ShootMania: Storm Review; Putting skill back in the shooter
I have been playing ShootMania storm since the launch of its beta and must say that I have never been more surprised at the outcome of a game than this one. At the announcement of the game, I expected it to be like TrackMania, a great racing game that really owes itself to the community that surrounds it. ShootMania is a different game, as the mechanics work completely on its own, and even if the level building community was nonexistent, would make a fantastic multiplier game.
In ShootMania, the only experience you gain is through improving your skill playing the game. There are no weapon choices, skill choices, or even a weapon pick up. Everyone has the same weapon unless the game mode or area of the map modifies it. For example, you will only have the long range sniper weapon when you are in specified sniping locations, otherwise it reverts to the default four shot blaster. This mechanic is fantastic, as it forces players to use weapons in their designated spots, and nothing else. Since you can only have one weapon at a time, if you are caught in a sniper zone already having fired off a shot and waiting for it to recharge, and someone shoots you outside it, the only way you can change weapons is from leaving the perch. It creates a dynamic risk reward gameplay that is unlike anything out there today. In short, this is a game that makes Counter Strike look like it has a balance issue.
The basic gun also is fantastic. It will fire up to four shots before running out of energy, which is always recharging, so it creates a dynamic of precision vs number of shots, and especially since the main gun fires slowly, it also creates a risk reward dynamic. Another fantastic addition to the system is the removal of kills as a score counter. Instead, hits take its place. Instead of having to kill someone, each hit is a point to yourself, and a kill counts for nothing except elimination of that player, and this takes the focus off of stealing kills, to being accurate and getting points.
The modes in this game are also completely different. There is not a single recognizable mode from any other shooter. There is Royal, which is a one life free for all, where after a minute a tornado will engulf the map, forcing players to capture the pole in the middle, and Elite, which two teams of three vs three are swapped from offense to defense, where the defense has three players with normal weapons and the offense has one player per round with a one hit kill weapon. They work brilliantly and are some of the best modes I have seen in a first person shooter in years. After all, you can only play Capture the Flag so many times.
My main complaint with the gameplay is the ability system. There is an ability meter which is used by clicking either the right mouse button or the spacebar, and changes based on location in the map. The problem with this is that the main ability, is not very good, and while it does have a run feature it is restricted to specific pathways, and the main ability is to glide after a jump and sort of hover around, which also helps to move faster running. It is a confusing system that is still necessary to learn, and I feel it would have been better for the main jumping ability to not have existed.
For a 2013 PC game, ShootMania is not much to look at. The visuals are not stunning, nor are they against normal conventions. Instead, ShootMania’s graphics simply get the job done without much visual fuss. They are not by any means stunning, and you wont be bragging to your friends about them any time soon, but in the end, they simply work. For a 2013 PC game, my computer handled this surprisingly well with only a GTX460, so I would expect this game to run on almost all computers purchased in the last four to five years easily, and I feel that might have been half of the point.
The Music is in the same category as the graphics as it only gets the job done. The music is fine, but nothing you will be humming in your head after you play Royal for three hours. It sounds similar to the music in Bejeweled 2, if that makes any sense. It has this type of 90′s techno vibe, and it feels similar to the music in Quake and games in the same category, which does help as it is trying to hit that old school shooter demographic, people who play games such as Unreal, Quake, and so forth.
I have been playing this game for weeks while it was in open beta, and I will continue to play it as long as it remains popular. This is a fantastic break from conventional norms and it frees me from upgrades and unlocks, being beaten by players with a nicer weapon, and better perks. This finally equalizes the shooter genre, and makes the perfect game for e-sports. If you like PC shooters, and want a break from modern multi player conventions, there is no reason to not pick this up.