Shootmania Storm Review (PC)
Like Trackmania with shooting? No, that’s no good at all. Little Big Planet but for FPS’s? No, that’s even worse! An easily moddable Tribes without jetpacks? No! What is Shootmania Storm? It’s a game where you shoot… Good enough!
Shootmania is one of those games that expects you to make your own fun, but also provides you with some to get you started. Though it may come with some pre-packed fun, its more concerned with giving you a toolbox to play with than a finished product to consume.
While Trackmaia had a very clear remit throughout (draw out a track, race on that track), Shootmania is by necessity a little more complex. It’s still a very streamlined, pared down experience, but as FPS’s are (generally) more varied in content and design than racing games, there are more options to play with.
Before you even look at the toolkit it gives you though, you’ll want to play with Shootmania’s default game modes and learn about the basic gameplay. There are a few of these modes, and they can be assigned to channels. Channels give you quick access to the game types and modes you will play most, and they adorn the main page of an attractive and usable front end for the game. This well designed interface is just part of the games excellent presentation, and combined with its futuristic, chilled out soundtrack, Shootmania feels inviting and accessible from the start.
The essential gameplay of Shootmania is similar across all the default game modes. Movement is floaty and loose, you move very fast (in comparison with modern military shooters) and you feel like you’re gliding over the environment. You can jump quite far (but you can’t double jump), and there are platforms that rocket you forward at great speed or bounce you up to high areas of the level.
The visuals are most reminiscent of the Unreal Tournament games, but it’s been the Quake community that have been migrating to the game the most. Perhaps because of its loose, quick player movement and the large amount of time players spend flying through the air. Combat tends to involve very quick, agile movements including wall jumps as players try to hit their opponents while dodging incoming projectiles. In other words, Shootmania feels very old school as a competitive FPS. It’s refreshing. In a world of kill streaks and auto-aim, it’s nice to go back to a purer form of shooting people in the face.
The way that Shootmania handles weapons is unique, and at first may seem reductive. Your default weapon fires slow moving projectiles. Although a little like missiles, these have no splash damage. Superficially they look like elongated fireballs, but only scoring direct hits will count, and each player can sustain two hits before being eliminated.
You can fire four of these off quickly, and after you fire each shot your weapon will slowly recharge. Firing off all four shots will mean that you have to wait a relatively long time to fire again, and as such there’s a good risk/reward balance. Leading your target is essential, and there’s a real learning curve involved in mastering this default weapon, and learning how to avoid enemy fire while hitting your target.
The big innovation in Shootmania though is how it handles changing weapons. You cant do this yourself; instead you change weapon automatically based on where you are on the map. For example, in small enclosed corridors and interior’s you might change to a close range weapon, while other areas of the map will make you use a sniper weapon. This might seem like a backwards step, but in fact it adds a lot to the gameplay strategy and streamlines play significantly. It’s arguable whether other games should use such a system, but in Shootmania it feels novel and welcome.
There are some gameplay modes that mess with the essential gameplay rules and weapons set mentioned above, and the most interesting is “Elite”. In this mode, teams of three face off against each other. On one side all three players will play as defenders, and will have the normal, default weapons. Meanwhile, on the other side only one player will be active whilst the other two watch. This one “Elite” player though will have a much more powerful weapon, that works like a railgun. In other words, it’s a hit scan weapon and as long as the crosshair is over the enemy when the trigger is pulled, they will be killed.
This mode is quick and fun. You’re never spectating for long, and even when you are it’s giddily exciting to cheer on your lonely team mate as they take on three enemies. Meanwhile, playing as one of the three active team members is equally tense as you stalk your singular, deadly opponent. Three Arnies versus one Predator, if you will.
When it comes to level creation, the tools you’re given are very easy to use. Ive played around with UnrealEd for over ten years (on and off), but Shootmania is far, far easier to use for those who aren’t of a technical bent. That being said, it’s also powerful and its easy to pop open a scripting menu and start building more complex behaviours and gameplay properties. If you’re just dipping your toe in though, it won’t take you too long to build Goldeneye’s facility, World 1-1 of Super Mario World, or the fantastic land of dicks.
Shootmania has been in beta for a long time, and as such you are likely to face some very skilled opponents online. The unique flavour of the gameplay requires skills that are quite different to most modern shooters, and as such, unless you are a Quake master, you’ll probably take a while to find your feet. This can be an issue until you get better, as dying often will mean watching more than playing. Watching skilled players can be either discouraging or inspiring (depending on whether you’re a half-empty or half-full person) but I developed a deep desire to fire a redeemer missile at those little wall jumping ninjas.
Shootmania Storm is ostensibly the first in a series of Shootmania releases. Like buying a mixed box of Lego, it gives you lots of blocks to build a world to play in. New “boxes of blocks” (my phrasing, not theirs) are likely to follow if Shootmania finds an audience. Just like with Trackmania, new tile sets will offer a broader range of pieces for you to build your levels.
In evaluating Shootmania then, I have to consider not only the fun I had with the game, but also the opportunities it offers to those who are interested in building their own levels and game types with this initial toolset.
As a game, it’s a fun, accessible and fairly pretty multiplayer FPS. With ladder rankings and gameplay depth, it’s likely to garner a small but committed community of dedicated players. Fun though these game modes are though, I found my enthusiasm waned after a week or so of play. The gameplay piqued my interest in retro-styled deathmatch FPS’s, but in truth the game doesn’t compare to the depth and variety in games like Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament. And those are some old games.
Similarly, if you have an interest in modding or customising in an FPS, there are other options out there that have a greater variety of tools as well as established, committed communities and more open architectures. And many of them are now free. Certainly Shootmania is accessible, and as such its fun to mess around with, but if you’re in any way serious about modding then you probably already use more sophisticated tools.
Shootmania Storm sits within a competitive space. There are many other FPS games that offer a similar experience. Despite this though, it offers just enough customisation, clever design and accessible fun to be worth your time.
7 maniacs who shoot out of 10