by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
The Showdown Effect is Arrowhead Game Studio's first follow-up to the smash indie hit Magicka. It is also as shockingly different as anyone had a right to expect. The Showdown Effect lives and breathes its multiplayer, embracing it to the exclusion of any offline or single-player mode. Without a campaign, player characters make up for the lack of story with humor by aping popular action stars and delivering silly one-liners. The game revels in its short matches and frenetic competition, encouraging players to go for just one more round and earn that next tantalizing unlockable. Best of all, it joins its particular brand of action-movie-based ultra-violence with tight, skill-based gameplay that, while very twitchy, is supremely satisfying. Too bad it's so hard to find a game.
Steam classifies the game as an action platformer, and while that description might be correct, it also misses the mark. The Showdown Effect shares little in common with the Metroids of the world and instead focuses on providing tight, competitive multiplayer much more akin to Soldat than Castlevania. Like Soldat, The Showdown Effect pits teams of players against one another in Team Deathmatch on platform-navigable 2D maps. While it certainly takes inspiration from Soldat, The Showdown Effect refines the formula, bringing up the importance of skill and deepening the experience with character abilities and item progression.
You Have My Permission to Die
If you haven't seen a game like this before, imagine something like this. The world of Showdown Effect is broken into four maps, two with a medieval castle theme and two with a gritty, urban feel. Each map has three to five levels with numerous drop-down points and paths to climb up. Using a firearm, katana, or Kung Fu, players hunt each other for points. Each character is a take on the some action movie star, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Liam Neeson, so violence for violence's sake is the order of the day. No reason required.
What makes the game so frustrating, and so satisfying, is that precise aiming and careful use of character are unforgivingly necessary. When using a firearm, a reticle is projected in front of your character. Holding the right-mouse button slows your pace and steadies your aim, but to prevent missing, the reticle must always remain on the target. Even with an enemy directly in front of you, if your aim is off, you will miss. While this system is great and brings with it a heaping helping of skill, it also means keeping a steady aim while at the same time making your character as hard to hit as possible. Given how fast conflicts go in The Showdown Effect, losing often feels like a matter of reaction time. With some time and a few wins, you can see that this isn't the case. Reaction time matters, but only as much as careful ability use, weapon choice, and proper aim.
So much of the game is situational. Each character has a unique ability and knowing when to use it makes all the difference in the world. Triggering Dutch McClone's Personal Shield or Mizu Ichiban's Blood Bath at the perfect second can win or lose encounters. Knowing when to switch from firearms to swords, or when and how to use an environmental weapon, can turn the tables on a dime. The machete does tend to feel overpowered, though, and in close quarters is almost a guaranteed win. Smart players will also consider whether its best to hunt or lie in wait. Since you can only see what's happening on your level of the floor (sorry, no zooming out to find other players!), listening for other players is as important as seeing them.
Satisfying, skill-based combat, good sense of humor, mostly balanced
Difficulty finding a match, too few maps, melee a bit overpowered