We cover a lot of face shooters here at FPSGuru. It’s pretty rare that one comes along that doesn’t fit into the tried and true First Person or Third Person Shooter mold that has become so popular of late. But every so often one sneaks into the mix that makes us sit back and go “Really? Huh… Ok then, let’s see what this is all about.” The Showdown Effect, from Arrowhead (creators of the hit Magicka) and publisher Paradox, is just such a game. It’s a side-scroller, platforming competitive shooter which draws a lot of inspiration from Super Smash Brothers and console/arcade games of the past like Contra.
Honestly when I first received the preview code, I had never even heard of The Showdown Effect. But I knew Arrowhead from being a big fan of Magicka and was also a big fan of a lot of things Paradox has published over the years, so I was definitely intrigued. I went into the game at a bit of a disadvantage I guess, since I’ve never been a huge Super Smash Brothers fan, and well, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve played games like Contra. Needless to say my side scrolling skills needed some work.
With that in mind the first thing I went for was the “Training” option in the menu. I was very happy to see it existed, as a lot of games lately which are online competitive only have been forgoing any type of single player tutorial or training. On the downside though, the training they did provide didn’t really help all that much beyond giving you an environment in which to play around with the keys and figure stuff out on your own without worrying about getting shot in the face by other players. There are nine dummies that you’re tasked with destroying and you’re timed while you do so, getting a higher rank depending on how fast you accomplished the task. They’re spread out well enough that you’re forced to experiment with climbing and jumping, but they’re also stationary so you get no real practice in combat versus a moving target. I’d love to see this expanded before release so maybe you have the option of destroying bots or other mobile targets. Movement in the game is fairly straightforward, easy to learn but hard to master. Taking down an opponent who is using all of those nifty rolls and slides and blocks and jumping up or down from level to level of the map is a whole ‘nother can of beans though.
Balance in The Showdown Effect is going to be an interesting thing for the developers to handle. Melee and ranged combat are a lot more equal in importance here than they are in most face shooting games. As opposed to games where “you have a knife or fists as a last resort” I found myself using melee as much or more than my ranged combat. It’s just fun. It also doesn’t hurt that the environment is scattered with random objects that can be used as improvised weapons. I killed someone with a cross I tore off the wall in a church once. Melee weapons are also handy for blocking bullets, as long as it isn’t the dreaded rocket launcher, cause really, what would a face shooter be without the age old tried and true rocket launcher. But on the flip side, if you’re standing there blocking, you’re, well, standing there, making an easy target for someone else to come along and lop off your head.
Earlier I mentioned the movement being easy to learn and hard to master. You have a lot of evasive tools at your disposal like slides, rolls, triangle jumps, climbing up or dropping down to different levels of the map, etc. Getting good at controlling your character seems to make much more of a difference in how well you do than character or weapon selection. It is pretty exhilarating, or frustrating depending on which end you’re on, when you’re dodging and rolling and sliding around and an opponent can’t get his crosshairs on you long enough to take a shot.
Atmospherically, the game is just fun to look at and listen to. It is like someone took every cliché ever written about action movies and action stars and crammed them all into The Showdown Effect. Characters speak with accents you’re sure to recognize. The amount of carnage done to the environments around you is something straight out of The Expendables. It is just a fun experience if you’re a fan of classic action movies.
Given Arrowhead and Paradox’s history with expansions and DLC and even added free content with Magicka, I can’t imagine The Showdown Effect will be any different. The initial $10 price tag looks like it is going to get you a very fun game assuming the community is there to play with, and then it will theoretically be expanded exponentially with new levels, character packs, etc. Personally I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as it definitely has the potential to be a fun diversion from the norm.