Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gotham's Ditzy Roster - Gotham City Impostors Review

   Gotham City Impostors is a Batman-themed first-person shooter created by Monolith Productions and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It has recently gone free-to-play, and is now available on Steam. The premise of the game revolves around a bunch of losers and delinquents, dressed similarly to Batman and Joker respectively, who fight each other while Batman is away. We can also assume from the nicely animated introduction video that the instant Batman comes back all of these impostors go scrambling, scared and crying, back to their homes and hangouts.

   These aren't the most likable characters you've ever seen, but it fits the theme of the game. You are playing as the insane criminals of Gotham City, where even the Batman impostors are toting guns around with no remorse. Without further ado, let's get into the meat of the game...

   Aesthetic: Wacky
   This is one game that has put serious effort into being one of the least serious shooters you have ever played. Most things in Gotham City Impostors have a Help text that explains the function of it, and about half of those texts come complete with a little 2D animation that helps get the point across, and perhaps get a laugh out of you. Along with this, the game features several gameplay mechanics you simply can't do in most other shooters. For example, you can kill people by landing on them. You can also take the grapple gun you start off with and shoot people with it for massive damage. You can use an awesome katana as a fat guy on roller skates. The list goes on!
   The rest of this crosses over into...

         Customization: Wacky and Plentiful
         This game offers a lot in the way of customizing your character to make them stand out amongst everyone else, and they can all be unlocked in a reasonable amount of time without paying cash, though cash can still speed up the process. Of course you have the basic things such as weapons you can add to your loadout, but the list actually stretches down quite a bit farther than that.
A Sadistic, Kill Crazy, Marksman? And he has NIMBLE FINGERS, OH NO!
         First off, you have a selection of Support Items you can use during battle to give you an extra edge, including things like a Hatchet, a healing energy drink, a pipe bomb, ninja stars, etc. After that, you can equip a "Gadget", which are more influential and more likely to directly earn you points on the field. They include a glider rig, targeting goggles, roller skates, etc.
         But wait, there's more! There is an extensive character customization menu where you pick from five different body sizes (bigger sizes have more health and higher melee damage but significantly slower movement), multiple faces and voice selections, and even languages.
         Then we get into Fun Facts, Rampages, and Psych Profiles. Fun Facts are perks that give extra stat bonuses, Rampages are extra boosts you can activate during the match after meeting certain conditions, and Psych Profiles give extra experience points after a match depending on your performance in relation to the psych chose.
         No, we aren't done yet. You can also change your character's clothes for both the "Bats" and "Jokers" teams, and make your own "Calling Card" other players can see before a match, and every player you kill will see while they're dead.
If you STILL feel like every other criminal after all this, we give up.
         Most of calling cards and weapon skins (yes, there are also weapon skins) are unlocked by doing achievements, which are called "Feats of Prowess" here.
         Lastly, if you're willing to spend a bit of cash, you can also get a "Mascot" pet that will follow you around while you fight.

         *takes a breath*
         Okay, let's continue.

   Gangs: Interesting
   Gotham City Impostors doesn't appear to have a clan system. Instead, it has five "Gangs", which are preset organizations that you can join starting at level 12. Sorry, did I say "join"? I meant "get accepted by". Unlike other games, you can't just join any gang you want whenever you want. Each gang controls a particular map (their "turf"). To get invited by the gang, you have to do particularly well on their given map, meaning you must place at least in the top three of the players who were fighting in that match. There is a nice sense of accomplishment when you do well enough to earn the invite of a gang, and it's refreshing to see something new.

   Bugs: Bugs Everywhere
   This is the full release of the game, not a beta. And yet, it feels like one. Some people experience no problems with the game, but I am not one of those people and bugs can easily ruin the fun. After playing enough, you'll notice the light problem of some achievements not working. But it gets worse. Twice, I've run into the problem of map terrain not loading. I can see objects, but not things as important as walls. So I restart. Or, worse, nothing will be wrong and I just get randomly disconnected. Which forces me to restart. The problem with restarting so often is that you get really intimate with this screen:

   Or worse, this screen if you're unlucky enough for the game to say "Lost Connection to Steam":

   Gotham City Impostors doesn't have short loading times, and being kicked all the way back to this every so often is very annoying. Luckily, while there is a completion bonus, this game does not require you to finish a match to receive your experience points. In fact, you can level up right in the middle of the match, with shiny special effects!

   Minor Annoyances: Come On...
   First off, this game is currently impossible to play in windowed mode, and must be played full screen. I don't think I need to explain why this is bad.
   Next up, this is the lobby:
   You might notice one thing in particularly missing here, and that is a text chat. There is no way to talk to your fellow teammates through text until you enter a match (default key is T), so your only option is voice chat. But the instant anyone actually talks through their microphone, you remember that the sound volume for the game is noticeably low for whatever reason, causing you to have turned your volume up when you started the game. So your ears get blasted off, because that low volume doesn't follow for voices.
   Also, there is no server browser. Be aware.

   Gender Inequality: What?
   I know this is a strange topic for me to mention, but I consider this a problem. There are five body sizes available, and all of them are gender locked. There is only one female body size. Not only that, but there are are also only 4 female voices (out of about 14 [7 for Bats, 7 for Jokerz]).
   I consider this a problem because the default voice is male, and lot of people don't bother to switch their voices once they switch to the female body size. I'm not the kind of person who finds things that are ironic to be particularly funny, so when half the female characters I see all sound like men, it gets pretty revolting.

   Custom Slots: Just Two
   There are a number of preset loadouts you can use to check out different equipment before unlocking them for yourself. Hopefully, though, you weren't particularly interested in more than two different items in any category. You can unlock more, you just can't equip more. Despite the vast amount of customization, you can only bring two different personal loadouts with you into battle, which can be pretty frustrating if you find yourself growing attached to the awesome criminal you created. Most of the achievements on the game are item-specific, so if you want to complete them all, you have to use absolutely everything on the game.
   Which means that, eventually, you're going to have to completely dismantle one of your characters to make room for new build. There are five body sizes, so I was expecting at least five custom slots, but they aren't available. Unless you pay cash. Even then, if you decide to just go the cash route, you can only buy the extra custom slots as part of a bundle, and not by themselves.

   Final Score: 3.9 out of 5

   I really want to give this game a higher score, but the lack of basic functionalities and constant interruptions to gameplay really drive down the enjoyment I can get from it. That said, I would encourage people to play this game, as it is truly unique among first-person shooters and offers the full gambit of features you would expect. I would put it up near Team Fortress 2 in the list of games everyone on Steam should have downloaded. You won't be disappointed. Until you get disconnected.
Bonus screenshot to show off... the post-game screen.
   Extra Things to Know
   - While I don't consider this a major problem, keep in mind that explosives are borderline overpowered here.
   - People very rarely talk, even through text chat. Expect a lonely game unless you brought friends.
   - Costume Coins are earned through gameplay and are used to buy... costumes.
   - Health regenerates.
   - There is an infinite sprint.
   - Points are given out for each individual point of damage inflicted on the enemy. Fire away!
   - There are two costume slots, but you can't attach them to a class slot. To change costumes, press the Escape key to bring up the menu, then "Change Costumes".
   - There is a very high threshold for fall damage, to the point where most falls won't even affect you. Beware, however, falling from high enough will instantly kill you.
   - You will earn unlock keys as you level up, which are used to unlock equipment. Everything is permanent.

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