Being an average citizen in Gotham City must be tough: anything interesting that ever happens does so because the bad guys are up to something again, or Batman and his gang are saving the day. There’s no such thing as an ordinary hero. In an attempt to combat boredom, stand out from the crowd or otherwise feel a little bit less insignificant, many citizens of Gotham took it upon themselves to become the heroes or villains that they so admire. Thus, the Bats and the Jokers were born – wannabe heroes and villains who spend their time fighting each other over goals that serve no real purpose for or against Gotham, but make the participants feel important enough to wake up in the morning and put on that tatty Batman cape or poorly scribbled Joker makeup, and get out there to do something.
The action in Impostors takes the form of arena-bound, objective-based PvP combat. Think of Team Fortress or Brink and you’ve got the basic idea, except in Impostors, there are no defined classes – players are free to customise their loadout with anything that they unlock during their career, which includes weapons, equipment, costume parts and calling cards. It sounds pretty standard, but when you get into the game, you’ll realise why this game currently sits at the top of my list of pleasant surprises here at Gamescom 2011.
The combat is fast-paced, but with plenty of room to be sneaky. In the game mode that we had a chance to play – Fumigation, teams face off against each other to capture and hold three control points on the map. These points are Gasblasters that spew either poisonous or bat-attracting gas into the air, depending on who controls it. The goal is simple: hold the majority of the Gasblasters long enough for your team’s counter to reach 100. The game can swing at the drop of a hat (no, that wasn’t a subtle hint), however, as the two teams share the total pool of 100 in a tug-of-war style system – you’ll have to completely reduce the opponent’s accrued points if you want to win. Sitting pretty for the majority of the match doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t make the final push to 100.
Movement plays a huge role in the gameplay dynamics, as characters use Batman and Joker inspired gadgets like grappling guns, gliders and even roller stakes to move around the battlefield quickly and often unpredictably. Like all of the customisable equipment in the game, these are hardly of the level of quality you’d find in the secret basements of Wayne Enterprises, but they get the job done. Your chosen body type will also affect your speed, as well as you hit points and melee damage. The team showed three of the available types: the big and fat Mighty, the tiny female Nimble, and the all-rounder – the Tough. Scattered around each map will be trampoline jump pads and roller skate launch ramps, which make for a terrifying sight when a Mighty comes flying at you from across the map. Players will also be able to choose a support equipment item, including a grenade, sticky bomb, boomerang with target lock-on and even a smoke bomb that turns you almost invisible as long as you hold the left bumper, although you can’t fire while hidden and cloaking/de-cloaking takes a couple of seconds.
There will be other game modes available at launch; the team told us about two more – team deathmatch and a CTF derivative called Psych Warfare. Each map in the game will be based on a famous or important scene from the vast Batman lore; the map that we played on is designed around the alley in which Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed on that fateful night.
Gotham City Impostors is tons of fun to play and I love the cheeky take on this long-established franchise. It is being developed by the same team that brought us FEAR and No One Lives Forever, so you know it’ll have a solid shooting experience and plenty of humour. Best of all, this title is being pitched as a budget game to be released through digital download only. You can expect to pay 1200 MSP or $15 for Impostors when it releases on XBL, PSN and an as-yet unconfirmed PC distributor.