Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC and Mac
Release Date: 2013
No matter what Microsoft Office tells me, Balletic is a word – and a good one at that. It’s a word I know and it’s exactly the right word to describe Paradox Interactive’s upcoming action-platformer too. The Showdown Effect showcases such a gracefulness of movement that even the most morbid of violence ends up looking like some sort of weird poetry in motion if you play it right.
Beat cops and Kung-Fu heroes twisting through the air throwing fire extinguishers at each other; this is bombastic, often bullet-spewing ballet. Even played badly it still has a crude sort of elegance; chases conducted as enemies slide down walls and leap over rooftops, darting into elevators and air ducts.
That the presentation is both strange and strangely elegant isn’t all that surprising when you consider The Showdown Effect’s heritage though. It’s developed by Arrowhead Studios after all and their last game, Magicka, also built it’s gameplay around such an intersection of grace, violence and chaos; spells fanning out to combine with those cast by your comrades.
The Showdown Effect Trailer
The difference with The Showdown Effect though is that you’re not working co-operatively anymore, but competitively. Throw an axe at a nearby player and you don’t hope he deflects it into a nearby mob, but rather that it lodges in his sternum. Hopefully that then forces him backwards through a glass window, or makes him dodge into your follow-up spray of lead, adding an extra layer into that sense of action cinema.
The point is that the results are just as crazed and energetic as the combat in Magicka; just more predictable in their outcome and honed to a new presentation that, though more realistically placed, is no less fantastic.
The side-on perspective keeps all the speed and freneticism of Magicka’s emergent combat, but offers wholly new types of challenges. If Magicka was a fast-paced remix of Chaos: Battle of the Wizards, Showdown is a similarly speedy take on Worms.
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That Arrowhead is channelling old Schwarzenegger films and tawdry FPS’ into The Showdown Effect isn’t news, of course. That much was made obvious by the fantastic character trailer Paradox released and the delightful ‘Fight to the Death or Die Trying’ tagline. What does bear pointing out though are the number of ways that the team is surfacing that source material – such as with one-liner quips which can be used as defensive power-ups for very brief periods.
More than that though, The Showdown Effect’s action-movie heritage comes out in the selection of weapons on offer – which include the usual gamut of assault rifles and UZIs, but then also stray into everyday environmental objects and bare fists. More than that, most of these serve defensive roles as well as offensive, with such bizarre weapons as a discarded pizza box serving just as well for blocking bullets as it does for decapitating enemies.
That seems outlandish and, of course, it is – that’s the point. The Showdown Effect doesn’t want you to just default to using the biggest gun you can find and goes out of it’s way to make such weapons hard to use by requiring you to aim exactly on top of your target rather than just in their general direction.