Showgunners Review

Showgunners art header

Showgunners is at heart a love letter to the 90s, taking the XCOM formula and throwing it into a Running Man/Cyberpunk setting that brings some interesting results. More XCOM-likes are coming out of the woodwork these days, but after being enamoured with Midnight Suns last year, I didn’t expect to be so surprised by another game in this turn-based genre quite so soon.

You take on the role of Scarlett Martillo, a mysterious badass who has entered the world of Homicidal All-Stars, a brutal reality game show during the latter part of the 21st Century. With each season, new contenders fight to make it through to the end with the promise of fame, fortune, and of course their lives intact. Everyone thinks Scarlett is just another punk who will get killed in episode one, but they didn’t count for her resourcefulness and thirst for revenge.

There’s a strong focus on telling an old school story here, and it’s done in a way that will not only appeal to fans of 90s nostalgia, but also anyone that just wants a good story in general. Modern day writing tends to be littered with twists and turns, which isn’t a bad thing, but you also come to expect those story beats. Where everyone else is trying to be moody and clever, Showgunners just simply wants to have fun.

Each level is an episode in which Scarlett has to explore the area in real time, solve environmental puzzles, grab loot and take on the turn-based battle arenas. The environments are littered with traps that are not too difficult to bypass, but if you’re not paying attention, you can get hit for a chunk of damage. I initially felt the exploration would be a novelty that would quickly wear off, but the litany of things to do quickly grabbed my attention and had me exploring every nook and cranny trying to find everything I could. Looting can net you and your team new weapons, implants, items and money, so grabbing it all to make yourself stronger for the next battle is pretty sensible.

Showgunners exploration

You can also greet fans on your way, who will ask you to sign autographs. You can choose how to respond, which will give you points in one of four styles – Nice, Funny, Cocky, or Asshole. Building up these attributes alongside earning Fame from battles lets you pick up sponsorship deals, giving you varying bonuses depending on your playstyle, or straight up just giving you a top tier weapon.

This all goes towards levelling your characters, who are not customisable in terms of looks and skills, but are incredibly unique and each bring something different to the table. Scarlett is the best character and once you have levelled her to a certain point, can unlock skills that will have you tearing through enemies. She is a basic run-and-gun character, but incredibly resilient and a perfect front and centre hero for this tale.

Tybalt, another character who joins the team, has a completely different style which sees him playing his hand from the shadows, using holograms to fool the enemies. He can essentially body swap with another bad guy on the field, forcing other enemies to attack them and ignore him. Later, he unlocks the ability to hack robots and sabotage weaponry, making him invaluable on the field.

All of the characters have different strengths, making the team composition a genuinely difficult decision to make. That said, a later addition to my team never left my lineup as their damage output was simply incredible.

Combat itself will be familiar to anyone who’s played an XCOM or similar turn-based game before. You get two action points to spend per round with actions like shooting or melee attacks ending that character’s turn immediately. You are almost always outnumbered, but the game never felt unfair, and I always felt like I was able to deal with each situation by making clever use of cover, overwatch and general positioning.

Showgunners turn-based combat

You are given all the information possible to make these decisions, with the HUD telling you your chance to hit, what bonuses they are getting from cover and how much damage you will deal. Another feature I like is the fact that when you hover over the area you want to move to, the game shows you everyone’s line of sight, so you can see who your character will be able to target in advance, and whether or not you might trigger an overwatch. In certain larger battles I felt there was a little too much on screen at once with icons for enemies that are off the screen, as well as objectives and everything else cluttering up the view. You can get used to this after a time, but it’s still a little too cluttered.

Combat is still incredibly fun, and there’s often moments that play into the gameshow theme, as director Orion Ford throws new objectives and threats, like explosive canisters into the mix. You get that little flood of endorphins every time you overcome the challenge, or when the camera snaps and time slows down for your character to take a shot and the explode an enemy grunt in a shower of blood and gore.

Showgunners is a little short for this genre, though still clocks in at almost thirty hours to 100%, but there is also obligatory iron man mode available if you fancy a challenge after your first run.

One slight niggle I had was bumping into some frame rate stuttering during the first hour or so until I messed around with the in-game graphics settings. I also had to fiddle with them again after a cutscene froze several times. It’s something that can be fixed with a patch, but was still annoying nonetheless.s

Summary
In its looks and execution, Showgunners does what it set out to do and creates a turn-based love letter to the 90s, updating those themes for a modern audience, while still somehow not managing to lose authenticity. It’s a job well done and I’d much like to explore this universe further in the future. 
Good
  • A solid, straightforward story
  • Fun gameplay with unique characters
  • You're basically playing as Running Man
Bad
  • Screen is overly cluttered with info
  • A couple of performance and graphical hitches
8
Written by
Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.