The Showdown Effect

Eric Swain

These characters are nothing but an assemblage of a ludicrous number of action movie clichés and references, creating an iconographic superimposition of a character that comes from no narrative or definable place but that could fit into any of them.

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Title: The Showdown Effect
Price: $19.99
Format: PC
Players: up to 8
ESRB Rating: N/A
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Release Date: 2013-03-05

The Showdown Effect is a multiplayer only title. Without any end point or natural conclusion of a story or world building, the entire experience is contained to how enjoyable I found it to fight my fellow players. The most important question I ended up asking myself was: will I continue playing after I’ve finished reviewing it?

Answer: no.

The Showdown Effect is by no means a bad game. In fact, it is super enjoyable with its over-the-top premise and loving relationship to action movie clichés. You pick a character, each of which has their own special abilities and personalities, which are largely represented through catch phrases and other one-sided dialogue. These characters are nothing but an assemblage of a ludicrous number of action movie clichés and references, creating an iconographic superimposition of a character that comes from no narrative or definable place but that could fit into any of them. They are the Ur archetypes of action movie heroes and heroines.

For instance, Dutch McClone is a man who had his identity stolen before being transported in time and now he wants his life back as a kindergarten teacher. And, of course, he comes with a hilarious Schwarzenegger accent. Or one can play as Hank Stream, whose family has been kidnapped and has 24 hours to use a particular set of skills he learned from his time in Delta Force to get them back. He comes with an even worse Liam Neeson accent that I only recognize as such because I read the above paraphrased character profile.

The levels are complex sets of, again, amalgamations of various similar action movies settings into standard action locales for a battle to the death. You have the mountain bandit hideout, the medieval castle, the city fish market, and so on. The level is built in the style of a multiplayer Metroidvania game, but you can only see what your character can see within his line of sight. Everything else is a grayed out fog of war. Sound becomes you ally as you try to figure out where the opponents you cannot see are.

The game designers clearly love action movies and poured that love into ever facet of the game in hopes of placing the player into such action movie style battles. The hope is that the ridiculous and iconic moments will spawn out of the players use of the toolbox of elements that they are handed. And underneath that spectacular skin of equal parts parody and homage is a pretty tight third-person battle game.

There are a number of different match types, though I was only able to play two of them, as the others don’t seem too popular in the community. Showdown, the battle royal mode, and Team Elimination, a rather clever take on team deathmatch. Each time a member of your team dies, the next respawn is delayed 5 seconds and is compounded as the match goes on. The match ends when all members of one of the teams are dead.

You earn points at the end of each match that you can spend on unlocking characters, weapon skins, or rules to adjust the matches. But ultimately all of that is at the mercy of whether you find the basic combat of the matches engaging. The moves are simple enough that you can pull off action movie stunts with little effort, but more experienced players will learn how to chain these moves together and time their attacks, dodges, and specials in the most effective ways possible. Melee fighting is a one click affair, but the main sticking point is how the guns work. You use the mouse to point in the direction you fire, but you also have to keep the target circle on the opponent or you wont hit them. If it is behind or ahead of the character that you are trying to shoot, you will end up shooting the walls. You can also pick up weapons from the environment, from knives and pipes to swords and fire extinguishers, and use them either as either melee weapons or projectiles.

All of the battle mechanics are tuned towards replicating the over-the-top battle sequences of action movies in the most cartoonish way possible and allowing the cool moments to emerge organically from the mass chaos. One of the coolest moments I saw was when two players, who were the last ones standing, independently threw away their guns and swords to finish the match mano a mano. I never saw that again in any other match I played.

The Showdown Effect is a game that desperately needs controller support for all of its quick button presses and timed platforming. The keyboard is not ideal for the action that the game wants its players to perform. But I don’t think that is possible given how the developers choose to implement guns.

Ultimately, I enjoyed my time with the game and there’s nothing really wrong with it, but I just don’t see myself going back. I’ve had my fill, and it was fine. It was just fine.






PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.


NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.


South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.


Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.