Showgunners review

by on May 2, 2023
Reviewed On
Release Date

May 2, 2023


I previewed Showgunners a while ago, when it was still called Homicidal All-Stars. What’s weird isn’t necessarily that it changed its title in the run up to release, but that you’ll see the original title everywhere when you actually play it. This is because Homicidal All-Stars is the name of the brutal TV show in which the game takes place. Taking inspiration from a number of sources – the concept is hardly novel – Showgunners is primarily inspired by The Running Man, a novel by Stephen King written under the pseudonym Richard Bachmann and later made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As in that dystopian nightmare, Showgunners sees people volunteering to entertain the nation in displays of horrific violence either to win massive cash prizes, to negate a prison sentence, or, in the case of protagonist Scarlett, seek revenge. Once an honest cop, Scarlet’s life changed when her family was murdered by serial killer Ulysses Derrick. Despite bringing him down, Scarlett was betrayed by the system when Derrick entered Homicidal All-Stars as a convict and won, becoming a millionaire and national hero overnight. Now Scarlett acts as a bounty hunter and has infiltrated the show with vengeance in mind.

Showgunners review

The setup is nothing particularly fresh. Even the setting, a rundown future hellscape of burned-out cars, random fires, and twisted metal everywhere, feels just a little overdone. And yet Showgunners takes its Mad-Maxy campness and runs with it, weaving an interesting tale through familiar fabric. It’s a world utterly devoid of compassion, where human value is dictated by corporate greed, and a gruesome death on TV is worth much more than a life spent living anonymously in a gutter. It’s also batshit crazy, with the villainous Omega Corporation able to simply buy prisoners from what passes for a justice system, arm them, and chuck them in a huge arena.

Combat makes up a large percentage of the runtime, unsurprisingly. It’s turn-based tactics in the vein of XCOM, but feels more immediate, violent, and fast-paced. It’s more like Gears Tactics in many ways, but deep down Showgunners is a fairly simple game. Maybe a little too simple, in fact. As Scarlett you’ll play alongside a total of six other characters, two of whom you can bring along with you into fights, one of whom will stay with you almost permanently, and one of whom isn’t around all that long at all. As the story progresses more characters will attach themselves to your little group, which the show runners allow because your antics are boosting the ratings.

Showgunners review

Each character has a spread of unique skills unlocked on a tree using points earned by levelling up. Every turn they have a pool of action points and everything you do uses them up. You can move and shoot, reload and shoot, throw a grenade, etc, but shooting first or moving a long distance will use up your AP. It’s pretty basic stuff. Scarlett herself is a standard assault class character, armed with a powerful rifle and able to unlock skills that allow her to shoot once without using AP, or shoot after using all her AP in movement.

Tybalt is an illusionist, and can use decoy holograms, or even “swap” himself with an enemy causing other enemies to treat him as one of their own while shooting the other guy. He can also hack drones and robots to fight for you for a while. Then you’ll later pick up a few other archetypes like Zoe, a heavy machine gunner who never needs to reload but isn’t one for precision or agility. By the time you unlock sniper Phantom and grenadier Marcus, you’ll be quite late into the game, but you’ll find that every character and every combination has merit.

If you’ve played turn-based tactics games before, nothing will really surprise you in Showgunners. Which is not to say it’s doing anything wrong. It’s comfortingly familiar, presenting standard, tried and tested mechanics with a facade of OTT gore and ragdoll physics. On standard difficulty the chance-to-hit never feels too skewed against you, and there’s enough skills and tricks to always give you an option in a fight – or you can always save scum your way through it too.

Showgunners review

Levels are presented as arenas that have their own objectives. Usually it’s just “kill everyone” with optional objectives on timers that reward bonuses. The show director, Orion Ford, sits in his huge office and occasionally introduces Plot Twists, such as turning off the lights or covering the arena in acid, forcing you to think on the fly. It’s always fun, but Showgunners is a strictly linear affair and so you won’t be replaying arenas with different variables or anything.

Outside combat your main concern is Fame. This metric determines which sponsors you can court, which is really just a permanent buff you unlock from three options when you hit certain milestone. You can be entertaining, nice, or an asshole – or a mix of the three, but focusing on one type of personality will unlock specific buffs faster. These can be many things, such as health regen or a chance to reload for no AP cost. You can increase Fame by donating old gear, but mainly it’s from interacting with fans. They’ll pop up outside the arena cages here and there and, while they’ll grow to love you eventually, you get to choose how to respond to their comments and autograph requests.


There’s also a resting area between missions where you can talk to your teammates, or record confessional interviews with a producer. It sounds more exciting than it actually is, as it takes the same form as the autograph signing and has the exact same effect. But the resting area is also where Scarlett sleeps, dreams, and reveals her torturous backstory. It’s just a shame there isn’t more substance to it all. Your gun will change, visually, but there are no character skins to unlock, and no real optional content beyond the optional arenas in each mission, none of which reward anything truly unique. If any turn-based game would support a seasonal pass model, it’s this one.

Showgunners is an enjoyable enough action game that lasts exactly as long as it needs to, which is around 12 – 15 hours. There’s a good selection of characters, but nothing particularly original, and the skills are mostly borrowed wholesale from other games of the genre. It’s violent, occasionally humorous, and fairly colourful, even if it does reuse the same visual themes and motifs over and over again. If you like the genre you’ll find it a worthy inclusion, despite its no-frills approach. Just go in with the right expectations.


Combat is great
Good mix of skills
Interesting characters


Character progression isn't very deep
Visually repetitious
Very linear

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

If you like the genre you'll find Showgunners a worthy inclusion, despite its no-frills approach. Just go in with the right expectations.