Imagine a world where all your favourite characters from those movies that lovingly adorned your childhood could get together and battle to the death in a fast-paced, interactive environment. Sounds awesome, right? Well this is exactly what Paradox Interactive have done (or tried to), and the result of their endeavours is packaged up in arcade-style graphics, with the punchy title, The Showdown Effect, stamped on it.
Upon starting the game you will be greeted with what I can only describe as the most awesome music ever; that is if you like 80s hard rock and heavy metal (which you should). At this point you will probably be itching to get into some gameplay, but before you throw yourself into a ranked match (which will cost you a rating point by the way) you will want to head to 'Go Training' first. Rating points are earned from ranked matches, that is if you are any good in them, so you don't want to be wasting them.
'Go Training' is a little scenario that will help you get used to the controls. It doesn't actually contain much instruction though, you will need to click on 'Settings' and then 'How to play' or 'Controls' to figure out what buttons you should be frantically pressing. However, as many times as you play the training level, it will not be quite comparable to the onslaught of a match against other players. This is the kind of game that you really learn through playing, and will improve through incessant repetition.
The concept of The Showdown Effect is certainly one that should appeal to the masses, and it seems like the beckoning taglines would be too tempting to resist, but sadly it appears to have fallen under the radar somewhat. Waiting for a ranked match is a nightmare, and even in the custom game section, most of the servers are private and you are unable to jump in. Perhaps as time passes, its popularity will grow and jam-packed servers will exist, bursting at the seams with movie heroes.
Enlisting the help of three willing friends and fellow writers (you may know them: HarrieSilver, Ewok, and Kaostic), we set up a custom match to experience some actual gameplay.
The four starting characters you can select are: Dutch McClone, Hailey Skye, Hank Stream and Mizu Ichiban, the latter being currently only available in the Digital Deluxe edition. There are more characters to unlock as you play matches and earn AC points (the same as experience points), which can be used to purchase them.
The characters are, combat-wise, carbon copies of each other, with the exception of hero mode, which is a single special move, unique to each individual. So there is no real benefit to choosing one over the other, and having to master different styles is not a problem. It is a bit of a shame that there is no real variation, but at the same time it makes winning more a matter of skill.
The matches are very fast-paced, as should be expected from any brawler worth its mettle, and managing to stay alive for longer than a minute is an achievement in its own right. Trying to rely on ranged attacks is not advisable, especially in the beginning, as you become used to the controls. This is because just clicking in the general direction of your target like other PC shooters will do nothing advantageous, you need to click directly on your target to accomplish a hit. Combining this with the constant moving, rolling and dodging of you and your foes means that very rarely will you ever manage to take someone down with a gun (unless you are Ewok and blatantly overpowered).
Melee is a better choice as an initial springboard into the game, and this is in no way at all influenced by the fact that you can use a lightsaber... honest. The only problem with this is that you can't swing your weapon and move at the same time, so when you're chasing someone with your glowing blade of energy, or alternative melee weapon of choice, you can easily lose them as you are constantly pausing to lash out.
There are other ways to attack, by interacting with the environment you can find items to aid you in your quest for ultimate domination. For example, at one point I attempted to fend off a brutal attack with a pizza box (and failed) and someone else was dishing out some pain in the form of a lethal umbrella. Whilst this is a great idea, and should be fully embraced in matches with people you know; when against highly competitive strangers who are after rating points, there's no point in dilly dallying around trying to interact with objects, as you will just be obliterated.
Graphically, The Showdown Effect takes the style of a 2D platformer and levels span across a large area with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. There are also poignantly placed elevators which can be strategically used to escape impending doom, or to launch a surprise ambush. It's great to look at, and there are nice little features included here are there which make you unable to deny the effort that went into the design with its subtle nods to the 80s and 90s movies it so lovingly models itself on.
Hearkening back to the aforementioned unlockables, there is another option available to you if you want extra weapon skins and costumes; you can purchase them. Whilst it seems that this is an ingredient that almost every game mix seems to take advantage of nowadays, it is still a disappointment to see it included, especially when there are items in the list that you cannot earn, though it is worth noting that no purchasable items provide a combat advantage.
Alongside the epic music filled with catchy guitar riffs are plenty of other audio delights for the ears in the form of character uttered one-liners. They add a nice comedic layer to the game, which could potentially become annoying with age, but for now are a enjoyable and appropriate addition.
Speaking of enjoyable additions, there is a handy, text-based chat for players to make use of when battling, and the game caters for direct linking to twitch.tv, for those of us who like our games appreciated by the masses. To be honest though, in our games, we used comms, which is really a far more efficient device to talk to co-players, as typing takes away from the valuable facility to move or attack.
As a whole, The Showdown Effect is a light-hearted, stylish game that is at its best when enjoyed with friends. There is no real substance, no attempt at depth, but then there is no real need for any. I cannot see it being something that I would regularly try alone, and unless you are someone with a real passion for competition and compulsion to be the best then I would imagine it to be the same for the majority of players.
The game should be seen for what it is, a homage to those films we all loved as kids, (or adults), and it brings this across very successfully. With the addition of extra content: more playable characters, weapons, and new maps to experience the game could be extended, increasing replay value, but for the moment it will do just fine.
- Great fun with friends
- Awesomely reminiscent of 80/90s action films
- Fast-paced matches
- Can be waiting for a while for ranked matches
- Lack of content and depth
- Fiddly controls
- Difficult to navigate menus