It’s Like Halo and Quake had a hyperactive baby
In the same way that Trackmania stripped bare the racing genre, ShootMania: Storm aims to revolutionize the first- person shooter by taking things back to basics. I’m not going to lie; I’ve never played any of Nadeo’s Mania games, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. ShootMania promises a high-octane FPS experience with unlimited replayability and a strong community dimension. It’s these bold claims that got me interested—and I’m sure they interest you, too. Is it truly possible to strip everything out of the modern-day FPS and still have a fun, competitive game?
The first indication that this isn’t your typical FPS comes as soon as you start up the game. After signing up for a MediaPlanet account, you’re thrown straight in. No crazy videos or watching several logos pop up—you’re at the main menu before you know it. Then it’s just a matter of picking a server with a game mode you like, and you’re away.
Now, starting off in any FPS can be a slow, arduous affair as each team works its way around the map and they eventually run into each other. However, Shootmania adds some thrill and excitement to the start of a match—mainly due to its speed. Imagine how a greyhound feels when it’s first let out of the traps (search for a YouTube clip if you’re confused), and that’s how I felt when I started my first match. When the countdown finished, the gates opened, and I was propelled down a ramp at a breakneck pace before being thrown up a turbo pad onto a higher level—and all that was within the first 10 seconds of the game. How many modern first-person shooters offer that?
If you’re an FPS aficionado and play games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield regularly, then adjusting to ShootMania can be a little jarring, mainly because of how simple it is. There aren’t any grenades, no knife, no perks, no secondary weapon, no… You get the picture by now, I’m sure. There’s just Jump and Shoot, and you can also hold down Jump to sprint. You have four bullets, which reload over time, and you can take a maximum of three hits before dying; this is the FPS genre at its purest. I found the pace to be a little daunting at first and died several times to more skilled players before finally adjusting, after which I was able to get a few kills on the board against new players.
However, the real fun began after my first couple of games, once I’d mastered the art of strafing and jumping while also trying to target an enemy doing the same. I found myself in several drawn-out 1-on-1 fights, which on a map with 14 other players is pretty unheard of in an FPS. And you know what? They were really fun. At no point did I feel like my opponent had the upper hand for any reason other than skill—not because he got the jump on me or because he shot first. Of course, I was also involved in several manic 10-player-plus fights in the middle of the map. These are the perfect times to score some quick kills—you can only really watch up to two players at a time, unless you possess superpowers, which I think some of my opponents did!
All this superb gameplay is useless without decent modes, though, right? Well, luckily, Shootmania has you covered in that area as well. The mode you’ll play the most as a beginner is Battle; this is a simple Capture the Flag game where the first team to touch a flag gets to attack first. I found this mode to be a little slow going at the start, but it certainly picked up when there was just one flag left and me my teammates were trying to hold off wave after wave of the enemy team while capturing—a big issue when you can’t stay still through fear of death. My one issue with this mode is how long it takes; don’t expect to just jump in for a quick five-minute frenzy, as a couple of my matches went more than 20 minutes.
You’ve also got modes such as Elite (a standard Deathmatch affair) and Joust (a 1-on-1 battle with limited ammo), but the crowning achievement of this game has to be the Royal game mode, and it’s the one I ended up playing the most. Royal sees 16 players in an arena fight to the death with a single flag to capture. The last person standing wins the round; capture the flag first, and you get a few extra points. There’s a catch, however. As the game progresses, a tornado spins closer and closer to the center of the map—get caught by it and you die—forcing players toward the middle until everyone’s trapped in a confined space.
I had a lot of fun with the opening part of this mode, making a mad dash to the center flag for those extra points while avoiding taking a blaster shot to the face, but things became 10 times more interesting once that tornado started whirling closer. I actually felt a sense of fear and adrenaline knowing that one false move, and I was either tornado food or one of my opponents was going to get a shot on target, ending my round. It’s in this tight space where ShootMania’s twitch-style shooting really shines. You’re trying to keep your movement up, trying to aim at an opponent, and dodge their shots, all while being 5 feet away from them. It’s tense stuff, and I have to commend the developers for creating what I consider the best FPS game mode in a long time.
This great gameplay is pointless without some decent maps to play on, however, and this is, sadly, where the game fails slightly. The developers decided to create the maps using a version of the built-in editor, leading to a symmetrical tile effect on each map. While this offers a fair fight, it does make the maps lose some of that charm and individuality that most modern shooters have—and this ends up detaching you from your surroundings. This also means that pretty much every map you play on seems exactly the same. While some players may feel that maps aren’t important and are just arenas for battle, I feel that they should be aesthetically pleasing and draw you in to the experience. ShootMania’s simply don’t.
There is a flip side, however. The built-in map editor is designed to be used by everyone, from novice to master creator. I was able to jump in and make a working map in less than five minutes—sure, it was awful, but it only took five minutes—using the game’s basic editor. For those with a little more imagination, there’s also an advanced editor that allows you to control the skybox, land type, and much more. These maps can then be quickly shared with the rest of the community, leading to limitless potential, similar to how LittleBigPlanet and TrackMania work.
If you’re looking for a refreshing take on an oversaturated genre, ShootMania is the game for you. The fast-paced, simple gameplay will keep you occupied for several hours and ensure that your heart is racing while you bounce around attempting to hang on to that last chunk of health. My only worry is the lack of longevity here; unless you’re a hardcore twitch-shooter fan, you’ll probably find yourself getting tired over the long term—especially after you see the same generic map layout for the hundredth time. The detailed map editor and community sharing will alleviate that a little, but with no gear progression, no levels to aim for, and no unlocks to lust after, there’s little convincing you to continue pushing on. This is the game’s biggest stumbling point, and if you can overcome this, then ShootMania should give you a different FPS experience than you’re used to.
|Developer: Nadeo • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.10.2013|
ShootMania breathes new life into a crowded genre by taking things back to basics. If you’re a fan of old-style twitch shooters, this is the game for you. However, a lack of progression—bar a leaderboard—and simple map designs may lead to many being turned off in the long run. If you’re after a pure shooter, however, it doesn’t get much better than this.
|The Good||Simple gameplay that’s easy to pick up but difficult to master.|
|The Bad||A lack of long-term goals to keep you interested day after day.|
|The Ugly||The maps lacking any sort of character.|
|ShootMania: Storm is available exclusively on PC.|