Welcome to a world where the most despicable criminals put their lives on the line as they compete for fame, fortune and freedom, all in the name of entertainment! The reality show, Homicidal All-Stars (also the former moniker of this game), is a hybrid of The Running Man, Mad Max and Blade Runner with Duke Nukem vibes and is the most popular show on TV. There is blood, gore and tactics galore in this turn-based title as you guide protagonist Scarlett through this hellish world that is governed by corporate greed. Welcome to our Showgunners review!
How it begins
Police officer Scarlett Martillo’s life changed when her entire family was murdered by the barbaric psychopath Ulysses Derrick. Worse still was that shortly after Ulysses was convicted, he entered Homicidal All-Stars. He won, becoming an overnight celebrity and national hero as well as a multi-millionaire. Scarlett subsequently decided to enter Homicidal All-Stars to find Ulysses Derrick and avenge her family’s death.
A real genre-blend
There are several elements to Showgunners, including free-roaming, puzzle-solving and battling and they all feel good. The only issue I had was that it would have been nice to be able to lower the camera. I often felt like I couldn’t see far ahead enough or around me as much as I would have liked. Perhaps this is intentional, but for me, it proved to be a hindrance. I kept automatically attempting to lower the camera angle to no avail.
Aside from the main story and associated battles, there are optional challenges too. These include such things as short battles and puzzles. The puzzles require you to time your movements carefully to navigate around obstacles in order to get to prize boxes. If you complete the full checklist of additional activities, then you are rewarded for your efforts.
A punishing environment
The environment is truly punishing, allowing you only three strikes whilst at full health before your character dies. After that, you have to retry the area. You have to keep your wits about you as there are several booby traps scattered around the dark map. The environments appear simple to navigate at first, but this is an illusion. Unless you are literally treading carefully with every step, you will probably trigger a trap without ever even seeing it! You need to keep your wits about you to avoid being blown to pieces by near-invisible tripwires, hanging bombs, proximity bombs and even land mines in pitch-black rooms! Several areas require specific items before you can access them, such as doors that require keycards. This adds another element to the game than mere turn-based action and is a nice addition overall.
Levels are structured in day-long formats, with each day consisting of Scarlett navigating the arena, finding hidden items and taking part in battles. To make things even more interesting, whilst navigating the environment, Scarlett often encounters ambushes. During an ambush, enemies jump out and launch an attack on Scarlett with no prior warning. Enemies come in different flavours/difficulties, such as “Scum”, “Ronin”, “Fume”, and “Muerta” right the way up to “Ulysses Derrick” himself. Each enemy type has its own loadout and abilities and this makes you think even harder about how best to approach each battle. Do you go in guns-blazing or do you perhaps attempt to group enemies together and then throw a grenade in the middle of them? It really is your choice and this makes for exhilarating gameplay, especially when things go to plan.
Twists and turns
And then there are what’s called “twists”. These are literal twists in the story which are introduced in the middle of a battle by the show director Orion Ford, from the comfort of his luxurious office. These are never welcome but always fun, and could completely change the outcome of the battle. Such twists include the lights suddenly going out, several enormous vats of acid being dropped into the arena or doors locking and unlocking at random. Given the genre and the game show-style format of the Showgunners, these twists fit in perfectly as they are something you would expect from such a show.
One twist that I particularly enjoyed was when I managed to reduce the enemies from four to just one. I approached the remaining enemy and planned what would hopefully be my last strike when a plot twist was pulled on me. The doors behind me opened and four additional enemies entered the arena, all of varying abilities. My well-thought-out plans had been scuppered as I had to rethink my entire strategy before proceeding. If I had continued with my original plan, I would have certainly been killed on the next turn by the enemies approaching from the rear. It is elements like this which make for an enjoyable experience and keeps things fresh.
There is the option to upgrade your character’s skills via a skill tree, albeit a small and expensive one. It would have been nice to have more options here which cost fewer points each time as there isn’t much to experiment with. Considering that this is a tactical game, this appears to have been an oversight because your character’s abilities are limited in a world where variation and freedom of choice play very important roles.
Your character has options for sponsorship deals at different fame levels. Determined through interactions with the crowd, such as autograph signings and conversing with fans, your character develops a specific persona. Each audience member interaction presents you with three dialogue options. Your chosen responses in these interactions will determine how the world sees you. You can be funny, sarcastic, cool or downright rude (classified as “a**hole” in-game). Once you begin to allocate points to each of those categories, appropriate sponsorship deals will become available accordingly. Each deal has its own benefit(s), such as receiving a large quantity of XP, receiving 30% less damage from traps or being given three frag grenades. It is up to you to choose the one that you feel is best for your particular play style.
The environments aren’t procedurally generated and the events or plot twists aren’t either. This means that you will have the same experience each time. Despite there technically being several ways to complete a battle – by using different attack options and loadouts – there isn’t much desire to do so repeatedly. You will ultimately have a very similar experience each time. This is a shame because it would have been good to throw different twists into the mix to put a new perspective on things. XP is awarded based on how efficiently you complete each battle, earning more XP for the less harm you endure. Therefore, one reason to replay could be if you want to try and achieve maximum XP.
The environments look amazing, with great levels of intricate detail throughout. Many of those environments look very similar, however, and some variety would have been nice. That doesn’t detract from the overall visual experience, however. The whole reality-TV-show theme is executed well in Showgunners. Every aspect of the game, from “versus” screens where two players face off to “victory” screens, is styled exactly as you would expect it to be: with large capital letters and blocks of solid colour.
How it sounds
The sound in Showgunners is brilliant, and the voice acting especially so. Every character sounds precisely how you would imagine them to sound. Even the commentator, who you only see an avatar for and never see in person, sounds exactly like you would imagine that particular person to sound if they were real. Characters’ footsteps when navigating the environment make satisfying sounds depending on the surface they are walking on and the weapons all make satisfying noises when fired. Melee attacks sound especially good, with each one creating revolting flesh-meets-metal and bone-crushing sounds as you connect with an enemy’s head.
The background music – mostly heavy metal and hard rock – is constantly present. It blends in perfectly with the whole genre of the game and is barely noticeable whilst playing, which is a good thing. It gets louder to emphasize particular moments of the game that require your attention and dies back down again when those moments are over.
Showgunners really gets you thinking because you are given ultimate freedom of choice from the onset. What is the best way to defeat each of the different enemy types? Do you round them up and throw a grenade at them? Or do you pick off the weakest first? It is choices like this which earn your attention at first and keeps you hooked throughout. Showgunners lures you in with bright colours, amazing sound and tactical battles that you will often think about for days to come. There is enough variety in mission types and enemy interactions to keep things fresh and, despite a clichéd story, it doesn’t do the game any harm as it fits the genre perfectly and is still fun to play. Despite occasionally-difficult camera angles and an unoriginal story, the mid-battle twists are an excellent addition and make for a really fun way to keep enjoyment levels high. Overall, if you enjoy tactical battles with beautiful visuals, stellar sound and a great atmosphere, then this is certainly one to try!
- Incredible visuals
- Voice acting is spot-on
- You can save progress at any time
- Twists make for memorable battles
- Great atmosphere
- More freedom with the camera along the Y-axis would have been nice
- No procedurally-generated environment or twists (everyone will have the same experience)
Showgunners is currently available through GeForce Now. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Showgunners review.