The Showdown Effect
In other words, The Showdown Effect wants to summon the improvisational combat of a Jackie Chan movie - something that will be music to the ears of Action Half-Life or Max Payne Kung-Fu Mod fans, but which does bring some potential problems.
Weapon balancing, for example, was a significant problem and we found that our the RPG was basically an unbeatable weapon in the team matches we played. Elsewhere, specific special abilities - which can be assigned to loadouts in advance of a match - seemed to allow easy wins. One, called Poison Flask, basically seemed to ensure a kill without skill.
Arrowhead and Paradox are quick to downplay such concerns, of course and rightly pointed out that the game is still in beta. Still, Arrowhead has much to prove after Magicka's less-than-stable release, so the worry remains for the moment - especially given how often the game crashed during our playtime.
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The worry is exacerbated too by the way publisher Paradox Interactive seems to be positioning The Showdown Effect within the market. Unlike Magicka, which debuted quietly and became a cult hit which Paradox then steadily (and wisely) built on, The Showdown Effect seems to be aimed at being a bigger hit with a more immediate audience - livestreamers.
It's an intent that's surfaced not just through the marketing, but through the game too - with Twitch.tv features built right into the menu and online leaderboards beside them. The interface and such seemed solid enough for the team to stably run several public demos in just the time we saw the game, but with those audiences being so demanding it remains to be seen if livestreaming communities will be galvanised in the way Paradox hopes.
That said, though we do still harbour some suspicions about how the final product will shape up, there's very little about The Showdown Effect which seems likely to turn people away. The context-sensitive controls especially seemed reactive and intuitive, while the broader gameplay was easy to pick up and hard to master - unless you had the RPG.
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We especially liked the sense of humour that was fused into the world too, with the action movies clichés seen in the recent trailer only being the start of it. In truth the levels and characters get much more varied than that short tease revealed, spanning all sorts of settings from medieval castles to futuristic Japan.
Ultimately too it's worth pointing out that, while Magicka's prior instabilities at launch do raise valid concerns about how The Showdown Effect will turn out, the speed at which Arrowhead addressed those issues should also be recognised. Hopefully The Showdown Effect will play host to as much attention and expansion as Magicka did - and we say 'hopefully' because, all concerns aside, this is one lightweight action game we're very interested to play more of in the future.
The Showdown Effect is being developed for PC and Mac by Arrowhead Studios. It will be published in 2013, by Paradox Interactive