Online multiplayer games have no shortage of shooting and mayhem. Even this one sentence will bring up a flurry of different games to any given mind. Perhaps therefore, The Showdown Effect seems to want to bring a change in this crowded lot with a side-scrolling platform game that’s also a run and gun title, with people. To further bring home the nostalgic power, it takes its references from old action movie tropes. All this gets smashed into a powerful action title, whenever it feels like being serviceable at least.
As mentioned, action takes place from side to side in colorful 2D. Over the top cartoon characters run and jump over the screen, quickly climb up castle walls and slide through urban vents, as they shoot or slash their way through. With every event, another pop culture reference will remind players of the days where Arnold was not a governor, Bruce Willis would die hard or Germans talked with a thick accent to represent their origin. That last one may not have changed all that much. With only 4 levels so far, there isn’t a lot of diversity found in the multi-tiered platforms, but at least all of them are set up to have different hot zones. Both claustrophobic corridors as open plains will additionally be filled with destructible environment, elevators and auxiliary items. Stitch to that a bunch of hard rocking tunes, the sound of crashing meteorites and clinching katanas for that sweet sense of adrenaline raising action.
Before landing in one of the few game modes, players need to choose a character and select a loadout. These archetypes are only different through their special powers, but at least those differ from health regeneration all the way to throwing frag grenades. With either a ranged or melee weapon, these interchangeable folks hack away at each other until one is the victor. There are only a few modes, with a simple death count tally to more illustrious types. In particular, it’s these unpopular different game styles that hold the most diverse entertainment. For instance, one game mode pits a team of generic grunts against one powerful character. Each player gets their turn as the starring role and the person with the most grunts slaughtered wins. Another one switches fairly between a team of troops against an all-star squad, where each of these action heroes killed add time to a respawn count. These modes are more intense as waiting out the clock against a never-ending assault leaves little time to rest.
To save themselves from death, players will need to rely on their wits and skill. Aiming is performed with a reticule that needs to land directly on the character to hit, which also serves as a way to counter friendly fire in the side-scrolling maps. When reloading, it’s possible to hit the button at the right time to speed up the process. Wounded heroes can momentarily take a knee to apply some bandages, though this leaves them open to enemy fire. It can become tough to manage all these controls at once, especially with no controller support, but the base elements of combat are elementary enough to start. Even with just a select amount of weapons, there is more than plenty to go around to perfect a playing style and stick with it, without everyone resorting to the same loadout. Some characters and weapons are slightly above that of others though. For instance, throwing knives deal a ridiculous amount of damage and hit long after they’ve flown off the screen. It’s a minor balancing issue, but it can be managed and with the right team modes, it can even be overcome.
More so than the scarcity of content or balancing issues, it’s at the very start of The Showdown Effect where the real problem lies. Playing servers with latency issues cripples matches, as the twitch reflexes needed don’t sync properly with the lag input, which favors some heavily, while the rest suffers. Rockets may kill full seconds after being fired, while other times it’s possible to get killed by a shadow that wasn’t present on screen at the time. This gets increasingly more frustrating and as an online only game it’s also inexcusable as it’s a cornerstone of its gameplay factor. Furthermore, The Showdown Effect offers a wide range of custom rulesets for its gameplay. While it’s a good idea, in theory, the result of this customization leads to servers upon servers where the thin-spread community is anally insisting on only playing their ridiculously specific rules. This spawns a dozen servers with only 2 or 3 characters playing a game that’s only truly enjoyable for the niche tastes of the host. By providing a serious overkill of niche elements, The Showdown Effect has effectively become the game that gibbed itself. If you’re unfamiliar with the “gib” term, it’s an instant kill reference; one that is also available as a customization option.
If it had turned down the craziness on some of its aspects and addressed latency issues elsewhere, The Showdown Effect would’ve been a surprising addition to the multiplayer world. As it stands, it teeters between pure genius and crippling disaster and that is in itself not good enough. Priorities have gone to crazy when they should’ve gone to functional. Close, but no cigar, Arnie.