I welcome the opportunity for more Bat-games on the market when it makes sense, which is why my reaction to the announcement of Gotham City Impostors was less than welcoming.
Half a year has passed, and now Warner Bros has opened the closed beta (that sounds weird, but work with me here) and I’ve put in about an hour or so into the game (if you count the tutorial, and a lot of waiting on menus) and I will say that I’m probably going to eat crow on this one.
First off, I will stand by my original stance that I think this is a terrible use of the Batman license. Of all the characters in the entire stock DC Universe, they picked the one character who is morally opposed to guns because they killed his parents to make an FPS around. I’m not capable of the mental gymnastics some PR rep did to make this sound like a good idea on paper!
The game does little to show why it needs the Batman license attached to it. While the teams are divided into Joker and Batman impostors, it isn’t needed for the game. It is no different than Red vs Blue in Halo or any other game that has a 2-sided divide. We’ll get into the general set-up of the game, some of the devices are things that we associate with Batman including the Grappling Hook and glider, but both have been seen in other video games and aren’t exclusively devices that make you think of the “Bat-verse.” The music doesn’t make me think of Batman, and actually the game has a light-hearted approach to humor, which isn’t a staple of the Batman universe, but has been known to happen from time to time. So my original opinion is that its still a terrible use of the license.
And on a slightly personal note, the sight of a character dressed up as Batman slinging guns like Yosemite Sam in the loading screen is just a bit sickening to me, but doesn’t take away from the overall experience.
That said, the game itself isn’t that bad. It is modeled (like so many shooters these days) after the Call of Duty school of FPSes. You get XP for various tasks in a game, kills, assists, revenge, capturing a point, defending a point, etc, etc. The XP in turn is used to level your character up, as they level up you unlock new weapons and “gadgets” which allows you to craft your own custom class. If you’ve played many FPSes in the past half-decade, you already know the drill.
Where the game differs from CoD, and many other shooters on the market is really in tone. The game doesn’t pretend to take itself seriously so the weapons and perks follow suit. While many of the secondary weapons are analogous of normal staples of the FPS (pipe bombs being grenades, Trick in a Box being claymores, etc), the support item takes on a life of its own. These are modeled after the Batman universe so you get things like the grappling hook which allows you to cover a lot of ground quickly and gain an aerial advantage, you have the the glider which allows you to glide around the stage and dive bomb enemies, you have rollerskates, which only seems to make you go faster at the expense of controls and the list goes on.
These, to me anyhow, open up a world of possibility. For the most part, shooters always remain a horizontal thing because of how much of a pain it is to aim vertically, but this opens up the vertical space, much like Uncharted. It makes for some interesting strategy and tactics if you work together with your team.
In addition to this, you also get stuff like shurikens and “boomerangs” to play around with. They function like any projectile really allowing you to target multiple opponents in succession as well. All in all, giving you a toolbox of items, gadgets and weapons that are outside the norm really does freshen up the experience a bit.
The beta only offers 3 modes of play. The first is really just a tutorial, which is fine, but kind of sucks if you want to replay it can’t skip the long-winded introduction/speeches from your guides. The other two modes, are Bat-focused versions of classic multiplayer modes. Fumigation is essentially capture the point from any other FPS. Where the goal is control 3 key points on the map long enough for your team to unleash either their Bat-swarm or Joker Gas. The final mode is akin to Assault in Halo in which there is a central target that either team must grab, and return to a base. The opposing team has a chance to defuse it before it goes off, and game plays out. I believe you can win by getting 10 points, but the times I’ve played all ended in whoever had the most points at the end of the time limit.
I would assume/hope that the final game has more than 2 modes, but you can never be too sure. There are also two maps on display here. Both are slightly different, offering multiple levels and places to camp if one needs to.
There are some core, basic problems that they need to fix before the game releases. Right now the party system (on the Xbox 360 for the record) is a bit of a mess. When inviting friends, friends list isn’t organized in any particular way. It doesn’t highlight who is online or in alphabetical order, just seems to be a random list that resets after scrolling far enough. The lobby is also a mess, at times not even showing me when I’m in a room nor my party members. There has been some confusion as to whether we got disconnected or not. Lastly, the loading is just such a long process. The countdown hits 1 and goes on and on, once it was there for an entire minute.
Aside from these basic problems, the foundation seems sound. I want to put more time into the beta, but as it stands now, I could see myself picking up this game if it is fairly priced. Its worth checking out now for yourself.