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Preview: Shootmania Storm brings first-person shooting back to basics

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Posted by: Robert Workman

We're spoiled when it comes to first-person shooters these days.  Really, we are.  Not that we don't enjoy them, but players are too often rewarded with perks, or so mentally skilled that no one can really touch them on the battlefield.  But a long while back, first-person shooters were built more around simplistic twitch skills.  I'm talking about stuff like Quake, Doom and Duke Nukem.  There were some mechanics to consider, sure…but it was really all about playing someone on your level and really fighting to survive.

And with that, it appears Ubisoft and the Trackmania developers at Nadeo are preparing to make a journey back to those days this January, when they launch their long-awaited beta for Shootmania, a PC shooter that definitely brings a competitive edge to it.  Ubisoft was kind enough to give us a hands-on demo with the game at a recent event, complete with a recreation of what it feels like to play on the same level as a professional gamer.  We're talking cheering fans, hot dogs and a live play-by-play recap of the on-field action – granted, you won't get this in the home version, but it really does give you an idea of what style of versus play the game's bringing next month.

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We only had the opportunity to try out one map in the upcoming game, surrounding a well-built fortress with "hot spots" set aside for special weapons play, such as sniper rifles.  There were also booster pads that enabled players to jump up to higher levels, so they could shoot at players from a different angle, rather than face them on the ground.  It's a well laid map, but there's a catch – if a certain activation point is reached, it gets smaller.

See, that activation point is a generated shield.  Once a player activates it, which could be seconds or even minutes into the match, the shield surrounding the map becomes smaller, evaporating everything – and anyone – it touches.  It eventually stops when it reaches a very small circle on the map, where players have to battle it out until one team is left standing.  That team wins the round, and the one that wins the most rounds takes the match.  (Other variation types will be available throughout the game, but this one is definitely one of the most exciting.)

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Players have a rechargeable rifle as their main weapon, and they'll need to time their shots wisely, as they don't have access to unlimited ammunition like in other games.  They'll also need to take advantage of certain sniper and defensive points on the map, as this firepower can really make a difference to the team in some given situations.

But along with that, soldiers on the battlefield also have access to other abilities.  For example, they can run along a wall and jump off of it, Prince of Persia-style, to reach a greater height.  If two walls are close enough together, they can rebound to the point that they can reach a higher level, without the need for a booster pad.  There's also a virtual grappling hook that, when activated, allows a player to swing across a level with ease, only to come descending back down to Earth when they let go.  All these combined together, with the right set of skills, really make a difference in the heat of combat.

Along with pre-created maps and soldiers, Shootmania Storm also comes with customization tools, allowing players to create and share their own custom maps.  A developer on the Nadeo team showed us a gate that was constructed literally in a matter of seconds, then interacted with it in a real-time layout.  It's really remarkable, and opens the door for some great designs to come.

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Graphically, Shootmania Storm can't really touch the likes of, say, Black Ops II or Far Cry 3, but it's not meant to.  It's built with awesome shooting in mind, and that's what it does.  The maps we saw are complex enough to keep you running around, yet simplistic in nature, hunkering back to the classic days of multiplayer action.  The animations are smooth, and the visual effects are stunning, whether it's laser beams whizzing by your head or the shield that closes in around you, creating a threatening effect that grows within each second of the match.

Shootmania Storm is bound to be a lot of fun when it launches into its beta on December 19th, and we can't wait to check out more of it.  Even if we don't have those nice little hot dogs or cheering crowds to back us up.  Look for more information soon when it goes live.

Tags: Shootmania Storm, Ubisoft, Nadeo, PC

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