Last month, CBR News offered a first look at a Batman video game project -- well, the one that isn't "Batman: Arkham City," anyway. "Gotham City Impostors" is a Bat-universe based project being developed by WB Games and Monolith, the studio who released the first two "F.E.A.R." shooting games. The project, slated for an early 2012 release on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, pits the Bats against the Jokerz in a four-on-four battle for supremacy around Gotham City, using every weapon -- and other advantage -- they can get their hands on.
During a private event near the 2011 Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington, WB Games invited CBR to give the game a road test, particularly a new mode called Fumigation in which players battle it out for control of specific points on a map, highlighted by a huge Joker-themed canister filled with laughing gas. When the Jokerz take control, the area fills with the gas; when the Bats seize it, it turns bright red. It's up to teams to overtake the three points on the map, while defending them from the opposing team.
To get a better idea of what Monolith had in mind for "Gotham City Impostors," we sat down with associate producer Lucas Myers to get some more information. Ssked about what made the team think a Batman-inspired shooter would work, Lucas replied, "One of the things we wanted to do, looking at the Batman universe, was to take the spotlight off of the main characters and turn it towards the streets of Gotham City. We were like, 'What's it like to live in a universe where super heroes and super villains exist?' Obviously, there are people who want to try and get in on this. So this game is about the 'Impostors' who are crazy enough to dress up, get weapons and try and do it."
In order to effectively do battle with each other, the Bats and Jokerz need more than just your typical handguns. As such, they'll employ everything from a fully loaded shotgun to a homemade rocket launcher to get their point across. We tested out some of these weapons in the game, and they work almost flawlessly thanks to the pinpoint controls provided in the demo. Holding down the left trigger lets you precision aim, looking down the scope of the weapon so you can lock on to a target. You walk slower as a result, but running throws off your aim.
Beyond the wide array of weaponry, gadgets play a huge part in the game. The "spring shoes," for instance, allow you to jump up to higher ledges that may have been otherwise out of your reach. This is particularly useful for snipers looking to take down enemies from above, though it's quite easy for a rival to jump up to the same ledge, either using the "spring shoes" or a nearby trampoline, and quietly take you out from behind. Playing around with the multiple classes in the game will really give you an idea of what each character is capable of and allow you to plan accordingly.
Lucas, explained how much Monolith enjoyed working with gadgets, saying, "The Batman universe really gave us a lot of room to put gadgets in, which really adds to the gameplay of this multiplayer shooter. We get to put in things like the grapple gun, the glider wings -- and there are abilities such as stealth and things like that. You use these kind of Batman-things in a new way."
What's more, Monolith is making sure that the game doesn't take the same super-serious route as "Batman: Arkham City," focusing more on a tongue-in-cheek, play-loose sort of experience, as seen in the game's character customizations. At one point, we saw fully armed thugs running around in tutus. Yep, ballerina tutus. Even the shirts the company gave out at the event showed no signs of seriousness, between the black shirt with two cartoon characters surrounding the "Gotham City Impostors" logo and the grey shirt featuring a fake Batman wearing a business suit on the front and a logo on the back.
"We looked at the whole Batman universe, pulling from the comics and everything," Lucas said, "and we came up with this idea, which we thought was really funny and really creative. We brought it to Warner Bros., and they loved it. They were like, 'This is great. We're getting away with this.' We took it to DC and they felt the same way. In fact, they were like, 'Go further. Go crazier!' You might be aware that there was an 'Impostors' story that ran in DC Comics a few months back. That was actually a cross-collaboration between DC and Monolith."
Despite the playful appearance, the game means serious business when it comes to first-person shooting excitement, something players are sure to have a good time with. Lucas explained that the developers made sure teams were properly balanced, and that no one had an unfair advantage. "Even though there are Bat-themed guns, gadgets and items (and the Jokerz have theirs), both sides have access to all of the equipment. Gameplay and advantage-wise, there is no advantage to either the Bats or the Jokerz."
There are differences, though they're mainly in what they wear. "When you're unlocking costumes, you're unlocking Bat costumes. Obviously they're going to look different from the Jokerz costumes, but that's just a (cosmetic) difference. The gameplay is totally equal."
As far as the costumes you'll be able to earn in the game are concerned, you won't need to move up in classes to get them as is typically the case with other shooters. Explained Lucas, "It's all about progression and customization. You gain XP as you play and you level up, and as you do so, you'll unlock weapons and items. There's absolutely no restrictions or limitations on your customization. You can use any body type, any weapon, any support items -- like boomerangs, grenade traps, any of that -- and customize how you look as you play. You can make yourself look scary, funny, sexy -- it's totally up to you. And with mobility gadgets, you get to customize how you move, like if you want to glide or jump around or skate fast. "
The game supports 12 players per match, in a six-by-six format. There are a number of modes in the game, but only three have been announced thus far -- the previously mentioned Fumigation, the Capture-the-Flag-like Psych Warfare and a standard Team Deathmatch, where teams rack up as many kills as they can during a match. Unfortunately, Lucas was mum on the rest of the modes during our visit, but they should be revealed soon.
"Gotham City Impostors" is due for release in early 2012