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Gotham City Imposters

(Warner Bros.; US: 8 Feb 2012)

Gotham City Imposters is a weird game. It’s a clear parody, but it’s unique in that it’s a parody that takes place in same universe as the thing that it’s parodying—which actually makes it extra funny.


You’re part of a gang, either crime fighters or criminals, Bats or Jokerz, and naturally your goal is kill anyone that is not on your side. If it seems contradictory that people imitating Batman would run around killing people, you’re not wrong. But the game is way ahead of you, taking potshots at itself on this very subject. Batman is rich, so he can afford to be non-lethal; regular folk have to scrounge around for whatever’s available. This even applies to the characters, whose costumes consist of things like bath towels, scotch tap, and cardboard boxes.


This absurdist tone is the best part of the game. It not only pokes fun at Batman but tropes of the shooter genre as well. There a “Capture the Flag” mode (which is probably mandatory for an online shooter at this point), but the flag is actually a battery for a propaganda machine that will demoralize the other team so much that they can’t use guns, but they can still slap you for a one-hit kill.


Even the menus are charming, with an animated “office Batman” that shows you the ropes. He and the animated Jokerz are so cute that I actually want to watch every tutorial video that pops up.


The actual gameplay is certainly competent but makes some frustrating missteps. Gotham City Imposters is advertised as a class-based shooter, but the class separation is really more like Call of Duty‘s make-your-own-class than it’s Battlefield’s more delineated class structure. Which is to say: everyone pretty much shoots the same.


However, there’s still a fair amount of customization to be had. You can pick a body type (larger guys move slower but can carry heavier weapons) in addition to the usual assortment of weapons, perks (here, called fun facts), killstreaks (rampages), and support items (gadgets). There’s enough variety to keep things interesting. You might think you’ve discovered the perfect loadout after only an hour but keep unlocking stuff, and you’ll begin to see the nuance that each little change can bring to your criminal/crime fighter.


Actually earning those unlock keys is one of the more frustrating aspects of the game. Every single customizable thing—main weapon, secondary weapon, gadget, fun fact, body types, faces, voices, weapons mods, and more—has its own dedicated unlock key, and it’s never clear when you’ll earn what key. Want to change your body type? Too bad, you just got a rampage key. Don’t want to change your rampage? Too bad, this is all that you’re getting. Keep playing and level up some more. It’s annoying, and feels like a way of artificially extending the life of the game.


On the plus side, the stuff that you can unlock isn’t determined by your level. Every item is available to you from the beginning, and its nice being able to unlock a rocket launcher with my very first key.


The gadgets should be the coolest part of the game since they’re all items that you don’t normally see in a shooter. They’re all pretty interesting from a gameplay perspective but most aren’t practical. The default Glider Rig is the best. Run over an air vent or trampoline, and you can literally fly around level. It’s fun, fast, maneuverable, and you can dive bomb into opponents to kill them. Sadly, most of the other gadgets (the roller skates, grapple gun, spring boots, and inflatable insoles) just feel like handicapped versions of the glider that only exist as something to unlock. The X-ray glasses are nifty, but who would want to give up the ability to fly?


You can also customize your character to an impressive degree for a downloadable shooter, although since this is a first-person shooter, you won’t actually see much of what you buy. Some of the clothing can be crazy expensive when buying them in game currently. This is probably done on purpose, as you can also buy the clothing with real money (at even more ridiculous prices: $3 for a mask, $4 for some pants—that’s almost a fourth of the price of the game right there).


If you play enough you might be asked to join a gang, but the game doesn’t tell you what this means. As far as I can gather, it’s a community meta-game. If you join a gang and win matches, then that gang gets to control more territory. Why this matters? I don’t know. There’s not much information about it, which is weird since there’s an adorable tutorial video for nearly everything else.


Gotham City Imposters is a weird game. It’s not a Batman game, but it’s got batmen everywhere. It’s a modern shooter, but it doesn’t have a serious bone in its body. Even if most of the gadgets are useless, there’s still the awesome Glider Rig. Even if I can’t see the funny costumes that I buy, there’s still the delightful “office Bat”. For every con there’s an absurd pro and that dedication to absurdity makes Gotham City Imposters more fun than it probably should be.

Rating:

Nick Dinicola made it through college with a degree in English, and now applies all his critical thinking skills to video games instead of literature. He reviews games and writes a weekly post for the Moving Pixels blog at PopMatters, and can be heard on the weekly Moving Pixels podcast. More of his reviews, previews, and general thoughts on gaming can be found at www.gamehounds.net.


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