There are times when a screenshot just can't do a game justice. Take a look at The Showdown Effect for instance. See the screenshot below? Now you're thinking: "Oh, this is a cartoon style 2D platformer/shooter. Could be cool I suppose." See it in action your reaction would be completely different. There's just so much going on, so much flare about it, and so much skill involved in the actual chaos that unfolds that you'll likely want to play it back and watch it in slow motion.
The premise is simple. You can dodge and block any attack - you're just going to be more or less effective based on what you're blocking with and what the enemy is using. Also, you can only see other players when they are in your field of vision (reminded us of Mark of the Ninja in this regard), something that adds to the tension and the potential for mistakes (and mistakes are entertaining). Each player picks one of six action hero clichés, usually a combination of several types (like how Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis combine for Dutch McClone). Each comes with a set of silly one liners. It's all the cheesy action clichés of the 80's and 90's under one roof.
There are special attacks and, paired with the not so massive selection of load out weapons, you can customise a character that fits your playing style. When I say there aren't a lot of load out weapons it should be noted that you can pick up anything from pizza boxes to axes in the highly interactive levels. You can throw these items or use them for melee kills or use them to block incoming attacks (naturally).
Another thing you won't glean from a screenshot is how skill-based The Showdown Effect is. It's controlled chaos, where the superior player will ultimately rip the opposition apart, and much of this is thanks to the reticule. This is not a directional shooting, but players with projectile weapons have to place the reticule over enemies in order to hit them with any bullets. This way there is more of a balance between ranged and melee combat, making things all the more interesting. Those with machineguns can't just blindfire in a direction to keep melee players at bay, and the intriguing level design means you're not really safe in any corner of the map (even if there are less frequented spots where you can hide, heal and reload).
This emphasis on skill, isn't all conquering, and given the options for various weapons and attacks there is always going to be an element of rock-paper-scissors in every situation that is sure to mix things up. Add in a total of 8 players on the same map and the stealth mechanic and there is a lot to take in - and a lot of possible scenarios.
What I've covered so far is the Showdown mode. It's what's available currently in the beta (available for those who pre-order the game), and it's basically a deathmatch that ends with "last man standing" as players don't respawn after the timer runs out - whoever is left standing in the end gains bonus points that could prove crucial to the overall standings.
Next up we tried the "Team Elimination" mode, in which teams of four take each other out with respawn times increasing with every death, until one team has completely eliminated another. It's a brilliant mode that makes for some frantic chases towards the end of rounds and the stealth mechanics offer plenty of opportunities for team kills. Anyway playing this mode with a bunch of linked up computers was a lot of fun, and it's hard to imagine this would be as much fun over the internet with a bunch of people you cannot see. Even if it's a seemingly simple mode there is an awful lot of potential here as evident by our brief, but enjoyable playtest.
What holds even more potential are the two additional game modes that Arrowhead Game Studios held off from showcasing at the convention.
"We've got two assymetrical game modes," says game director Johan Pilestedt. "One is called The Expendables and the other is called One Man Army. In those modes you get to play as henchmen, which are crappy... henchmen, that need to take down the heroes. But their advantage lies in their numbers and their immediate respawn. So you're not going to be sitting out waiting for you to respawn when you're a henchman. You're just going to head into the fray and you're going to spawn real close to the heroes."
During a late night in Reykjavik on the final day of Paradox Interactive Convention the subject of conversation around the table was "famous Belgian people"? It was brought on by Fredrik Wester, CEO at Paradox Interactive, who clearly felt that for a nation of 11 million Belgium was clearly lacking in celebrities. Everyone could name one celebrity (The Muscles from Brussels), but as the evening progressed and we took to Internet to find most famous Belgians were either not proper celebrities (they had accomplished stuff such as inventing the saxophone or coming up with the Big Bang Theory) or they were dead (or both). The result of this is that the World's Most Famous Belgian is likely to be included as a DLC character at some point, probably with black silk underwear as clothes to go with him.
Speaking of DLC The Showdown Effect comes at a low price, with six characters, four levels, and four game modes, but there are plenty of ideas on how to expand the game. It allows for a lot of custom settings where players can decide to limit what weapons are in use, and a lot of different variables to create your own favourite game modes - and Arrowhead hope to take a similar approach to DLC design - listening to what players want from the game and catering to those wishes. But you should expect to see additional characters, new environments and levels, as well plenty of costumes to play around with, and probably game modes as well. One thing mentioned was adding duel maps optimised for just a couple of players, for those who want to opt out of the chaos factor and focus on pure skill based showdowns mano-a-mano. Personally I enjoyed the chaos, and feel that it's as a social timesink that The Showdown Effect best serves its purpose.