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The Showdown Effect: tinseltown smackdown

Monday, 4th March 2013 19:30 GMT By Dave Cook

The Showdown Effect is the movie-based brawler from Magicka developer Arrowhead Game Studios. VG247′s Dave Cook speaks with the team ahead of tomorrow’s launch.

The Showdown Effect

Developed by Magicka creators Arrowhead Game Studios, The Showdown Effect is a PC arena fighter based on Hollywood stereotypes.

The game’s combat mechanic mixes up gunplay, platforming and good old-fashioned melee attacks into a single, lightning fast experience.

The game launches tomorrow, March 5th. You can buy it from the official site, or over Steam.

Arrowhead’s announcement trailer is a good laugh, and sets up the brand of humour the team is going for. Check it out here.

With a tag-line like “Fight to the death, or die trying!”, you know you’re in for a chuckle with The Showdown Effect. It’s a combat game that hurls a bunch of Hollywood stereotypes into movie-themed arenas and sees them waging bloody war all over the set. The result is punchy, violent and highly skill-based.

On the surface it may appear to be a Smash Bros. clone, but the reality is that yes it’s an arena-based fighter with platforming elements, but the differences under the hood run much deeper. I caught up with design director Emil Englund to chat about what sets The Showdown Effect apart.

“After working with Magicka for so long, we really felt like we wanted to make something radically different,” Englund explained. “We had been talking about making a platform/shooter for a while when Paradox approached us with a similar concept and we felt like the match was great.

“The Hollywood theme was a result of us wanting to find a framework within which we could do stupidly awesome cliché things and still make it feel like a natural part of the setting. Treading new ground by making an all-out multiplayer deathmatch game was exciting as well, and we feel like we’ve learned much along the way.”

Firearms are a key difference between The Showdown Effect and similar fighters, giving players the option of going long-range when melee strikes simply won’t cut it. There’s a trade-off however, as guns are considerably weaker than swords or a pair of fists. For Englund, nailing the combat balance was absolutely vital.

“We had started out with very few weapons that had distinct differences and are easy to understand,” he explained, “then we added more weapons where we felt there was something interesting missing. Some weapons are more twitchy and require good aim while others require good positioning and so forth.

“Since there are always people better at your own game than you are, we want to look closely at those factors, we expect to find some things over-powered or exploitable, and also to see if there’s room for new weapons that could fill a role that none of the current ones do.”

Weapon balance is also backed up by the games rather clever fog-of-war mechanic that casts areas beyond your line of sight in total darkness. Sitting back and simply picking off enemies with a chain-gun from the other side of the map simply isn’t an option. Guns also have a limited number of reloads before they run dry. Conservation is key.

The fog-of-war also gives rise to tactical play, as you can use it to hide and take a few seconds to heal your character using bandages. You can even lay low and launch a tackle attack, which stuns your opponent temporarily, but it too comes with a catch. Miss your lunge and you become stunned, leaving you open to defeat and ridicule.

All of this combines to make a solid fighter, and one that slightly taps into the mind-set you see from MOBA players, given The Showdown Effect’s emphasis on twitch gameplay and rapid decision-making. I asked Englund if this was a fair comparison.

He replied, “The main focus of the game has been to create second-to-second gameplay which allows you to be bad-ass on your own, diving, slashing rolling, shooting and doing backflips. While the game mechanically is pretty far from a MOBA mind-set, there are still elements like team fights, and map control that is not entirely different from a MOBA environment.

“Things get really interesting with the fog of war that obscures vision, which allows for juking and sneaking, so chasing or being chased, it gets really intense. The characters’ special abilities combined with the load-out you choose can radically change how you play the game and in team situations some really interesting combinations can be made.”

The Showdown Effect launches tomorrow, but thanks to the closed beta you can already see plenty of gameplay videos from fans strutting their finest bouts and tactics on YouTube. You’ll see straight away that combat can become insanely fast in an instant, and that there’s no room for half-assed play.

You’d also expect a game about cops, martial arts masters and child geniuses battering each other silly would be ripe for comedy, much like the game’s debut trailer. Arrowhead’s previous game Magicka also had smatterings of comedy, but Englund cautions that the team doesn’t want to be too heavy handed with the laughs.

“I think it’s probably easier to joke about these things if you aren’t a huge studio,” he stressed, “since we may be viewed as pretty harmless, but it’s also a matter of how you joke about them. We don’t want to force jokes in every situation but rather put them in there when it feels appropriate and references are put in as homages rather than mockeries.

“The humor in Magicka wasn’t a conscious design-choice from the get go, but came naturally when we had created the basic mechanics and we started sneaking references to the games and movies that we love.

“That being said, I don’t think that all games should be full of jokes, it’s important to not make everything a joke. Part of the industry might take itself too seriously, but there are a lot of amazing serious games out there, and I expect to see even better ones in the future.”

For now, I’m glad The Showdown Effect isn’t all serious, as it’s an insane riot. We’ll have more on the game when it launches tomorrow. But for now, let us know what you think of the game below.

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