The Showdown Effect Preview – Yippee-ki-yay
Developer Arrowhead Studios is primarily known for their strange game Magicka, at least for now. Their expertise with pop culture references and whimsical quips will serve them well in their new project called The Showdown Effect. Landing next week, this online multiplayer title mixes lighthearted humor with intense combat and platform sections. There are some inconsistencies to address, but luckily most of them can be tweaked to work out. From there, it’s smooth sailing all the way, baby.
Seconds after launching the game, players are treated to a giant explosion and sick guitar riffs, right off the bat. From there, the mood is set for a nostalgic trip to 80s action movies in bad taste. Characters range between mad German scientist, Arnold Schwarzenegger copycat, kung fu master and so forth. Each of them hold a special power, but more importantly they spout oneliners, each cornier than the last. Whether they lament about their impending retirement or mention pseudo-philosophical lines, every character has a range of cringing dialogue that enhances their perspective stereotypes. Some border on inappropriate, but Arrowhead isn’t concerned with being politically correct. As long as there are enough references to cackle at, all will be okay.
These cartoonish caricatures drop into stages with multiple floors and go at it with ranged or melee weaponry. From castles to urban environments, locales with heavy contrasts make the 2D universe where these fighters try to murder each other as swiftly as possible. Sections are divided between claustrophobic corridors, open plains, bridges, crawlspaces and so on. By running, crawling and jumping, characters will chase each other incessantly as they try to see what their foes’ insides look like with a vivid background of dragons, fighting robots and killer rock music. We did say it was a rather gaudy feature.
Still, this acrobatic prowess is beautiful to gawk at in theory, but the reality of it is a little more complex than that. As the game’s pace is always gripped tight, actions follow each other up at breakneck speeds. This means that running, climbing a wall, jumping aiming and firing could all be done in less than a second’s time. It’s a lot to manage on the fly and as more elaborate moves are required, it can be rather tricky to manage it smoothly on a mouse and keyboard setup. Unfortunately, there is no controller support at this moment that could easily alleviate this problem, as aiming works independently of its direction. Instead, players must get their crosshair exactly on their target to hit. While it does add depth t gameplay and also offers a way to ensure a halt to friendly fire during close quarters, the entire system requires a ton of finesse to pull off. Add to that additional weaponry scattered across the levels and the ability to interact with them will further compound this issue. Reloading guns also prompts a short progress bar that can be hit at an opportune time to reload faster, which is similar to that in Bullet Run. It’s yet another layer of content, but it comes at the price of maneuverability. Be prepared to grow Guitar Hero fingers by the time the game is over.
There are several ways to play. Primarily, the game is centered on obliterating the opposition and as such, the limited amount of game modes can leave a taste for more. Aside from a regular deathmatch setup, players are greeted to more team-oriented modes. These range from simply massacring each other to more refined possibilities. In particular, it’s exactly the modes less played that are the most fun. In One Man Army, 1 character tries to fend off a never-ending swarm of opponent goons before getting shot down. Each character gets one shot at glory and that opportunity can be quickly squandered if not taken carefully. The appropriately titled Expendables mode pits a team of characters against goons as these lesser lifeforms try to wipe out the entire group. Each time someone gets killed, time is added to the following respawn. Both teams take turns trying to whip each other into shape. Racing against sometimes insurmountable odds in these game modes enhances the adrenaline factor even more than otherwise. Clocks that count down to the next respawn point can be a teeth-gnashing torture within themselves, as a giant counter on the screen tells players how long they need to survive alone.
In order to destroy the opposition, characters can customize a loadout of a few melee and ranged weapons. There is little variety to be had in traditional arms, but at the very least they are functional. If anything, the slight balance issue between some weapons is a bigger problem than the absence of more choices. It’d be better if throwing knives didn’t almost instantly kill people blindly before we’re offered new ways to mutilate each other in unbalanced ways.
More so than a choice of weaponry in itself, it’s the connectivity issues in The Showdown Effect that might ruin the highly entertaining action. Lag in input and screen management can effectively cripple a match where one or several low latency people reside. These exist on a different plane, which makes it almost impossible to predict their trajectory correctly in a system that already supports itself on twitch reactions. Paired with weapons that are hard to factor in already, like the highly annoying katana sword, these games are a reason to disconnect and never play again. As it can be tough to connect to a server already, it can be a big aggravation to gamble on this several times. This is an online game, it needs topnotch online functionality. There are not exceptions to this rule.
If the Showdown Effect doesn’t duplicate the connection issues Arrowhead’s Magicka had, it could count on a powerful launch that can spawn another cult hit. It has all the right elements in basic forms, from fast action to guns and quirky humor. Controls can be difficult to master, but in a simpler form it is still highly enjoyable. Yippee-ki-yay!