Thursday, 1 March 2012

Gotham City Impostors [SPECIAL]

This week my "mini" review is going to be slightly different. 

This week I am going to tell you a story. 

It's a wonderful adventure, with early excitement, community spirit, communication with game developers and deep, painful heartache.

I will begin at the beginning, for where better to begin a story which starts at the beginning?

How It All Began
About 2 months ago, as part of the Playstation Plus membership, Monolith and WB Games released their beta version of Gotham City Impostors. For non-gaming-geeks out there, this means a near-complete test version that is released for players to try out and then the developers can identify any problems in order to get them fixed before the full release.

The game itself was incredible - the idea here being that Batman and the Joker have fled Gotham and in their place thousands of wannabe superheroes and villains have leapt into action and are now battling it out for supremacy on Gotham's streets. They aren't the real deal however, so the well-fitting Batman costume and the tailor-made Joker outfit aren't present - instead there's bat symbols on cardboard cut-outs and purple tank tops serving as Joker gear. 

As a game, this works like a multiplayer first person shooter - you have other players on your team and you go round shooting the opposing team to win points which will help you win the match. You are randomly put in the Bats or Jokers team, and this doesn't make a difference as you don't have any loyalty to either - you're just a wannabe who wants to fight injustice/cause mayhem (whatever's on offer that day). Before battle, you select the set of weapons, skills, equipment, character types and outfits which suit your play style - and there are plenty of play styles to choose from:
  • You can be a thin, stealthy sniper who uses ninja gas to turn invisible. 
  • You can be a nimble rollerskater, leaping around the place at top speed and greeting enemies with a sudden shotgun handshake. 
  • You can be an enormous brute stalking the town with body armour and a rocket launcher. 
  • Or if you like you can be a healer, shouting into a megaphone to revive team players and turn the tables of battle. 
And the best part of it all? You can do it wearing nothing but underpants.

By completing battles you earn experience points, costume points and loadout unlocks. Experience gains you levels and earns you more loadout unlocks, which means more customisable weapons, gadgets and skills. Costume points are spent to gain new items of clothing to kit your Bats and Jokers out with.

There are also a whole bunch of challenges, like killing 50 enemies with the shotgun, or rollerskating for 10 kilometres. These have massive experience boosts associated with them, so it really is worth spending hours razzing around the map like a squirrel.

Email Number 1
So after spending around 10 hours playing the beta version, I go to the main menu to be greeted with a message:

"Profile Corrupt - Save Data may be Invalid"

Huh. Okay.... so what does that mean? It meant that all of my progress was wiped out. All the experience, all the costumes, all the hours put in were lost for no good reason.

So I decided to do the right thing and emailed the support team to let them know of the issue - this is a beta after all so they need to be informed in order to get it sorted. I didn't hear back from them so carried on playing for a while - the game was still great fun, so once they got the profile reset issue sorted then it'd be plain sailing.

Email Number 2
While playing the beta version some more, a few more serious issues started to present themselves: 
  • Matches would be vastly unbalanced - like 2 low-level Bats against 6 elite Jokers. These matches would be over within minutes and were fairly boring - if you were a Bat you'd be pwned within seconds of respawning, and as a Joker it was likely that someone else had killed off all the Bats before you got there.
  • Matchmaking (finding other players to play matches with) was taking longer and longer too. When I first started playing you could be in a match within 2 minutes - now it takes 5 minutes just to find a match to join.
  • Every few matches, there would be some sort of connection problem where it would kick you out of a match you were playing. Again, this happened more as time went on until virtually every other match ended suddenly (and without any experience earned).
So basically, things weren't looking good. As it had been over a week since my first email, and I still had heard nothing, I decided to send another one to let them know that there were some pretty serious issues in Impostors that really needed addressing. But hey, this is the beta - they'll get this sorted out....right?

Out of Beta
After the beta trials ended, a "trial" version went up onto the Playstation Network (PSN). This was a full demonstration version of the game that was free to play for 30 minutes. I downloaded this and starting playing my free 30 minutes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found that I had to start a new profile (again). "OK", I thought, "It was a beta version and now it's a trial version so I can't expect to keep the same profile". So I played through those 30 minutes and once again loved it. See, this is the crucial point - the game itself is absolutely brilliant. It's fun, frantic, accessible, enjoyable, customisable - everything you want from an online FPS.

So.... I bought the full game. Yes, I know it was a risk but I gave Impostors the benefit of the doubt. £11.99 from my already dwindling bank account for a game that really should offer me weeks of fun.

Email Number 3
As the more astute of you may have gathered from the heading, buying the game only caused more trouble.

On purchasing the full game unlock, I opened the game to find an error message reading:

"Do you want to cancel your full game progress and go back to trial mode?"

Why on Earth would I (or anyone else for that matter) want to cancel a £12 purchase and go back to a time-limited trial? So I selected "NO!", at which point it took me to the Playstation Store to ask me to purchase the game again. I cancelled this and restarted the game. The game then loaded up fine and allowed me to play a few matches. "Phew!", I thought, "Thank goodness that's all over now!". Oh how wrong I was.
The next time I turned the game on, I was greeted by my old friend: 

"Profile Corrupt - Save Data may be Invalid"

Bugger. That's not good news. I'm getting tired of getting through the first few levels just so that I can unlock the basic customisation settings. This will be the third time! 

You must be able to work out that this must be a pretty good game for me to put up with this sort of crap, and when you get to play it, Gotham City Impostors really is a bloody good game. The maps are diverse and unique, each with little hiding places and open areas that are fun to explore. Due to the large range of characters and gadgets available, there is always someone to flush out the snipers, someone else who takes down big brutish demolition units well, and others who zoom around the map so fast that no-one can take them down (me - speedy body type, speed bonuses and rollerskates.... boo yah). 

So I sent the third email, to say that the issues I was facing in the beta are present in the full game. And that I was not impressed.

Other Lovely Error Messages
Other than just having corrupt data, the game has thrown back some great reasons for not letting me play the game I have paid for. Here are a few of my faves:
  • Simply searching endlessly for players - the spinning "loading" icon just swirls hypnotically forever, and even refuses to let you exit sometimes.
  • Better than that, the match countdown gets to "Match starts in 1 seconds" and then sits there for what feels like an eternity before it kicks you back out to the main menu.
  • "No Gamespy Connection Detected - You Will Not Be Able To Play Online Games". So what part of this exclusively online multiplayer game am I meant to be playing? The offline challenge section? OK. Well that lasted all of 5 minutes. What now?
  • "Connection with the server has timed out". The classic. Its use here borders on over overkill.
Now you might ask if there is some problem with my connection or hardware here - well I can say that I've had no problem with any other online multiplayer game on the PS3 and next heading bit will explain more - so read on.

Acceptance, Patch and Beyond
Warner Brothers Games and Monolith have accepted that there are some pretty serious issues going on here now - Gotham City Impostors Patch & Updates Info

In fact, I think I have installed the patch. Yes, it's only that I think it's installed the patch - my game version still shows up as v1.01 (whereas the messiah patch is due to be v1.05) however it found and installed a new update this week so I can only assume it was this newest one. I have still not received any of my coins and experience back, instead the game seems to recognise a "shadow" of my former profile - for example when displaying my progress in challenges the game will now display:

"Matches Completed Challenge #3: 63 matches out of 100"

right before displaying

"Matches Completed Challenge #3: 78 matches out of 100"

So..... it's still screwed. There might be a proper fix on the way, but it feels a loooong way off.
What's even more insulting is that there is hundreds of messages declaring the upcoming downloadable content with extra maps, weapons and unlocks.... even though we can't even use the current content at the moment! For goodness' sake - sort the game out before chucking more crap into this faulty mess of a game!

As should be obvious, I've put a lot of time and effort into Impostors and it is for that very reason that I feel so let down. There is an awesome game in here - I just don't get to play it much.

All in all, this is a really terrific game that has been let down by some pretty major design flaws - I mean, just take a look at the gameplay video above!

This has the potential to be online FPS of the year -
but at present it is virtually unplayable. 

However, if you get a kick out of loading screens and error messages 
then this may be the game for you!

If WB Games would just respond to my emails 
(or offer a bloody refund) then I might consider recalling the deadly ninja monkeys.
Oh well... here goes email number 4....

UPDATE! : On signing into Impostors this morning (3rd March) a message appeared telling me that I have gained 2500 costume coins and jumped 14 experience levels.

It appears they have finally restored my profile to the level it should be - over 3 weeks after first informing them of the issue. 

That said, I've been waiting to get into a match for ten minutes now - so the matchmaking problems are still ongoing. A minor victory?

Videos in this review are from Youtube and are kindly provided by: 
Videos are subject to relevant copyrights.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always have the error "game installation corrupt or invalid, please exit the game and reinstall"
And i reinstalled 4 times.