Showgunners Review (PC) – The Sleek, Dazzling Veneer of the 1980s

Despite being released for PC in 2023, Artificer’s Showgunners is clearly a product of the 1980s. Clearly taking inspiration from the anti-capitalist action heroes of days gone by, Showgunners liberally borrows from the likes of RoboCop, Total Recall and, of course, Running Man.

Not so long ago (only 30 or 40 years), action movies actively rejected capitalist ideals. The bad guys were always some ultra-rich arsehole at the top of his skyscraper, smoking a cigar, twirling his moustache and laughing maniacally. That genre has long been dead…at least on film. Thankfully, Artificer has seen fit to revive it as a video game.

Showgunners is entirely set during one season of Homicidal All-Stars, an in-universe reality show that pits contestants against defenders in violent combat for a chance at the high prize; freedom and cash.

Showgunners Review

Contestants on Homicidal All-Stars are a mixed bag of those who chose to enter for fame, glory and riches and those who had no choice. For the latter, Homicidal All-Stars was the only way out of a prison sentence, debt or worse. Showgunners has lots to say about both late-stage capitalism and the modern-day obsession with fame at any price. Just like those classics of cinema from the 80s, Showgunners puts the rich guys on the naughty list and casts the rest of us as pawns and puppets.

You play as Scarlett, a woman with a mysterious past who’s joined the latest season of Homicidal All-Stars for reasons that make themselves clear over the 20 or so hours it takes to finish. I won’t spoil anything here, but suffice it to say, Scarlett is not playing for fame or fortune. She’s joined by a ragtag bunch of contestants who gradually join her team. There’s Marty, the past champion who’s now penniless and back for a second try. Tybalt, a confidential informant sent to jail by crooked cops, hoping to win his freedom. Marcus, a former soldier who was dishonourably discharged and more. There’s a rich variety of characters that make up the cast and they each have genuine personality and an interesting reason for participating.

Playing Showgunners is split into a few distinct modes. Each episode of Homicidal All-Stars takes place at a different location and exploring each location acts as a hub. As you explore these hubs as Scarlett, you’ll need to avoid traps, engage in some light puzzle solving, collect keycards and find the combat arenas. As you explore the hubs, you’ll also come across fans you can interact with who beg for an autograph, furthering the narrative drive of the universe and its skewered take on our values.

The meat of Showgunners is in the combat arenas and I’m not talking about the eviscerated chunks of flesh that fly from your enemies. But I’m not, not talking about that either. Showgunners is a tactical turn-based RPG and it feels fairly similar to XCOM without any of the stealth malarkey. The combat arenas are self-contained levels that start small and grow larger as the game progresses. In the beginning, Scarlett will be facing off against a handful of low-level enemies with one teammate.

Over time, Showgunners introduces a bevy of new, interesting and devious enemies as well as multiple teammates with a range of skills and abilities. By the end of the game, you’ll be fighting in arenas that grow throughout the combat scenario and add multiple waves of enemies while you control five or six teammates at once. The playable characters in Showgunners, as mentioned, are varied and interesting and each brings something to the gameplay table. Scarlett has the greatest amount of movement and her abilities focus on dealing damage multiple times, regenerating Action Points and covering ground to outflank and outmaneuver.

Tybalt is a hacker so he’s able to swap appearances with enemies to cause them to attack one another, hack robots and disable enemy abilities while Marcus can lay down smoke to obscure sightlines and provide healing to his teammates. There are plenty of other great skills and characters, but it’s best left to you to discover them on your own.

Over the course of its 20-or-so-hour campaign, Showgunners consistently delivers thrills, strategy, violence and a pitch-black satire of capitalism, social media and fame. It occasionally drags when combat arenas overstay their welcome by a turn or two and there are a couple of hubs that could have done with a slight edit but these are very minor quibbles. The only real problem I had with Showgunners was my inability to change the camera on the Y-axis. You can zoom in and out but you can’t raise and lower your viewing angle. It makes it quite difficult to actually see where you’re aiming and what the likelihood to hit is.

Most of the time, it’s a problem that can be solved by zooming out, but I’d love to be able to set the camera angle myself and not have that ability taken away from me. That being said, overall, Showgunners is an absolute gem from start to finish.

Tactical turn-based RPGs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but with Advance Wars and Showgunners we’re having something of a renaissance right now and I’m loving it.

Showgunners was reviewed on PC using digital code provided by the publisher.

Reader Rating0 Votes
The Sleek, Dazzling Veneer of the 1980s
Varied and interesting combat scenarios
Excellent melding of exploration and turn-based strategy
Overall presentation
Can get a little samey and repetitive
Some fights get a little long in the tooth
Y-Axis can't be changed
Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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