How does a man reclaim his family? How does he return to the present-day future? How does he avenge his fallen partner? But more importantly, why does this Asian schoolgirl want to kill you? Answers to these questions, and all of life’s most philosophical quandaries in The Showdown Effect.
The Showdown Effect is a new side-scrolling action game from Arrowhead Game Studios, creators of Magicka. This time around, the studio is focusing more on a competitive eSports approach. Combining parkour-style platforming and precision aiming, The Showdown Effect creates a menagerie of chaotic bullet fury, slick moves, great hair, and ostentatious blood sport. It has all the flair and witty humor one would expect from an Arrowhead game.
Controlled on a flat 2-D plane much like many games from yesteryear, Showdown’s unique feature is its precision aiming, requiring you to actually keep your mouse cursor over your targets to inflict damage. Most side scrollers only require you aim in a general direction to hit targets, but Showdown‘s finely tuned aim separates the good players from the truly great players. It’s a mechanic like this that could allow the game to be a legitimate eSport. Some weapons can be spammed, such as the grenade launcher and throwing knives–this is how the platforming elements come into play. Highly skilled players are able to avoid such missile-like attacks while simultaneously maintaining the dexterity to mow down their foes with bullet based weaponry. The skill required to pull off such feats is what really separates the game from other somewhat-competitive side-scrolling games like Smash Bros. Without these finely tuned features, the experience would be extremely generic and bland.
Many melee weapons like the katana can be picked up throughout the maps. Each one has its own unique animation, damage, and timing. There are also many elevators and doors to allow for many entertaining tactics. Sometimes you just want to pick up a sack of flour and beat someone into a bloody mess, or put all your weapons away and go straight kung fu on their face. This is the app for that.
As usual, Arrowhead is up to its old tricks, parodying pop culture with a clever sense of humor. For instance, take the game’s arguably best character, Dutch McClone. Dutch is a literal amalgamation of just about every single Arnold Schwarzenegger character in history. He was sent back in time after having his identity stolen. He now fights to recover his stolen identity and discover just exactly who did this to him and why. On top of all that, he has an Austrian accent and constantly declares that he’s just a kindergarten teacher.
The are currently eight playable characters in total, with more to be added in the future. Each character has their own unique ability that they can use in combat. Dutch’s ability renders him invincible for a few seconds or until he takes a certain amount of damage. This causes him to be the most picked character, which is fine, since there can be multiples of the same character in each match. It’s unfortunate, however, that the other characters’ special abilities aren’t as competitively appealing.
Showdown has four unique game modes, varying from free-for-all (just called Showdown) to team deathmatch. Right now Showdown seems to be the primary focus. Every time a character dies, they respawn in a mere second or two, keeping a constant flow of action going. Before the match ends, the Showdown round begins, where everyone has one life to live in a last-man-standing climax. The winner of the Showdown round is given a score point bounty based on the amount of players in the match. The person with the highest score after the Showdown round is declared the winner.
With so much replay value and charm, this is a game that’s almost impossible not to recommend. The marriage between humor and truly skilled gameplay makes it one of the most innovative games of the last five years. Whether or not it actually takes off as an eSport remains to be seen. The eSports community can be very fickle with what they choose to actually support. But if you’re looking for a video game where a giant Power Ranger fights Godzilla in the background accompanied by an epic heavy metal song blaring at eleven, this is the game for you.
This review is based on a review copy of The Showdown Effect for the PC, developed by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Paradox Interactive.