Platforms: PC / Genre: First Person Shooter (Multiplayer only)
Developer: Nadeo / Publisher: Ubisoft
Perks, a wide array of weapons to choose from, and maps set in real places. These are just a few of the things modern day shooters tend to have in common. So what would happen if you took all of those things away? You would get ShootMania: Storm, a multiplayer only, first person shooter developed by Nadeo; a refreshing, and nostalgic, take on the FPS genre.
ShootMania is a game 100 percent focused on gameplay. There is no back story explaining why men and women are running around in futuristic suits shooting glowing projectiles at each other, but that just means ShootMania is able to focus on what is most important- gameplay. Although I have not played them, I have been told ShootMania’s gameplay takes point from Quake and Unreal Tournament.
The basic principle behind ShootMania is, of course, to shoot stuff. Players are all given the same weapon, and cannot change weapons (except in one game mode). This means less time customising a loadout or classes and more time playing. Other weapons can be found on certain maps (for example a one shot kill laser, and an area of effect rocket called a Nucleus), but you have to be in a certain area to use them. Maps are symmetrical, too, so no one has a spawn advantage. With everything being equal, there is no way for anyone to have an advantage because of an overpowered weapon because everyone has the same weapon. Therefore, even if the weapon is overpowered, everyone is overpowered and equal.
Combat works a bit differently in ShootMania compared to other shooters. In most gametypes, everyone will start with two armour points. Each time you are hit by a shot, you lose an armour point. Once you lose both your armour points, you are eliminated (killed, but more on that later). There is no regenerating armour, unless you stand on a specific plate where you are not able to jump or shoot. The default weapon for most developer created gametypes is a rocket launcher. Ammo is based on a recharge system, so you have to choose your times to strike or you could be left ammo-less and under attack.
Quick reactions and smart movement are the key to survival in ShootMania. Every weapon is different, so each weapon requires a different strategy. Rockets move at an average speed, but they can be dodged by strafing (either that or you will strafe into a rocket), so you have to try to predict where your opponent is going to move, while trying to avoid their rockets at the same time. However, trying to strafe against a laser will probably just make you walk into the beam, so it is best to just move as quickly as you can, or shoot them before they can shoot you. You have to always be aware of your surroundings when playing ShootMania, you never know when a rocket will came from across the map and eliminate your last armour point. The strategy involved with shooting in ShootMania leads to wonderful feeling of success when you manage to outwit your opponent.
The rockets are a great choice for a weapon because they can lead to some intense firefights not available in any other shooter. Some fights have lead to two players literally running around each other, trying to hit one another while not being hit themselves. It’s truly fun to be apart of, and just as fun to watch.
Speaking of moving, the controls in ShootMania scream accessibility. Instead of using 10 or more keyboard keys, like modern shooters, ShootMania uses just 4 (and a mouse). WASD move, while the mouse controls stamina usage, shooting and aiming (which feels very smooth and accurate). Stamina can be used to propel yourself into the air, or speed along the ground to reach objectives or escape rockets. ShootMania’s simple controls allow anyone to just pick up the game and start having fun, but are deep enough to show the difference between a novice and a pro.
To further the game’s accessibility, ShootMania chose to withhold blood, and the words ‘kill and death’ from the game. When you deplete someone’s armour, they are simply ‘eliminated’ and digitalise. Nadeo hopes this will allow people of all ages to enjoy their game. Likewise, ShootMania supports new players by giving them three armour bars instead of two. Once new players start to get the hang of the game, they are reduced to two bars and on par with everyone else. This definitely helped me when I was getting used to the controls and movement system and the game does a good job of deciding when you are fit to be reduced to two bars.
ShootMania has a gametype for everyone. There are team based gametypes for those who want a team atmosphere, there are free for all gametypes for those lone wolves who want to prove their supremacy, and there is also a game type for elite players- simply titled Elite. All gametypes provide a twist on the usual formula, and they are all a blast to play. I spent countless late nights at my computer thinking “just one more game, just one more game.” An hour later I would still be playing.
Each gametype encourages players to compete, but the environment is never hostile. Players are given ladder points based on their placing in the match. These ladder points help you advance your rank in your state, country, region, and the world. Words cannot describe the sense of accomplishment you get when you see yourself climb up ladder ranks at the end of a match.
To highlight one of the twists on the basic gametype formulas, I will talk about a free for all gametype called ‘Royal’. In Royal, players have to race to the centre of the map to capture a pole. While you can ‘eliminate’ players before someone captures the pole, they will not be out of the game. Once someone captures the pole, anyone who is eliminated from then on is out until someone wins the round. Also, once the pole is captured, a tornado starts making its way towards the centre of the map, eliminating any players it touches. Eventually, players will be left to battle it out in a small circle in the middle of the map. The tornado keeps games short because it forces conflict. You get points by eliminating other players, surviving, and capturing the pole. The urge to keep playing is thanks to the points system. Just one good round in between several bad rounds can put you out in front. In one game I witnessed a player come from a few spots behind to take first off me and another player.
ShootMania’s Elite mode provides a competitive twist for eSports. Elite is a gametype that pits two teams of three against each other. Every round there are three defenders and one attacker. The attacker has a laser and the defenders have one armour, while the defenders have rockets and the attacker has three armour. So either way, each team has to do three damage to the other team. If there are still players left on each team by a certain time limit, a pole is available to capture. If the attacker captures the pole within about 15 seconds, they win. If they do not, they lose. It sounds a bit confusing, but it is actually quite fun to play. Being the official gametype for ShootMania eSports, I would only recommend this gametype to players who are extremely familiar with ShootMania. The ability to spectate any server allows players to watch top ranked players in action.
ShootMania is quite a good looking game. While it is not trying to dominate the graphics scene, ShootMania’s visuals do their job and the weapon’s have a crisp, glowing, futuristic look to them. When ShootMania is running at 60 frames per second and there are different coloured rockets flying everywhere, you just want to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
Accompanying the visuals is a fitting score. ShootMania’s score is a collection of soft techno tunes while the in-game, and some smooth techno in the menus. It is very fitting of the setting and it never got old or boring. Rockets flying across the screen have a nice fizz to them, too.
Nadeo has created ShootMania to be a game run by the community. While there are some developer made maps, game modes, and weapons, Nadeo has given players the tools to create their own. The map editor has a simple and advanced version, and Nadeo used it to create all of the maps in the game- each one, of which, feels unique. I tried out the map editor and found it quite simple to get the hang of. I do not usually jump into map editors because they can be complicated, but I had a really fun time creating a colloseum for a game type. Hopefully ShootMania will get Steam Workshop integration so server providers can find community maps and gametypes more easily.
Nadeo claims that modders will be able to edit game and weapon options to create interesting and fun gametypes, though not much has come from the community yet. It is worth pointing out that the Australian ShootMania community is not that big and it makes it hard to find a full game anytime except the night time. However, all the other communities seem to be doing just fine, with plenty of European and American players. I would like to congratulate the whole ShootMania community. While other games can have pretty hostile chat environments, ShootMania games are filled with laughs and friendly people.
Another of ShootMania’s editing tools a replay editor, which you can use to create montages of all your great eliminations. I did not really have any idea what I was doing with the editor, but I do not really do much video editing anyway, so I am sure people who know the jargon will have fun with it. Nadeo says they made all of the game’s trailers with the editor. There is also Twitch.Tv integration so you can stream your games live.
ShootMania: Storm is an extremely refreshing, fun, and addictive game in a genre that has been criticised for its rinse and repeat formula. The action is fast, fair, and yet still challenging. At the moment, players seem to favour one gametype, and the player base is not large enough to always find a server for every gametype, however, the game only came out recently. ShootMania is going to be a niche game because it does so many things differently, but it may just be one of the best shooters I have ever played.
+ Refreshing take on FPS genre
+ Addictive, balanced gameplay
+ Interesting twists on gametypes
+ Friendly community
– Community based game with not a big community
– Stamina mechanic not explained