Gotham City Impostors Gamescom 2011 Preview -- Fumigation Mode Makes Us Choke...With Joy!By Sinan Kubba - Posted Aug 22, 2011
I’ve enjoyed seeing all the love that the new gritty, rough-throated Batman has been getting with the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum and the upcoming Batman: Arkham City. Still, I don’t know about you, but I feel that the Batman of the 60s, with its tight leggings, bat-weapons, holy smokes, and copious Adam West-isms has been cast away too readily in recent years. Whatever happened to wacky Batman?
Step up Gotham City Impostors. Developed by Monolith, the team behind the acclaimed F.E.A.R. and No One Lives Forever series, Gotham City Impostors is a downloadable first-person shooter with a Team Fortress 2-like focus on multiplayer. Games are focused around two teams of regular Gotham City citizens who’ve been inspired either by the vigilante heroics of Batman or by the criminal antics of The Joker. While at night the real Batman and Joker do battle, during the day, the Bats and the Jokers do battle in their names or at least in the name of punking the sheer hell out of each other.
If it sounds ridiculous, then it’s even more ridiculous in practice. These men and women in their (customizable) thrift store costumes do battle on the streets of Gotham with makeshift gadgets like boomerangs, roller skates, loudspeakers, and ninja smoke bombs. Don’t expect the grittiness of F.E.A.R.; Monolith’s latest will be all about the imagination and wry humor of No One Lives Forever.
At E3, we got our hands on a mode called Psychological Warfare, a take on Capture the Flag. Here at Gamescom, I tried out a newly revealed mode called Fumigation, a control point mode similar to the one in Homefront for two teams of up to four players. There are three canisters pumping poison gas into the area, and the teams vie to ensure each canister is pumping out their brand of poison gas by camping in the canister’s vicinity until it’s in their control. Unlike the similar Homefront mode, which is about being the first team to reach a score, Fumigation is a tug-of-war mode. This means that one team can be moments away from victory with a score of 98 percent control, but if the other team gets control of it, they can start to swing the percentage meter back and make a comeback from the jaws of defeat. When the meter hits 100 percent, the game is over and the losing team chokes on the gas of defeat.
The area we play in is called Crime Alley, home to the Monarch theater which is notable for being where a young Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, although it’s hard to get too choked up about that when there are brightly-garbed lunatic vigilantes bouncing around the place. From a more tactical perspective, the area is comprised of a rundown main street with haphazardly parked vehicles providing the cover, and some branching narrow alleys for more close quarters combat.
What’s most interesting is the verticality of the area and how the various gadgets we can load out with allow us to take advantage of it. Each character loads out with two weapons, a support item which includes hatchets, boomerangs, or jack-in-the box bombs, and finally a gadget. My favorite of these is the roller skates. It not only seems to give me a slight speed boost on the ground, but it also let me use ramps littered around the map to jump high into the air and reach rooftops. Another example is the grapple gun. which can easily be used to reach a wall by a raised area. Other examples include glider wings and the zany-sounding spring boots, and these different gadgets provide players with different ways of making their way across the map and taking advantage of its verticality.
These various weapons, support items, and gadgets are available to each character, and Monolith is quick to point out that the game is not class-based. There are different body types, but they are differentiated by physical attributes like speed, damage, jumping height, and so on. Also, not all the gadgets have to do with movement. The ninja smoke bomb, for example, grants temporary invisibility, which allows players to sneak up on an enemy and use a melee attack, or even go up close with the usually thrown one-shot-kill hatchet for extra humiliation.
As we noted in our E3 preview, although the game intuitively plays like your typical multiplayer FPS, it’s the personality of the oddball weapons like the hatchet, the crazy gadgets like the skates, and the whacked-out vigilantes in their improvised costumes that should make the game stand out.
Although, it’s not that I think Monolith doesn't have the credentials to make Gotham City Imposters stand out simply as a shooter, because I do get glimpses of that from my time with the Fumigation mode. There are the random drops of prize boxes, for example, these offering temporary team rewards like increased damage and score bonuses. They make for simple but effective ways of luring everyone to the same spot to produce some large scale mayhem - a neat little touch.
Also, the tug-of-war aspect of the Fumigation mode does have something to it. During my second playthrough, my team of Bats did get up to 92 percent, only to lose control of three canisters moments before the timer hit zero. This took the match into a sudden death mode, with the reward for holding a canister far more amplified. Within minutes, the score swung to 50-50 as the Jokers got themselves organized and mounted an impressive defense of their canisters. The Bats, through no help from yours truly, managed to take back a canister, but the meter was still dropping rapidly. We somehow managed to hold on until the end of sudden death to produce what Monolith told us was the first Fumigation tie of Gamescom, but it was a real struggle – and a lot of fun.
At 1200 Microsoft Points or $15, players are going to want a multiplayer experience they can keep coming back to, but if all the modes provide as much excitement as that playthrough of Fumigation did then the game will sell itself without the zany overlay. Regardless, I’m still holding out for an Adam West cameo. It’s not the like man turns down work these days, is it?