Reviews

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
URL

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.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

Related Articles Around the Web

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image