ShootMania Storm Review
Call Of Duty is a bastard, and if you have even a slight fondness thinking about classic Unreal or Quake then you’ll likely feel the same.
Twitch shooters are no more, the closest equivalent now filled with perks, killstreaks, KDR obsessives and far too many whiny school kids that shouldn’t even be playing it.
So if you do recall hard-won battles in Quake or rocket jumps in Unreal Tournament then you should also consider ShootMania Storm: the twitch shooter is back.
There’s a finely-honed simplicity to ShootMania Storm’s gameplay. Though the maps may change, the underlying mechanics tying all together couldn’t be much simpler.
Left-click to shoot, space to jump. That’s practically it.
As any fan of twitch shooters will know, winning isn’t about who shoots first (a la Call Of Duty) and nor is the victor the one who claims an advantage (a la Battlefield).
The winner of a ShootMania Storm one on one is the player who is most in tune with their prescience, that uncanny ability to predict an opposing player’s movement even before they’ve moved.
And in that sense ShootMania Storm is one of the most intense, most involving, most dramatic multiplayer shooters of recent times.
The Simplicity Of ShootMania
Part of this is the bespoke mode titled Storm. This is your starting point for ShootMania, the equivalent to Call Of Duty’s Team Deathmatch.
It’s fairly original too, well as far as multiplayer shooters go. The match begins with up to 16 players in a free-for-all as they barrel towards the centre of the map.
Here is a single beacon, the objective being to reach it first, claim it as your own and score a handful of extra points as a one-time reward.
Of course everyone aims to do the same, resulting in a fairly mad dash into the centre and an equally frenetic battle once you’re there.
After being captured, the beacon is practically useless. However, with its point reward claimed the beacon then summons the ‘OffZone’, a tornado whose eye becomes increasingly narrow until the remaining players are huddled around the beacon with nowhere else to run.
Trapped here with your back against the wall (or tornado, even), you’re forced into a standoff of sorts as you and any remaining players duke it out for victory.
You’ll resort to single-steps, carefully-timed jumps and that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you your next shot is the most important moment of your life.
That’s ShootMania Storm, and it’s brilliant.
The Glory Days Of Unreal And Quake
It’s clear that Nadeo has spent a long time properly balancing ShootMania Storm, even if its simplicity does belie the obvious depth here.
Though there are three main weapons to choose from, your primary tool will be a sort of quick-burst pulse. Reminiscent of rocket launchers in Unreal Tournament, the trick is pre-empting movement.
You don’t have health, however, but a number of ‘shields’. At most you’ll have three, and get tagged this amount of times and you’re out.
With Storm you’ll respawn as long as the OffZone isn’t active, while in others it’s a brief countdown before your back in the game.
As you improve your shield count decreases; play well and you’ll be reduced to one-shot kills and that’s when ShootMania becomes really tense.
The tricky part is figuring out which enemies have extra shields and which don’t. The game moves so quick you won’t always witness a connecting shot, so you’re reliant on the point marker indicating a striking shot to inform you of your success.
As such, it can be a pain to quickly get vanquished by a player you had presumed dead.
Other weapons include a slow, proximity mine style cannon and an instant-shot Railgun equivalent. These are only active once you’re on certain panels though, and it can be jarring when switching so quickly.
Speed And Precision In ShootMania
Where multiplayer in most twitch shooters is heavily-focused on power control – namely ensuring you have access to a health boost or special weapon before anyone else – ShootMania Storm doesn’t.
In many ways its barebones and, in that simplicity, it might be a little off-putting to those who still play Quake and Unreal Tournament.
But it just means there’s nothing to confuse. You win or you die based on skill, and not on a player’s ability to mark particular zones.
With that said, bunny hopping is an equally important tactic in these games, and it’s here where ShootMania Storm muddies the water a little.
While different panels can switch weapons, they can also switch your abilities. Specified strips of terrain will turn to sprint mode: here the space button will cause your character to increase in speed rather than jump.
Momentum is a considerable part of ShootMania Storm and figuring out not only how to increase your speed but how to maintain it will prove the distinguishing feature between the different levels of players.
But well-timed jumps is just as important, and it can be hugely annoying when – in the midst of a strafing battle with an enemy – your jump button suddenly doesn’t work.
ShootMania’s Different Maps And Modes
The addition of these strips are great and well suited to the fast-paced game that ShootMania Storm is, but using it to turn off the jump button that is ever so important to these games seems like a backwards-step.
Inevitably you’ll learn the maps and know when and where to counteract this issue, but that in itself is a problem. You shouldn’t have to.
Speaking of maps, it’s probably worth noting that ShootMania’s collection of pre-made maps aren’t anything to get excited about. Storm Mode in particular suffers of very similar maps, though a handful do seem keenly built for high-level playing.
It’s in the other modes where the map design proves a little more interesting. Battle Mode is a Capture The Base type set up, with teams taking it in turns to overrun a set of beacons that need to be captured.
It’s a brilliant mode and an entertaining shift from Storm, but the maps are open to a little more variety than Storm – which as a mode is entirely dependant on the centre of a map.
That’s where custom maps come in. As with TrackMania, the map creation tools of ShootMania are in equal parts simple and confusing.
Crafting a perfect, battle ready map will take a long while of tweaking, testing and tweaking again. But it’s still just tile-based.
For the sake of making its map creation tools accessible, Nadeo has once again resorted to using a series of tiles to build its map. It’s awkwardly inflexible as a result, meaning a lot of the maps you create will end up similar without you even intending to.
Map Creation In ShootMania
This is where the community comes in and though it has been proven with TrackMania it’s hard to really ascertain with ShootMania.
Of the user-made maps we played many of them were enjoyable, well put together and designed to an eSports level of consideration.
But watching these games through the eyes of our allies (after invariably getting disintegrated) it was clear that this form of map creation meant that almost always there will be an exploit somewhere.
Time will tell whether ShootMania’s map creation tools will prove as popular as TrackMania, but we certainly hope so – Nadeo’s pre-made maps don’t offer quite enough variety to return to over and over again.
It’s unlikely that ShootMania Storm will appeal to everyone. The audience surrounding dedicated twitch shooters has long since waned, and that’s a shame because it means many will miss out on some epic multiplayer moments here.
What is interesting is that this likely isn’t the final product, either. Even during our review ShootMania Storm was updated to include a new mode, a new weapon and new tilesets for creation.
At it’s core this is reminiscent of the glory days of skill-based shooters, and we urge anyone who thinks themselves a dab hand at Call Of Duty to pit themselves against the best in ShootMania Storm. You will get decimated.
The twitch shooter is back, and it’s time you got involved.
Version tested: PC