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The Showdown Effect – early beta impressions

Consider that a divorce, quips Bruce McClone as he blows away his latest enemy in a hail of chaingun fire. One hundred rounds to each man. A reasonable amount, you’d agree. McClone is an Austrian immigrant in America whose identify has been stolen. He needs to get it back ‘80s style and return to his day job as a kindergarten teacher. A spectacular and cheesy guitar riff sores in as it boils down to a final showdown between our hero and his nemesis. With the surrounding environment left in tatters and McClone standing victorious, dressed in a red shirt gifted to him by the CIA for pushing too many pencils, he strolls into the sunset and shouts, see you at the party. Welcome to The Showdown Effect.

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The Showdown Effect is a multiplayer side-scrolling fight-fest currently in beta on PC and Mac. It opens with a fuzzy VHS-esque welcome screen where a character of choice and loadout can be chosen before leaping into battle. The four personalities available – two unlockable – riff heavily on film and pop culture stereotypes to flesh them out. There’s the Austrian who sounds reminiscent of a Hollywood star, a geeky daughter of a professor, a cop about to retire, and finally, in a nod to old martial arts films, a grand master in everything but English grammar.

“VHS-esque welcome”As this is in beta, the game modes and rules are being altered often, allowing users to see a range of what is planned for the full release and granting the developer chance to fine tune balancing. What’s clear from the get-go is that it’s surprisingly hard in contrast to the light humour.

My first skirmish took place in the standard deathmatch mode. Here up to eight contestants battle it out to gain the most kills and reign victorious. Taking place in a medieval setting, the second map in a Hong Kong-like cityscape, the side-on action has you using pre-equipped weapons or collected items to disseminate your foes. Immediately I was set upon by the others and repeatedly beaten. The machine gun was doing me little good and melee attacks would have my character sliced in two before you could say ”must have eaten some bad chop suey”.

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The basic set up grants all players a machine gun and katana. Aim is dictated by an onscreen crosshair that must be placed over the enemy to hit. Simply aiming in their general direction won’t suffice. It took the majority of this first fight to get to grips with this, but once I had it provided an additional sense of dexterity and skill, explaining the lack of controller support.

“Last man standing”Movement is smooth in motion, if not a little clunky to learn at first, allowing you to run, slide along the ground, roll, slide down vertical walls and somersault above or below semi-openings in the environments that are easy to identify. Blocking plays a vital part and holding the stance allows you to back-up, avoiding any incorrect turns and opening yourself up to a knife in the back, both literally and figuratively. By using a melee weapon to block you can quick dive forward and strike back with effect. Due to the current strength of melee weapons you’re able to down an opponent in a few strikes, and there’s some expected balancing to be done with characters and weapons.

As the deathmatch came to a close a five second countdown began. Once over, the Showdown would begin with a musical score that’d fit any ‘80s montage; signalling a battle to the last man standing. This is a nice change to the timer simply running out and allows everyone one final chance to up their score. Additionally, the game is quite liberal about dying during this final countdown to ensure you’re not left cheated.

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There’s undoubtedly a touch of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. inspiration to the carnage that takes place in The Showdown Effect. The controls are fluid and the level design varied. The playfully stereotypical character design is fun rather than tedious. As more modes are made available and tweaks made I’ll be continuing to spend time with this beta, reporting back with my final thoughts once it closes.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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