When gamers hear the name Paradox Interactive, they probably immediately think about nuanced and overwhelmingly huge strategy games with very little visual pizzazz, and a very lot of maps, numbers, and text to read. Thus, when the company announced their collaboration with Magicka developer Arrowhead Games Studios, on the upcoming arena fighter, The Showdown Effect, we can only imagine that the Internet started scratching its collective head in a state of shock and confusion. The truth is, The Showdown Effect is unlike anything Paradox has done, but more importantly, it’s also unlike most everything else on the PC market right now – and that’s a good thing.
Showdown Effect is a 2.5D action brawler that is very much so a throwback to 80s and 90s films and gaming. Regarding the former, players will notice that the title is full of action movie parodies given the cast of characters that are all overtly inspired by hero archetypes from films like Die Hard and Terminator. For the latter though, Showdown Effect is an arcade-y game with no story to be found and just a ton of over the top action to be enjoyed. At its core, it’s a Super Smash Bros. type of game that supports up to eight players across a variety of multi-tiered maps. Players will duke it out with characters they customize, so there’s a good deal of strategy in every match. Of course, there’s also moments of frantic button mashing in hopes that one’s enemy does not best them.
So on the surface, The Showdown Effect looks like a pretty basic and maybe even shallow game. But it’s only when players begin to play matches to earn points and then purchase weapons and gears with the in-game currency, that they realize there’s a complex layer of depth to properly outfitting characters, and making use of the weapons available. During our preview, we noticed very little balancing issues with weapons, which is something that not all games of this kind can claim, even in their final form (I’m looking at you, PlayStation All-Stars). Having said that, even once players have stepped foot on the battleground, they will see there’s more to TSE than meets the eye.
Sure, there’s the basic set of attack options, such as firing guns, attacking with melee weapons, and using special items such as boost boots to plunge high into the air and out of harm’s way, but there’s also more. Players can perform wall runs and jumps, slides, rolls, blocks, dodges and even interact with their environment to pick up items. We, on more than one occasion, formed a makeshift shield out of a pile nearby scrap metal and garbage can lids. Regardless of the moves being used, a match’s main objective must be kept in mind: rack up the most kills in order to reign supreme. Unlike other titles of this kind, The Showdown Effect takes the tense, competitive action to the next level by implementing one very simple, but effective component: a final showdown at the very end of every match.
See, each match has a time limit. In that allotted time frame, players have to try and kill as much as possible so that they can sit atop the leaderboard. However, once the time period has run out, the game switches to a no-respawn, one-last-chance duel. Players will then have a final life to take out the remaining combatants. It’s during this time that button-mashing goes out the window and strict, purposeful executions come into play. Ultimately, being the last person standing at the end of the round nets players points and bragging rights – bragging rights that everyone will see. Once the showdown has taken place, the game rolls to a credits screen, a la a typical movie. On the screen it will denote each player in the match, along a nickname/tagline that indicates performance and of course their final score.
Despite the silkly smooth gameplay that went off without any glaring hitches, we did run into a few minor kinks with the match making system, but none that shouldn’t be worked out by the time of the game’s release. The game does make use of an ELO matchmaking service to better ensure players of similar skill levels are being matched up with one another, so that should please those who are new to the genre or game, especially since there’s no single player mode to speak of. The fact that there’s global leaderboard rankings and a built-in Twitch TV streaming option only sweetens the deal. Not to mention, having a persistent leveling system for your characters makes matches feel more important and meaningful; it’s not like Smash Bros. where the fighting is without incentive other than showing off one’s talents. The fact that the game is online multiplayer only, though, will be sure to turn a few people off.
In the end, The Showdown Effect is shaping up to be a fun brawler, mostly because the gameplay feels fast and genuinely exciting. There’s not much to it up front, and really the overall depth only goes so far, but this is a game that’s meant to be enjoyed without being overloaded and bombarded by unnecessary complexities. It’s designed to incite screaming matches with friends, hysterical laughs at how one was blown up by a rocket launcher while in mid air and the sense that, for a moment, video games don’t have to be so serious.