The Showdown Effect Preview: PAX’s Best Game?
Credit to Arrowhead for originality — have you ever heard of a side-scrolling shooter? Despite the unfamiliar concept, it doesn’t take a long time playing the Swedish studio’s new shooter to realize just how much fun there is to be had. After only half an hour of frenzied combat, Game Front editor Ron Whitaker and I both agreed that The Showdown Effect delivered the most pure enjoyment of any title PAX East 2012.
According to Arrowhead artist Therese Jansson, the game was originally inspired by Smash Brothers. The developers loved how multiplayer matches in simple, 2D environments led to such frenzied competition — how people would fight over weapons and argue about cheap tactics. Taking Nintendo’s popular series as their starting point, the team set out to create a multiplayer game that would provoke similarly strong feelings.
Of course, they wanted to put their own spin on it, and boy did they pick a good one. The Showdown Effect is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the classic action films of the 80′s and 90′s. Characters are designed to resemble blockbuster heroes like John McClane and Snake Plissken, and the game trades Smash Bros.’ cutesy arsenal for a full compliment of high-caliber firearms. Characters can even grab improvised weapons like kitchen knives for the dirty business of close combat.
The levels themselves resemble a slick, modern take on Elevator Action, not least because there are so many elevators. Players are given free reign of a large building, shown from the side in a cutaway view. Though the aesthetic is not meant to be realistic, modern technology provides plenty of shattering glass and destructible environments. Above all, the design allows characters to change floors and traverse the environments at a relentless, hyperbolic pace.
Movement is controlled with the WASD keys; the mouse controls a large crosshair that makes aiming a breeze. Players can also hold down the right mouse button to deploy bullet time, a purposefully over-the-top inclusion that adds extra drama to firefights. The full range of popcorn-movie animations is also amusing — characters never jump, roll, or dive to the floor below without doing it in the most epic way possible.
Even with just two combatants, gameplay in The Showdown Effect is a breathless mix of careful stalking and sudden explosions of cartoonish violence. Navigating the levels is a complex, tactical task, and getting the drop on your opponent is crucial for success. If things go badly, though, you can always leap headfirst out the nearest window and escape to safety. The full release will support up to 8 players per level, so the rockets will fly even thicker and faster.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until late 2012/early 2013 to experience the side-scrolling chaos. Three levels will be included at launch: Neo Tokyo (pictured above), Medieval England, and one more not yet revealed. New levels and new (presumably movie-inspired) character skins will be made available as free DLC. When the game does come out, I won’t be playing anything else for at least a week. Make sure you watch all of the trailer below to see the The Showdown Effect in all its action-packed glory.
Game Front was on-site at PAX East all weekend (April 6-8), bringing you daily news, hands-on previews, interviews and pictures. Stay tuned for more PC gaming-focused coverage!