Review: ShootMania Storm will rock you like a hurricane... because that's a type of storm
In a first-person shooter genre that's bogged down with modern warfare military clones, it's refreshing to have a game like ShootMania Storm. The Nadeo-developed title harkens back to the days of Unreal Tournament and Quake. ShootMania Storm is a twitch shooter filled with fast-paced, frantic combat and simple controls, but with unexpected strategy. It's not about a ton of weapons with 18-bajillion attachments. It's not about earning killstreaks to take out the whole map with a nuke. It's about the skill of the player. Your success will depend solely on your abilities in the field, where you are equally equipped with all the other players.
It's important to note that Nadeo is the team behind TrackMania – a racing game that ShootMania shares many similarities with. The players move fast, so the movement feels very race-like in nature. The controls are simple. Your movement is controlled by W, A, S, D or your four arrow keys; the left mouse button fires your weapon; and your right mouse button and/or space bar is used to jump and sprint. Those are the controls. There's no swapping between weapons, crouching, throwing grenades – none of that. All you have is your weapon, a few points of shielding (you are eliminated when your shields are gone) and your boost for sprinting.
As a matter of fact, there are currently only three weapons in the game. The Rocket Gun is the standard weapon, firing slower-moving projectiles that takes away one armor per hit. Firing the Rocket Gun at the ground causes a splash effect that will displace but not damage the enemy. Likewise, if you shoot at your own feet, you'll be knocked up into the air. The next weapon is the Nucleus; it's a short-range weapon that you will switch to automatically when you are in a building or tunnel. The Nucleus fires a ball that sticks to surfaces, exploding after a short amount of time or when an enemy walks over it. The last weapon is the Laser. It's a long-range attack (the way you snipe in the game) that eliminates enemies with one hit. Lasers are only equipped on certain pads on the map. When on a pad, you can't jump, and the right mouse button will zoom in instead.
Combat requires a lot of dodging, jumping and sprinting. Leading your shots is essential to defeating enemies, so it'll help you to predict where the enemy is going to be – not where they are. One thing players will have to get used to is not spamming the fire button. Your Rocket Gun holds four shots, with an energy bar that recharges those shots one-by-one. If you fire off all four, you'll have nothing to fight back with while you wait for your ammo to come back. More experienced players will also pull off moves like jumping off of walls.
These maneuvers and weapons will come into play across the various game modes in ShootMania Storm. Consider Shootmania the sport, Storm the league, and then that league having a bunch of game modes. The one I played the most is Battle. Battle puts a red team against a blue team in a frantic battle to attack the enemies' poles and capture them, and defend your own. What's so crazy about this mode is that the attacking team and defending team swap every 15 seconds – unless you capture a pole. Royal was a massive free-for-all deathmatch. Essentially, it starts as a mad rush towards a pole in the center of the map. Before that pole is captured, you can respawn whenever you die; after it's captured, if you die, you're out until the next round. As players are eliminated, a tornado-like wall closes in on the map; if you get caught in it, you're eliminated. It forces players inward, to battle around the pole until one player is left. Rounds continue until a player reaches 200 points.
Another game mode (that I'll probably never play again) is Joust. Joust is a 1v1 match-up with the first player to seven points winning. You have a limited amount of ammo with the Rocket Gun, and must go to a designated pole to refill ammo. What I didn't understand is that, at the end of the time limit, I was winning six to five, yet he won the match. #whatthef
Elite is another competitive mode where two teams of three players fight in a match to nine points, but you must win by a two-point margin. Each round, one attacker from a team is sent against three defenders from the other team. The one attacker has a one-hit-elimination laser weapon and three armor points. The defenders have the standard rocket weapon but only one armor point. If the attacker beats the defenders or captures the goal, the attacking team scores a point. If the defenders win, they score a point.
Other game modes include Heroes, Melee, Siege and Time Attack. For the competitive modes – Joust, Elite and Heroes – there are competitive leaderboards with Ladder Points and rankings. The more people that you defeat, and the better they are compared to you, the more points you get. You also climb in rank by playing Royal and Battle mode. What's great is that you can see your rankings from the menu. For instance, I could see my rankings for Florida, United States, North America, and the World.
I'm not going to waste time talking about visuals, because then we would be missing the point of the game. The game looks pretty; let's leave it at that. The sound is what you'd expect, with a bit of a sports arena feel to it. It could have music, for all I know; to be honest, when the combat is taking place, it's hard to listen for music.
If you're an editing junkie, you'll be happy to know that you have access to the same map editor that Nadeo used to create the official maps. It's the same amazing map editor from Trackmania. From the editor, you can go in and playtest your map, exit that playtest and continue to make changes. Once you're more advanced, you can import your own textures and create your own game modes with new objectives. Replays also get a pretty good editor. You can save the replay of your last round and go in and edit it later. You control everything from the camera angle and character to focus on, to the mood and visual effect of the replay.
ShootMania Storm feels like it was made for eSports glory. With every player on an equal playing field, it's solely about your skill against your opponent's skill. Killstreaks, perks and loadouts won't affect the outcome. It's mano e mano, may the best man (or woman) win. The drive is to win and see your rankings increase. There's even an option to stream to Twitch.tv directly from the game.
However, the same things that are great about the simplicity of ShootMania Storm are the things that may hamper it a little. There's no progression other than ranking. In a day when every game comes with multiplayer, leveling, progression, loadouts, perks and customization, ShootMania Storm has none of that. This will turn off players that like a visual representation of how good they're doing – like a new weapon or costume piece.
That said, ShootMania Storm lets the players speak for themselves. You play the game and its modes how you want. If world ranking, competition and pure player skill are your thing, ShootMania Storm will rock you like a hurricane. Because a hurricane is a storm. Get it?