Showgunners Review – XCOM meets Dieselpunk

Showgunners is an XCOM style turn-based-action game with a unique setting and tons of style.
Showgunners Review
Image: Artificer

Originally known as Homicidal Allstars, Showgunners is a turn-based combat game set in a dystopian future, where corporations sponsor bloodsports for millions of viewers to enjoy. As a contestant in this high-stakes reality game show, you can expect gore, glory, and swearing galore. For a game this flashy, I’m surprised to say it doesn’t take as many risks in areas I really wish it would have.

Showgunners’ gameplay follows the turn-based formula popularized by the XCOM franchise. Each round, your group of characters acts in turns alongside enemy units, using an action economy to shoot at the enemies, run for cover, or pull off special actions like throwing grenades or setting up for suppressive fire. Some more interesting actions can be pulled off, such as melee attacks or special abilities tied to your characters.

Besides those special attacks, you more or less have access to the same moves as your enemy, and you’re expected to plan accordingly, as in any given fight you are more or less outgunned and your careful planning is all that will secure victory. The game alternates between these turn-based segments and third-person navigation segments, where you avoid traps and sneak up on enemies to get an extra edge in combat.

Showgunners 2
Image: Artificer

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the so-called “XCOM” system, which I’m sure fans of the genre will insist is a mischaracterization of the mechanics. While I try to remain unbiased in these reviews, I find that this style of game plays like a much slower version of a Call of Duty title, where you’re mostly moving from cover to cover and trading bullets.

This is especially true in Showgunners, which incentivizes running from cover to cover in battles. Cover gives you bonus defense against shots, reducing the chance of you getting hit. Without cover, you are basically a sitting duck, easy to be gunned down by enemies.. assuming they don’t miss.

For a game set in a flashy, no-holds-barred bloodsport with men wielding katanas and running around in decked-out leather jackets, it does a good job of defeating its own hype by making combat feel like a slow cover crawl. Incentivizing you to hold cover and use the Overwatch mechanic, which punishes any enemies for moving forward, and introducing a hit chance percentage that was universally panned in the XCOM games tanks the tension of the fights. The only time I felt urged to leave my cover was when the enemy refused to move, or when the map suddenly dropped in explosive barrels.

Showgunners 1
Image: Artificer

Man, those explosive barrels. When your protagonist, Scarlet, can shrug off Scum bullets like they’re nerf darts, but a single explosive barrel drops her to one hp, you learn to avoid the things. This would be more interesting as a mechanic, if not for the fact that these barrels have such huge radiuses, making them a huge and hard-to-avoid hazard. Each barrel can basically clear out a third of the map, meaning you’re stupid not to use them and even stupider to ignore them when you’re inside the yellow square of doom.

Showgunners 4
Image: Artificer

Credit where credit is due, the game does give you a solid tool for circumventing the cover-crawl experience. That tool is named Marty, a shotgun-wielding pro with a ton of armor who wants and needs to get up close to enemies to do damage. He also starts the game six levels ahead of Scarlet, making him an invaluable asset early on.

Reloading is also an obstacle that your party can use to your advantage in fights. Reloading takes full action, meaning characters who need to reload have to sacrifice either moving or shooting in that turn. When an enemy needs a reload, you have a great chance to get up in their face. Just be careful with your shots, because you have to use reloads too.

Aside from those nitpicks, I would say that Showgunner’s gameplay is just fine. Even as someone who isn’t a huge fan of the genre, I felt like the game played well and had a strong design philosophy for the audience it’s targeting. I just wish it was a bit flashier, a bit more dangerous, and asked you to do more than gun down your foes. The gameplay doesn’t take risks, which will be fine for plenty of fans of the formula, but I would have liked to see more.

Something Showgunners does differently that I REALLY liked is the corporate sponsorship system. To survive in Homicidal Allstars, you’ve gotta attract a sponsor. These corporate powerhouses provide you with useful perks, but they don’t come cheap — You have to rack up fame by performing well in fights and signing autographs.

Showgunners 3
Image: Artificer

Plus, and this is my favorite part, the sponsors want you to behave a certain way. Different dialogue options when interacting with NPCs can either attract or dissuade certain corporate sponsors. This is a super fun little way to make player choice matter, and reflects the nature of corporate sponsorship in a hilariously realistic way.

What Showgunners definitely has in abundance is style. The game looks great, with a gritty comic book style that goes great with the game’s thematic setting. The UI looks phenomenal too, with great colors, pretty icons, and satisfying animations when you chunk away enemy health bars.

Showgunners 5
Image: Artificer

All the characters look great too, especially the enemies. I was initially unsure how I felt about our protagonist, Scarlet, but one of my favorite parts of the game quickly became the time between matches we spent discovering her backstory. The setting is dark, and so are its characters and their stories, and I learned to appreciate them the more time I spent around them.

The Final Word

If you’re a fan of the XCOM style of games, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Showgunners. Though lacking some polish in the mechanical side of things and not straying far from a tried and true formula, the game is still solid and has a ton to offer with its style and setting.

7

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Showgunners is available on Steam and GOG.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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