22 September 2012
If you have a Steam account there is a good chance you may have noticed an odd, unbidden addition to your library in the cowled and grinning guise of Gotham City Impostors. It is a free to play, online-only, multi-player shooter that feels a lot like Team Fortress and other multi-player shooters and probably wouldn’t merit mentioning were it not for its improbable concept.
While Batman is away, a proxy war is fought in his name by well-intentioned vigilantes who wreak terrible havoc in their attempt to restore peace and order in the absence of their hero. Donning makeshift cowls, capes that look suspiciously like towels, and scribbling the iconic bat emblem on a chunk of cardboard and stapling it to their shirts, they wage endless battles with the Jokerz, a group of misfits who, not one to let batfans have all the crazy, dress up in honour of the merry prince of crime and meet the Bats toe to toe in such iconic locations as Arkham Asylum and Crime Alley. There are various game styles which resemble Capture the Flag or incorporate base-guarding or bounty-taking but the real point of the game is to wade into a messy melee, blast as many strangers in the face as you can and then compare notes after to see if your kills are at least higher than your deaths. If you leveled or earned goodies, you can spend the load time for the next battle tweaking your virtual death dolly and then jump right in for a new game.
Like many free to play games, you are presented with two options for unlocking new weapons, costumes, and whatnot. You can earn experience and in-game currency through playing and grinding until you’ve amassed enough to get that awesome shotgun or the sexy fishnets or, if you’re impatient, you can buy them from the game with real, hard cash. Time or money, the choice is yours. From what I’ve seen so far, the purchased items don’t seem to overpower the game so so far it seems an even trade. Instead of picking set classes, you custom-build your character by deciding what weapons they’ll use, what secondary items like grenades or jet packs they’ll be packing and even their body type or which mental illness they’ve been diagnosed with. You even get to design what taunting calling card your victims are forced to see after you shiv them in the back or get them with an exploding Jack-in-the-box. At the start of each bout and after every time you die, you have the option of loading up one of your custom sets or choosing from some pre-designated sets which act as a kind of class in situ of the real thing. Right now, I’m a big fan of my pink leopard-print megaphone which allows me to hurl encouragement at my teammates, healing them in the process. Given that I’ve set my voice settings to high-pitched German, I imagine I’m very encouraging.
I’m an incredibly ADD gamer; I play a game non-stop for about a week to a month, see something shiny, and then go play that for another week or so. Games like this work perfectly for my attention span as they let me jump right in, have a fun time in a silly, fast-paced world where I don’t feel completely worthless and out of my league but don’t feel like I’m missing out if I don’t log in 200 hours to complete it. So I feel safe recommending it especially at its nil cost. I’ve had a few issues getting knocked off the server but seeing as they just signed up all Steam users, I imagine they were having some technical issues. While not an incredibly unique game, the concept is a ton of fun, the gameplay is mindlessly silly and variable enough so as not to lose its charm right away, and it’s always fun to unlock new toys and play with them. If you’ve ever wanted to strike terror into the hearts of criminals everywhere by putting on a cardboard approximation of the trademarked cowl or stick it to the man with a smile and a bottle of green hairspray, then strap a hubcap to your chest and some roller skates to your feet and get ready to break several public safety ordinances in the name of justice and/or anarchy but mostly in the name of fun!