Shootmania Storm combines the creativity of the Trackmania series with a traditional FPS experience, so does it stack up to the competition?
Nadeo's flagship title Trackmania distilled the elements of a racing game down into a simple, but effective formula. By keeping the racing elements relatively basic, it allowed the developers to add in powerful suites for creative players, designing tracks that could be shared online, while the front-end tracked players statistics across their racing endeavours, ranking them regionally and worldwide.
Shootmania Storm is an attempt to apply that template – simple mechanics, with a thriving creative community - across to the competitive FPS. The games that come to mind when first dipping one's toes into the Shootmania waters are older FPS titles. It shares Quake 3's frenzied take on multi-player arena combat and successful players will need precision and unpredictable movement to best their foes across the game modes shipped with the title. The aesthetic of the game is perhaps closer to Unreal Tournament, it looks and feels like you're taking part in a futuristic sport, albeit a slightly corporate looking bloodless one.
In futuristic war, your enemies will handily be bedecked in all the colours of the rainbow for easy
Shootmania is certainly a step back from the 'gun-porn' of the Call of Duty franchise and those that follow in its wake, with only 3 weapons available on release. The rocket gun is your bread and butter weapon, that despite its name is more a sort of arm mounted plasma rifle, with a neat mechanic that adds to the twitchy nature of the combat. Instead of ammunition, the rocket gun charges up to four shots. You can fire all four one after another, or deploy them a little more tactically – it's the age old conundrum spray and pray or take your time to place your shots? While the answer to that is clearly take your time, itchy trigger fingers are commonplace in Shootmania.
Other weapons are contextual or based on the game mode. When stood on a rail-gun platform, you'll fire a long range precision bolt of lightning, familiar again to veterans of the Quake franchise. When using a level's underground passages, you get the third weapon - a grenade launcher of sorts called the Nucleus. Nadeo and publisher Ubisoft explain that there will be a weapon editor available for the game, which will allow you to design your own armaments, however at this point it hasn't yet been released. It's likely the editor will be focused purely on function, as unusually for an FPS you only have a crosshair on your screen, rather than a chunky weapon taking up a large portion of it.
Creating a map worth playing requires a great deal of patience
This kind of pared-back design is characteristic of Shootmania, it's a back to basics title in terms of shooting mechanics, there's none of the levelling, or choosing a class that's prevalent in modern multi-player FPS games. By putting players on an even playing field, it means there are two traits above all that will determine a player's performance – skill and luck. Skilful players will time their shots, predict enemy movement, while keeping their own erratic and unpredictable. Lucky players will fire all four bursts of their rocket launcher at once, and probably by total fluke will hit every member of the opposing team. Sometimes in my experience it can be difficult to distinguish between those who possess the former and those who possess the latter. It should be noted though that often players will miss all of their shots and end up chasing each other around a capture pole in the manner reminiscent of a Benny Hill sequence, as two players inelegantly bunny hop around in circles.
In terms of the different game modes available there are 8 packaged with the title, mostly variations on recognisable themes, though usually with a twist. Royale is similar to King of the Hill, with a central pole for capture and an ever decreasing arena, while players battle it out to be the last man standing. Battle is similar to Domination games, where you capture nodes around the map, however only one team can attack or defend at a time, and each side has different nodes to capture (usually situated close to the enemy team's spawn point). As with virtually anything in Shootmania, if you're willing to fiddle with the scripting, you can create your own game-modes or customise those already available. It will likely not be long before we see more traditional takes on popular classics like capture the flag or domination.
Perhaps the most well regarded aspect of Trackmania was the track creator which produced all kinds of physics defying monstrosities, with loops and jumps aplenty. The Shootmania map creator looks similarly capable of providing players with a wide variety of arenas to face off in. While there is a 'simple' version of the map creator available, the majority of serious creators will want to play with the more advanced tools that allow them to terraform and place objects to their heart's content. The maps that ship with the game while catering for a variety of different modes are for the most part fairly bland constructions, but hopefully the community can remedy that.
Shootmania often rewards campers with a Lightning-themed Rail Gun
In fact 'hopefully the community can improve on this' feels like a sort of mantra for Shootmania. The basic elements are in place for a decent shooter. But the keyword seems to be 'functional' - everything works, but lacks inspiration. The stripped down nature of the title means outside of climbing leaderboards there isn't anything much there to bring you back for more. Nadeo are to be commended with the sheer number of opportunities for player input, as well as map, weapon and gamemode editors, you can design your own title screens for modification, save and edit replays and even create custom animations.
If Shootmania can gather creative types into its playerbase, capable of bringing it new modes, weapons and maps then it could turn out to be a varied and lasting experience. But for now it feels like a shell or wraparound for a game that hinges on players engaging with the myriad tools available. Even the basic mechanics leave something to be desired, movement is a little floaty and the feedback for scoring a hit, is well... defined by the fact I just called it scoring a hit, rather than shooting someone – there's no real punch to the weapons. If you're interested in dabbling in mechanics, creating maps, mods and gametypes, Shootmania is the only FPS that gives you that freedom from the word go. If you're more interested in just shooting things, it's a hard title to recommend on that basis alone.
SHOOTMANIA STORM VERDICT
If Shootmania can gather creative types into its playerbase, capable of bringing it new modes, weapons and maps then it could turn out to be a varied and lasting experience. But for now it feels like a shell or wraparound for a game that hinges on players engaging with the myriad tools available. Even the basic mechanics leave something to be desired, movement is a little floaty and the feedback for scoring a hit, is well… defined by the fact I just called it scoring a hit, rather than shooting someone – there’s no real punch to the weapons. If you’re interested in dabbling in mechanics, creating maps, mods and gametypes, Shootmania is the only FPS that gives you that freedom from the word go. If you’re more interested in just shooting things, it’s a hard title to recommend on that basis alone.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Gliding over the crest of a hill, firing four shots and hitting a target with each. Then pretending you meant to do it.