The Showdown Effect
AMD Radeon HD 5870
The Showdown Effect. Really? Of all the cringe-worthy video-game names I've encountered over the past few months, this one takes the cake. Then again, it was meant to do so, unless you're seriously telling me that Arnold-parody schoolteacher with the Austrian accent, the over-the-top combat with comically oversized wrenches and the general 80s B-movie type feel of the game is not satirical - somehow, I doubt so.
Well, Paradox Interactive has done it again, offering us yet another strange title that we can't quite put into any specific category, or even get to proper grips with what exactly it is that Paradox is planning to sell us. All we are certain of is this - the premise of the Showdown Effect involves a bunch of heavily-stereotyped characters parkouring their way around a 2D map and murdering each other in overdramatic, gory fashion, utilizing a large array of weapons that range from samurai swords to laser guns. It takes mostly from those browser-based flash games, where one whiles away the hours blowing apart other people not from a first-person perspective, but rather one where large parts of the map is shown. However, a couple of innovations set it apart from these simple flash games.
Not including the one standing here.
Firstly, we have the inclusion of a fog-of-war mechanic, whereby what the character can see is limited by line of sight - the rest of the map being bathed in darkness, with only the basic scenery and room layout available to view. This then adds a tense aspect to the game that others lack, who knows what's around the corner, behind that door, or more importantly - who? A person with a pistol, or a person with a minigun? One of the worst mistakes one could make would be to blindly open a door and come face-to-face with an oncoming mallet, or right into the mouth of a rocket launcher. This mechanic is then compounded by the inclusion of visualized sound effects, giving clues to enemy locations while not giving it wholly away, thus leaving players guessing and attempting to preempt their enemies' movements.
Second, the addition of free-running mechanics segued in smoothly with interesting combat mechanics, where we are granted a frenzied scene of destruction where players leap and scurry about the map, diving and rolling, or simply blindly running at their enemies, smashing each other apart with lead pipes. A quick press of a button sends your character vaulting across the ground, smashing into any character in their path and tackling them into the dirt. This then proves particularly effective when using melee weapons, resulting in quick takedowns and subsequent executions.
However, what Showdown Effect has in soul and innovation, it lacks sorely in... substance. Yes, the Showdown Effect is indeed in beta, with only two maps and a single game mode, as well as a small cast of four characters and a measly variety of weapons, but after playing the game for a substantial amount of time, one realizes that the problem lies not only in the density of the content, but in how it is put across to the player. There is an unlock-system, but it is a tiered model stolen from multiplayer-shooters such as Call of Duty, and to be honest, the joy of unlocking a new weapon grows old fast. But worse is the realization that the gameplay, visceral and exciting as it is, does not offer significant replayability in its current state. Unlike excellent multiplayer shooters such as Team Fortress 2 or Battlefield 3, there is not much depth to this game, and eventually a point is reached where all actions are just a mindless repetition made in slightly different ways over and over again - a cardinal sin for any video-game no matter its genre.
A list of unlockables - note the novelty hats.
There still is time yet for The Showdown Effect to polish everything up, and to inject some much needed substance into the gameplay. More game modes, more meaning to player's actions rather than a steadily increasing score, and a better method with which to add to the player's repertoire of weapons, all would help to augment the already smooth combat and be a great counterpart to the interesting vibe thrown out by the game. As usual, Paradox Interactive has given us something flawed but incredibly interesting, and I hope that in the time they have left, they could dull some of those flaws, and really produce a gem wholly unexpected.