Online shooters have evolved a lot over the last several years. From different classes to unlock-able perks and weapons, they have grown to a point where being competitive means spending a decent amount of time learning the classes and unlocking the extras. The problem with this evolution is sometimes you just want to jump into a game and shoot people without having to worry about other people having an advantage because they have been playing it for a while.
If that describes you, then Nadeo, the team behind TrackMania, may have the answer for you with its newest game ShootMania Storm. The question is, in the crowded world of online shooters, does ShootMania manage to make a name for itself, or will it get lost in the shuffle?
30 Second Review
+ Fun shooter, even if you are not good at shooters
+ Simple controls make it easy to learn
+ Unique modes, maps and environmental hazards/helps
+ Robust map and mode editor allowing for user created content
+$19.99 price point is ridiculously cheap for all this game contains
- Not being adopted well yet in North America
- Controller not supported (need to use XPadder or similar program)
Give Me Something to Shoot
ShootMania Storm‘s basic gameplay is simplicity itself. You control a player who runs, jumps, shoots and occasionally can interact with the environment. That’s it. No weapons to choose or cycle through, as in most of the game modes, which I will discuss later, everyone has the same slow firing rocket-like gun. No perks to equip. Just run, jump and shoot to your heart’s content.
What the game lacks in character configuration, it makes up for in shear adrenaline. Boiling an online shooter down to these basic elements makes for frantic, quick battles as opposed to the often more drawn out matches of other online shooters. This is especially true when you add the fact you can only take two hits before dying and can only fire four shots before having to wait for your gun to regenerate ammo. As the shots move slowly, you have to anticipate where your opponent is going to be, all the while running around trying to make yourself a more difficult target. Each hit you get on an opponent scores you a point, so even if you do not get the “kill,” you still gain something from just hitting someone. All of these elements combine to create a frantic battle that can take some getting used to if you have been playing the more class or unlock-able item based shooters.
While the basics of the gameplay are relatively simple, there are complexities hidden within it thanks to the interactive environments. Maps have areas which, while you are within their boundaries, change your basic weapon into something entirely different, like a mortar launcher that does decent splash damage or an energy ball shot that can latch onto any surface and explode on a short delay. There are various launching pads scattered throughout maps that can send you flying forward, high into the air or both, allowing you to reach otherwise unobtainable areas. There are tracks you can slide on and use to launch yourself, orbs that you can grapple with an energy beam to swing across areas and even walls that will reflect your shot, allowing you to get the drop of your enemies. If that wasn’t enough, you can wall jump and use your shots to help propel you to different areas of the map. Learning to use these tricks can really give you an edge in combat.
Even with all of all of these attributes, ShootMania Storm could easily become a very repetitive game due to its simplistic controls. This is where the various game modes come into play, and this game has several that should interest even the most jaded online FPS veteran.
So Many Ways to Play
There are three basic game modes in ShootMania Storm:
- Melee: This mode is your basic free for all. Winner is the first to reach a set score or have the most points once time runs out.
- Battle: The object is to capture the enemy poles, similar to control points in other games. The difference here is only one team can capture poles at any given time. The attacking team (the one trying to capture) must start capturing at least one pole within a very short time frame, often 15 seconds. If the defending team can keep them from doing that, they become the attackers. This nuance makes for a rather interesting variation to the standard control point battles. If a team captures all the enemy poles, it wins the round. First team to reach the round limit wins.
- Royal: The object of this mode is to be the last one standing. There is a pole in the middle of the map. Once it is captured, you have no respawns; get hit twice, and you are eliminated. Capturing the pole also activates a funnel cloud that starts on the outskirts of the map and slowly closes in toward the pole, stopping just outside the immediate area surrounding it. If the cloud touches you, you die. This hazard forces everyone into an increasingly confined space until one person can finally eliminate everyone else. You score points for hits, capturing the pole and surviving longer than your opponents once the pole has been captured.
These modes alone make for some interesting matches. Getting to an area where you gain access to a new weapon could help you turn the tide in Melee. In Battle, you could be just about to reach an enemy pole when your team suddenly becomes the defenders. forcing you to decide whether it is better to trust your teammates and try to stay near the pole for the next chance to capture or fall back and help defend. In Royal, capturing the pole gives you a nice point bonus, but as everyone is headed there, attempting to capture it can make you an easy target.
While these game modes are fun (though honestly, not many people play the basic Melee mode anymore), where ShootMania really shines is in its variations, both official and user created:
- Obstacle: This variant is basically an obstacle course. Your goal is to navigate the map to reach the capture pole at the end first, going through a series of checkpoints along the way. It can be a difficult mode to handle, as it takes a lot of skill and knowledge of how to use the environment to traverse the map. There is an Obstacle Bootcamp, and I would encourage new players to try that out. It will teach you some of the intricacies of the more complex game controls.
- Elite: Team-based Battle mode with a serious twist. The attacking team has one player trying to capture the opponent’s pole or eliminate all the defenders. That attacker gets an additional armor point, meaning it takes three hits to eliminate him or her, and he or she also gets a laser weapon that fires much faster than the standard weapon but takes time to recharge after each shot. The defending team of three can only take one hit, and it is up to them to eliminate the attacker. Once the attacker is eliminated, the pole captured or the defenders dispatched, the round ends. The other team then becomes the attackers.
- Joust: A one-on-one mode where players do not get regenerating ammo. In order to reload. you must touch one of the poles scattered throughout the map. Winner is the first one to hit his or her opponent the set number of times.
- Jailbreak; This mode is quickly becoming one of my favorites, with Royal being another one. Two teams square off against each other. When a player is eliminated, he or she goes to jail. The goal is to send all of your opponents to jail. What complicates matters is each team has a capture pole that, while someone on the team is near it, allows teammates to escape from jail. Once a team manages to get all of the opponents into jail, they win the round.
These modes are only a sample of all ShootMania Storm has to offer. Not only are there several more official game types, but the game also has all the editing tools of its “cousin” TrackMania, allowing players to create new maps, game modes and so much more. In fact, both Obstacle and Jailbreak were designed by the community, and I expect to see a lot more to come.
I personally did not play around a lot with the editor. Building maps just is not my thing. I did just enough to see how impressive it is, however, and I cannot wait to see what some of the more experienced fans will continue to add to this game.
By the way, you get all of this content for $19.99! That is an incredible price point for such a robust game.
So far, I have done nothing but Praise ShootMania Storm, and for good reason. It does have its problems, however.
Shoot, that could be better
ShootMania Storm suffers from two drawbacks, in my opinion: one minor and one not so minor. The minor one is the lack of controller support for the game.
Now before you start jumping on the “It’s an online shooter on the computer! You shouldn’t play it with a controller!” bandwagon, hear me out. More and more console gamers are turning to PC as we approach the end of this generation, due in no small part to the ridiculous deals you can get on PC gaming. These players are used to playing shooters with controllers, and seeing one without that kind of support will tend to make them shy away from the game. Granted, the controls are simple enough a program like Xpadder can make it playable with a controller, which is how I play. It’s just with Windows 7 and up having controller support built in natively, it does not make any sense not to include it, especially when your game requires numerous adopters to be a success.
That brings us to the other issue, and this one is not so minor. ShootMania Storm is seeing a decent amount of adoption on a global scale, but there are very few people playing it in North America. What does this mean for the average player here? It means in order to really enjoy the game, you have to jump into the world servers and play in matches hosted in other countries. While it is a great thing that the MediaPlanet servers let you do this, playing on servers overseas can lead to a host of new problems, including latency, lag and facing off against a group of players who are quite a bit more skilled than a beginner would be. Granted, you do not unlock anything for being higher ranked in the servers, but familiarity with the game will always give good players an edge.
Standing Out From the Rest
At the start of this review, I asked if Nadeo did enough to make ShootMania Storm stand out within the crowded online shooter arena. In my opinion, the answer is yes. Take the simple yet intricate controls, add in the various game modes and an editor that will allow the game to continue to grow in unexpected ways, and you have an FPS that manages to be unique, something you rarely see in this genre. Taking into account the fact that the two problems I have with the game could be overcome, and you have an online shooter that is worth taking a risk to buy. Besides, $19.99 is a fantastic price point for a game of this caliber.
While this game may not have tried to reinvent the wheel, there is enough innovation here to make it one I will be jumping into from time to time when I just want to shoot something. It’s my hope that enough players from the US and the rest of North America will decide to take a chance on this gem. Trust me; it is worth your money. ShootMania Storm gets a 9 out of 10.