Paradox Interactive and Arrowhead Game Studios had some great success with Magicka not long ago. The fantastic humor merged with creative and innovative gameplay to make a one-of-a-kind experience. Arrowhead is at it again, turning that over the top humor to 11 in a new multiplayer release called The Showdown Effect. With plenty of 80’s and 90’s action movie references and one-liners, the question is which line can we use to describe the game? Will it have you saying “I’ll be back” (for more), or will it be dismissed with a harsh “You have been erased?”
30 Second Review
(+) Humor, one-liners and source material are spot-on
(+) Graphics and sound/music definitely enhance the experience
(+) Lots of unlockables and customization options
(+) Gameplay is perfect for short bursts of time
(-) Lack of gamepad support and learning curve/difficulty may scare some gamers away
Let Me Do It My Way….Just Give Me An Unmarked And A Shotgun
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN CHEESY MOVIE QUOTES!
In a nutshell, The Showdown Effect lets players take one of a few action movie personalities into a side-scrolling, multiplayer slugfest. Four game modes are featured: a king of the hill match type, a team deathmatch, a standard free-for-all mode, and the cool Expendables (Henchmen VS Heroes) Mode. The Expendables mode may sound like your average Team Deathmatch mode, but the Henchman spawn in monk robes with randomized weapons. It’s a great twist that caters to the action movie premise of the game.
Seven playable characters are available with a bonus eighth character if you buy the Digital Deluxe edition. Each is a mash-up of familiar action movie backstories, like Officer Koboldski, a New York cop on his last day before retiring, which seems to be a mashup of Sgt. Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon) and Axel Foley (Beverly Hills Cop). All of the action plays out with a maximum of 8 players across 4 maps (2 maps each from 2 environments). The maps themselves have a lot of elements to take in. There are interactive parts of the maps (the weapons, elevators and pickups), but there’s also lots of humorous things going on in the background. Play a match on the Neo Tokyo map and watch Godzilla raid Japan in the background. All of those clever touches are what makes the game fantastic.
If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It
The gameplay is fast, frantic and sports a bit of a learning curve. I can see how the learning curve can be off-putting, but the payoff is well worth the time invested. For starters, you won’t hit your target without making sure your cursor is directly over them. Too far in front of or behind your enemy will not register a hit; almost does not count. Nimble acrobatics are a must; using rolls and wall slides to dodge and slow falls are all important. It seems obvious, but learning the ins and outs of each character’s special ability is a big help. Tons of weapons can be found throughout each level, but many forget that those weapons can be thrown to do a fair bit of damage. Blocking tends to be overlooked, but timing it just right will absorb both melee strikes and projectiles. All of these factors combine for a finesse and timing above what any FPS seems to offer. Watching someone else pull off the moves that you wished you had in the seconds before dying can be oddly satisfying (even when it’s you that perished). Spectating matches is pretty interesting, and the built in TwitchTV functionality caters to that very sentiment.
He’s A Little Upset. He Misses His Wardrobe.
In addition to the one-liners and crazy action, there is a fair amount of customization to be found in The Showdown Effect. Each character can change head, body and leg attire for strictly cosmetic purposes. There are also tons of weapons and weapon skins to choose from. For example, you may prefer the katana as your melee weapon, but giving it a deluxe edition bonus lightsaber or golden axe skin gives you more visual options without giving anyone an edge. All of these items are unlocked from within the game using the experience/currency you gain from scoring in online matches. There is even a store for those who want to purchase special items with actual money, but again, these are only cosmetic character and weapon skins that do not provide any in-game advantages. If that isn’t enough, you can use in-game currency to purchase match customization options like disabling special powers, only using pistols or allowing unlimited blocking.
You’re Going To Die Screaming….And I’m Going To Watch
All in all, there is a lot to like and a little to be frustrate about in The Showdown Effect. I say frustrate only because there seems to be a bit of a lack of people playing online, and that’s a shame. As I’ve already mentioned, I can see how the learning curve can scare some away as will the lack of gamepad support. I imagine that the aiming mechanic negates the ability to use a gamepad, and I’d argue that every game has it’s learning curve, so neither of these factors should be an excuse to miss out on the chance to play out a cheesy 80’s action movie. I can definitely see The Showdown Effect being a go-to game for quite a while.
While I do want to work at unlocking many of the character and weapon skins, TSE is consumed better in bite-sized chunks. Squeezing in one or two matches is just as satisfying as longer play sessions. I also think Paradox found a very good sweet spot with the price point. Any more and I’d argue that I would like to see more maps, more content, etc, but offering the base game for $9.99 means that you will definitely get your money’s worth and still be interested when the DLC packages start rolling out. To that end, I can understand why some would want to delay their purchase until more content is available, but my recommendation would be to jump in now, get the feel of a game and have a blast!
If you were a fan of the source material, I’m sure you will be happy with how well Arrowhead captured the action movie feel. The team really did a phenomenal job capturing the retro action movie feel with the sound effects, scan lines, soundtrack and the polished graphics. The Showdown Effect is definitely a fun romp that I can recommend to complement your multiplayer library. I hope to see some of you in the online firefight! In the meantime, ponder my wishlist below between matches. The Showdown Effect gets an 8 out of 10.
I Want More!
I normally don’t like the idea of buying into a product in the hopes of gaining great content in the long run, be it patched in or via post-release DLC. That being said, Paradox is known for publishing and developing DLC that is excellent in quality and encapsulates the wishes of its fanbase. Arrowhead should also be recognized for the amazing job it did supporting Magicka post release with both timely patching and an awesome variety of DLC. This makes me really curious to see what is next for The Showdown Effect, as I would be highly surprised if we don’t see new DLC teased and/or released between PAX East and GDC. As bonus content for my review, I thought I’d have a little fun and add my wishlist of additions I’d like to see!
- Simply more of everything: more weapons, more quotes, more custom rulesets and more characters! More movies referenced, more of this game’s unique personality.
- Not quite the same as the first request: more environments! Not simply new maps, but environmental hazards and weapons/pickups, more humor, more of what Arrowhead does well!
- I would really be curious to see a single-player story/campaign for some of the characters. I really appreciate Arrowhead’s sense of humor; it came through well in Magicka, and I would love to see them run with it. Taking the solid gameplay, the action movie inspiration and Arrowhead’s humor into a story-based mode would be a marriage greater than peanut butter and chocolate!