I just killed a man by throwing a broadsword at him. Before diving out of a window. Backwards. Followed by a hail of bullets fired from his teammates. I hit the ground back first, flip back onto my feet, and vanish in a shower of gibs and blood as a rocket hits me. This is The Showdown Effect, and despite sounding incredible – I’m actually quite annoyed at it.
An easy description would be to call on such venerable ancestors such as Super Smash Brothers and… basically every side-scrolling action game ever made. It sports a 3D-looking-but-actually-2D world of glass windows (to dive through), weapons (to pick up and swing/shoot), and improbably arranged platforms. A singularly multiplayer experience, you join a team of other like-minded souls and try to kill the other team as often as possible, while dodging or diving around to survive the inevitable retaliation.
A curious smattering of game modes all revolve around these principles, occasionally adding a few wild-cards to the mix. For example, one involves a team of players trying to survive as long as possible against re-spawning waves of hired goons with random weapons – each controlled by a member of the opposing team. It adds little to the overall experience, but it’s a pleasant change of pace. Of course, the standard full-fat deathmatch is here too, and is probably the best way to play – for reasons I shall elaborate on shortly.
The Showdown Effect also sports an interesting combat system, in that you simply can’t spray bullets in someone’s general direction and hope for a kill. Rather, the game demands you actually aim at an enemy for your bullets to hit home. This is something of an obstacle early on, as it feels very counter-intuitive to my Soldat-honed 2D reflexes, but it soon becomes second nature. It works quite well overall, thanks to your rather extensive acrobatic abilities – a running gun battle is a mouse-killing exercise that can occasionally be thrilling as you dive, leap, wall-jump and climb your way around claustrophobic maps.
More often than not, sadly, it ends up with some muppet running up and whacking you with a sword, killing you instantly. Melee weapons, it seems, are slightly over-powered.
This happened a fair amount in the beta. I gave it the benefit of the doubt then because… well, it was a beta. Bugs and balance were still on-going, and it was an occasional gripe that didn’t quite ruin things that much. Now, however, it’s a borderline nightmare. Bullets in The Showdown Effect are dodge-able, a lightsaber swung from three feet away is not. Now I will freely admit to my lack of skill in games that eschew the third dimension – I was always terrible at Soldat. But unloading a full clip into someone as they sprint up to you, then dying to a single click – it’s infuriatingly silly.
The maps are also seemingly heavily nuanced towards these melee powerhouses too – tight corridors and doors/obstacles that block your line-of-sight all allow sneaky players to be right on top of you before you can react. Of course, you can always pick up a melee weapon and do what all the cool kids are doing too, which fortunately does make things a little more manageable. However, with such a slick ability to dodge bullets like a meerkat, it does take a bit of wind out of the game’s sails when it degenerates into a “who clicks first, wins” thing.
The switch to melee weapons also has another unfortunate effect, at least for myself, in that every game I have played as had friendly-fire on. It is incredibly easy to kill a teammate with a mistimed swing of your sword/club/broom and it can get understandably irritating. I have been kicked for team-killing more times in The Showdown Effect than I have from 8 years of playing Counter-Strike. I’ve also been killed more times from random acts of friendly-fire than I care to count.
The Showdown Effect isn’t a bad game. I’ve had a fair few rounds that left me elated and with a sore pinkie-finger. It looks superb, with quasi-cell-shaded characters that all seem to be the product of watching way too many action movies of a weekend, flipping and fighting on some very nice scenery. A personal favorite of mine is the city map that has a Godzilla-style monster trashing the city in the distance as you leap and shoot. The effects are pleasant and vibrant, and the action fluid – even if it does get a bit hectic at times.
Sadly, however, all of this kind of falls flat as you come to realise that there simply isn’t enough of a community there to keep the game alive. Ranked matches are a rarity whenever I’ve tried to play, which leaves the “Custom Game” lobby the only real way to get a game going. And the most custom games running I’ve seen there is three. THREE. One was even required a password. Another refused to let me connect due to something called “Latency Threshold”, slang for “Your internet sucks” I guess. But for a game that has no real way to play alone – this kills The Showdown Effect significantly more than dodgy melee weapons ever could.
A rarely singular game, that simply no-one seems to want to play. Probably due to idiots with lightsabers, methinks.
Verdict – Off Target
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please read this page for more on our scoring policy. Review based on a Steam key supplied by Paradox.