ShootMania Storm Preview
Way before recharging health, last stand perks and gravity guns, there was a time when the PC FPS scene was about firing without reloading, rocket jumps to anywhere and vaporising the opposition rather than filling them with different sized pieces of lead.
It was a gaming-era when the allure of the online deathmatch wasn’t in unlocking customisation parts for your favourite firearm but instead in sprinting across the map while lining up one-shot-kills in an instagib showdown.
This is the type of multiplayer experience that Nadeo, the studio behind the excellent TrackMania series, is trying to rekindle.
As the first of three planned instalments that will be set in different environments, ShootMania Storm is a multiplayer-only FPS that’s focused entirely on the act of running, jumping and gunning your way to victory.
There are no classes or character customisation options to mull over – aside from adjusting the look of your back-mounted shield – and if the beta is any reflection of the final product, then the only guns you need master are a quick firing rocket launcher that has minimal splash damage, a sticky grenade launcher that equips automatically whenever you go underground and a laser that functions as a railgun.
You don’t even have to worry about health or ammo pickups. Your gun automatically recharges when left alone for a few seconds and if you take two hits from a rocket or one glance from a laser, you’ll disintegrate before respawning back in the action.
Some of the map creations are quite impressive.
This is the fundamental premise of the free-for-all Melee mode; where the winner is determined by the most hits scored rather than out-and-out kills.
But with eight official modes to choose from in addition to a comprehensive map editor, ShootMania lets you tailor the action without the need for prior modding experience.
The simple map editor offers a basic Lego-style setup where you choose from a range of structures that neatly click together, whereas for players who like to build battlefields with a touch that’s more personal, the Advanced map editor starts you off with a variety of terrain editing tools and a blank canvas.
It’s an elegant system that builds upon the community nurturing focus of TrackMania, and although the beta was lacking the full range of map components for obvious reasons, it’ll be interesting to see what proves popular and what doesn’t when the full game finally releases.
What we can say with some certainty, however, is that ShootMania is designed to be “e-Sports friendly” from the ground up. In particular, the Elite game mode pits one attacker armed with a laser and three armour points against three defenders equipped with rocket launchers.
Both sides can win by wiping out the opposition while the attacker can steal victory by capturing a flag post. It’s an easy mode to spectate as each game lasts exactly six rounds; each round lasts no longer than a minute; and the only character you need to focus on is the trigger happy attacker.
One of the community-created modes, called Sabotage, plays homage to Defuse in Counter-Strike and Search and Destroy in Call of Duty.
But while Elite is all about the three-on-three skirmishes, ShootMania can theoretically support up to 255 players on a single server. Given the limitations of modern bandwidth, its unlikely this lofty figure will be reached anytime soon, but as a reflection of Nadeo’s open-ended and forward-thinking approach to FPS development, it’s clear that ShootMania is built with longevity in mind.
We even got to play one match that hemmed us in with 70 other opponents on a player-created map. Suffice to say that dodging the ceaseless barrage of rocket fire was akin to playing Gradius from a cockpit perspective.
As it stands, ShootMania is shaping up to be a bouncy FPS that’s refreshingly light on gimmicks. There’s no single player element outside of making new maps, no onscreen gun to wave around menacingly and no fancy reload animations.
It’s just you, a hovering pair of crosshairs and a map full of online mouse warriors who want to vaporise each other with purple rockets and red lightning bolts.