The Showdown Effect Hands On
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios / Publisher: Paradox Interactive / Platform: PC / Release Date: Q4 2012
Occasionally, at a publisher/developer videogame showcase, there will be one of ‘Those Games’—it’s not the main event or anything like it, it’s not even in the top 10, and you don’t expect to see a magazine cover devoted to it. Good chance you’d find it in the long shadow cast by a number of what the industry dubs Triple-A titles, and due to its relatively low-profile stature, it’s also probably jammed into some inauspicious corner of the room. But from the first minute of gameplay, you can tell that it’s just good, not-particularly-highbrow fun, and you’ll often see editors coming back to it again and again (long after they’ve absorbed all the useful preview details they’re ever going to get out of it. The Showdown Effect gives every initial indication of being one of Those Games.
In essence, it’s a 2.5D, moodily-cartoonish multiplayer deathmatch shooter/brawler dedicated to all the badass, wisecracking, nigh-indestructible Action Hero archetypes of 80s/90s action-blockbuster movies (and the unlikely-stylish, slow-mo, casing-ejecting, bullet-ballet antics thereof). You know the ones I mean—the John McClanes and Harry Taskers of the silver screen, running, gunning, shoot-diving, sliding through broken glass on a wet men’s room floor for some reason, and occasionally, nonchalantly crashing through panes of breakaway glass, ever dodging the lead raindrops of the bullet-storm raging around them.
As a base mechanic, imagine a massively updated, much more responsive, visually evocative, multiplayer mash-up of Smash Bros. and Elevator Action (albeit times about a thousand in the Presentation and Environmental Detail departments). Instead of being the sole human player up against a single bland high-rise of goofy, slow-witted, low-rez AI goons in the vein of Elevator Action, you’re up against other live players, scrambling horizontally and (sometimes inadvertently!) vertically through and between sections of a sprawling 2D deathmatch arena comprising multiple buildings’ worth of corridors, elevators, stairwells and rooms. These arenas are cluttered with all manner of impromptu environmental weapons to scoop up and hammer your foes—from pistols, shotguns, full-automatic assault weapons and ludicrously overpowered, not-designed-for-interior-use rocket launchers all the way down to pool cues, fire extinguishers, or whatever else comes to hand.
Things get gloriously, Hollywood-Grade Ridiculous quickly: Take a running jump at a third-story plate-glass window, smash through it and continue to blaze away at your pursuing opponent who’s now jumped out said window after you? No problem, that’s what you’re here for. Characters can dive, scale walls, sprint, slide, breach-and-clear doors, duck and flip through the air. Naturally, there is a limited-use but extremely handy/awesome ‘dodge mechanic’; timed correctly, you can literally evade your enemy’s bullets momentarily…which could conceivably lead to a Matrix-style situation where you’re both charging forward, unloading rounds into each other willy-nilly, both missing–and suddenly finding yourselves face-to-face for a little CQ melee action. Every blockbuster movie man-to-man combat trope is here (yes, including the old standby of suddenly finding your clip empty and summarily chucking your spent pistol in your opponent’s face to occupy him while you snatch up the nearest billiard cue, fire axe, barstool or whatever).
As characters take hits, there is a progressive bleeding-out gauge that must be monitored, so be on the lookout for bandages with which to wrap your shot-up self as the room to room—and building to building—carnage plays out (if you time the bandaging just right, you’ll get a health bonus, and your character will pull off a cool, hard-as-shit, wisecracking one-liner; see ‘Bubble Gum’, above. Likewise, if you pull off a one-liner just before combat or just after executing a foe, you’ll get some kind of as-yet-undetermined point bonus).
It’s also not quite yet determined what the final range of in-game deathmatch environments will be—presumably, there will be a New York City environment, worthy of a cop only one week from retirement—but at present, environments feature a noirishly neoned ‘Neo Tokyo’ (visually inspired by Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, and, from what I’ve seen, uh, actual Tokyo). Neo Tokyo comprises not only the interior floors of the various buildings but connecting stairwells and pedestrian walkways, as well as rooftops, fire escapes and an underground subway station; and if you somehow miss that obligatory ribcage-crushing clutch crash-landing on a ledge (following an unplanned three-story drop), you can always try to save yourself by ‘soft-landing’ on an unsuspecting foe on the pavement below…hey, it’s worth a try.
The Showdown Effect will support up to eight players locally or online, in both last-man-standing and team-oriented modes—its peculiarly smirking brand of high-action, low-likelihood-of-survival, Hollywood/Anime-inspired goofball carnage is slated to be unleashed on an unsuspecting civilian populace in early 2013.