+ Action movie theme
+ Variety of moves
+ Fast-paced action
- Limited number of players
- Confusing at times
Final score: 7 / 10
Controller support: No
Minimum system requirements
Windows Vista or Windows 7
Quad-core Intel or AMD processor
4 GB of RAM
Shader 4.0 graphics card with 1 GB of memory, including Nvidia GeForce 460 or AMD Radeon 5870 or better
2 GB free hard drive space
Broadband Internet connection
I know that death awaits me somewhere in the shadows up ahead, moving fast along the floor or dangling from a ledge, embodied by a player who has better aim or is sharper with a bladed weapon.
I also know that my strength lies in quick movement and slashing with my trusty katana, mainly because most of my enemies move so fast and in such unpredictable manner that I can’t aim well enough to take them out with my trusty assault rifle.
So I try to explore the area cautiously but quickly, avoiding spaces that I know usually attract the most attention, and I am rewarded with the sight of a player ahead of me moving towards the right side of the screen, probably pursuing his own target.
He seems not to have noticed me (or is simply laying an elaborate trap), so I go after him, keeping my distance, trying not to get spotted.
When he drops to the floor of the level, I follow, sword ready to strike; I grab a wall, drop behind him as he shoots another player in the distance, and quickly slash him to gain my first kill.
It only takes another 15 to 20 seconds before another player drops down from the same ledge, gets one quick strike in and my current life is ended after a short, sharp sword duel where I fail to time my blocks right.
The above represents just about 2 minutes of action taken from The Showdown Effect, the multiplayer experience created by developer Arrowhead Games and published by Paradox Interactive.
It’s hard to fully describe the game because there’s so much happening so quickly but, in a nutshell, this is the fastest game I have played so far in 2013, and one of the hardest to master from a tactical standpoint.
The Showdown Effect does not have an actual story, only a series of loose narrative threads designed to justify the incredible acrobatics and over-the-top violence that the characters inflict upon another.
In the universe that Arrowhead creates, revenge is not a life-long pursuit that can break the spirit of a man, but an occasion to shoot hundreds of bullets in the general direction of an enemy and hope that enough hit him to earn you a kill.
We are LEGION
Brother Marcion, the usurper
The kind of experience that The Showdown Effect offers could have aimed for a meaningful story, but the very excitement generated by the gameplay and the glee created by a successful theme would have undermined any serious points the team is trying to get across.
Despite the lack of a proper story, the universe of the game can lead to scattered chuckles as the player discovers more action movie clichés spread around than in the entire Die Hard series.
The lines that the various characters throw around while fighting are also pretty inspired and will remind movie fans of a number of old franchises from the 90s, or of modern remakes like The Expendables.
The Showdown Effect is a game about movement and quick thinking, even if much of the spectacle is linked to the rifle or sword duels that take place during a match.
The levels are all 2D, well-crafted, to offer plenty of opportunities for chases, ambushes and battles that involve more than two players.
Gamers start out with one of four characters, initially equipped with a katana and a machine gun, although more weapons can be unlocked or bought by those who crave more killing options.
There are also special moves to take into account, and a shield can be used to stop some attacks.
This is a game where reaction time and fast reflexes are crucial, because it forces players to constantly adapt to the battlefield and to the other gamers’ style of play.
I often stuck to ranged weapons, which need to be carefully aimed, and lost to opponents who relied on slides and katanas to take me out from up close.
I find that a good strategy is to pick one type of weapon and stick to it for an entire game, trying to find new ways to surprise the other players and finding areas of the level that give certain tactics an advantage.
Much depends on the personality of the player and the way his fellow gamers play The Showdown Effect, and my best performance, including a Showdown win, came after I picked up the cross on the wall of one of the levels and used that to bash heads in.
The game modes include: Showdown, a straight-up deathmatch with each player looking out for his own skin; The Expendables, which sees henchmen trying to take out the main team; Team Elimination, where each death leads to increased respawn time, and One Man Army, where players rotate through the main role.
I like Showdown mostly because I often have trouble distinguishing between friend and foe in the team-based modes, and often end up killing my own allies, which tends to be frowned upon.
Gamers also earn AC in the game in order to unlock a number of different rulesets, new skins for their weapons, and new tools of destruction to use on the battlefield, including an overpowered rocket launcher.
The Showdown Effect also has a Store where real-world money can be spent on cosmetic enhancements, though more content might be added in the future.
Graphics and audio
The Showdown Effect is a minor wonder when it comes to graphical design and quality, because it manages to stay intelligible and clear despite its absolutely furious pace.
Battle is engaged
Redeemer to the front
No matter how fast the game moves, it is clear at a glance what weapons a character is wielding, and the animations are also precise enough to suggest what strategy a player wants to employ, which offers crucial information during duels.
The relentless rock soundtrack might become tiring after a few matches, but it is entirely appropriate for the theme of the game, and the lines that characters throw around tend to only be funny the first time one hears them.
The entire Showdown Effect experience is built around competitive battles and the matchmaking system is solid enough, but the game suffers from a relative lack of players.
I have rarely seen gamers engaged in Ranked Play, and most of the games organized via Custom Mode tend to be password-protected, which means that friends who are willing to play are a great asset for those interested in The Showdown Effect.
It would be nice to see gamers who create open games that the entire community, which at the moment seems very civil and oriented towards competition and fun, could join.
The Showdown Effect is the kind of competitive gaming experience that can easily swallow up an entire week or even month for the gamer who understands the mechanics and develops the competitive streak that’s the basis for all players versus player multiplayer.
It’s also a game that can quickly become frustrating, after an initial burst of fun, because it has a lot of depth, and time and failure are both required to understand and master all the mechanics.
The biggest short-term threat that The Showdown Effect faces is the lack of players, so those who are interested in the concept should move fast to buy the game and then play in order to create a stable environment.