Category: First-person shooter
I love FPS games just as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s impossible to compete with someone online who lives, breathes and eats games like Call of Duty and has amassed the highest skill levels and bought all the higher-end weapons to ensure you stay away from their well-protected domain. That’s why the idea of Nadeo’s Shootmania Storm was so enticing to gamers like me: a multiplayer FPS where the odds are always in your favor and where no one ever has an advantage over anyone else? Consider me sold! Well after a frustrating three-month delay, the full release of Shootmania Storm is finally upon us in all of its equal arena gameplay and customizable glory. I thought the game showed incredible promise when I first had the chance to check out its second beta phase back in January, so how does the final release match up now that the full storm has been unleashed?
As I discussed in my preview of the Shootmania Storm beta, the multiplayer shooter is sort of like The Hunger Games meets the futuristic characters of the Tron: Legacy universe, with a heavy emphasis on customization. For those who are new to the ManiaPlanet interface or have never played Nadeo’s sister game TrackMania before, there might be a slight learning curve to finding your way around the Shootmania menu screens. Basically, as you play Shootmania Storm and figure out which features and game modes are your absolute favorites, you can add these different channels to your main home screen for easier access: sort of like the customizable home menu of the Nintendo Wii’s interface. The full release of Shootmania Storm unlocks a wider range of game modes to partake in, from Joust, Heroes, Royal and the experience-earning Elite matches. Objectives will differ between them, from “last man standing” scenarios to capture-oriented goals, but one of my favorite game modes is the team-based control point challenges, which really force you to adapt to the ever-changing cycle of environments at the drop of a hat.
Another great feature of Shootmania Storm is the inclusion of designated servers for beginner players, which offer a casual playground for newcomers to get their feet wet. With the sheer simplicity of gameplay and highly customizable nature, everyone has the power to fine-tune their Shootmania Storm experience to fit their personal playing style. The lobby interface will also indicate when game rooms might be a little more difficult than your current playing level; although I’m not really sure how this is determined, since one of the biggest drawing points of the game is a leveled playing field across all users. You can earn experience points and gain “levels” in the game, but they’re sort of arbitrary designations and don’t really seem to directly correspond to anything else that’s in the game. If I scrape by in dozens of matches every day, I’ll be guaranteed to go up a few levels, but that doesn’t attest to how good or bad I might actually be at the game. It also doesn’t change the fact that the experienced player next to me is also blindly thrown into the next map and forced to think on their feet and quickly gather their bearings as well. To this end, there are no character customization screens or bonus perks and attributes that can be unlocked to give you an upper hand. This is FPS at its basic, purest form.
I was very impressed with Ubisoft’s online servers, as it was always extremely easy to join another player’s game or create my own lobby. There’s also an oddly placed option for local play as well, if your buddy wants to bring his desktop setup over to your house or something and get your “shoot” on side by side. But one thing that did bother me about the matchmaking setup was that I could never get a preview of the different kinds of maps that were included in a lobby’s rotation, besides a very unhelpful text-based list of the map names. For a shooter with such a heavy emphasis on user map creation, I thought we would at least have seen a little thumbnail of what each map in the cycle would look like. I think the intention here was to keep up with the whole “leveled playing field” dynamic, by having the terrain of every match be a complete surprise to all the contenders. But if the developers are willing to offer a two-minute “warm up” period to let players get accustomed to a map before each round begins, then I don’t really see the harm of a little picture preview thrown in there as well.
As I was playing, I noticed a lot of tiny, graphical improvements over the latest beta version, right down to the way the different buttons on the menus positively light up and stand out now. However, while Shootmania Storm is easily a more polished version of the game we last saw in that beta release earlier this year, I still felt a little underwhelmed by the sparse additions of new features to the game’s final build. In my many hours spent with the game, I only managed to come across two of the reported three weapon types: the default rocket launcher-esque plasma blast and a stringy laser gun, which was a breath of fresh air for the FPS gameplay. I guess I was also expecting a bigger range of textures to give some variety to the dilapidated ruins that prevail in the game, which becomes most notable in Shootmania’s fantastic level editor mode. The game offers different skins for certain blocks that you can add to your custom arenas, but the only thing I was ever able to do with what the game gave me was to add a slight blue or gold tint to the trees in my arena, which you might have guessed was a little less than exhilarating. But still though, I can’t say I’ve ever played the same map twice in Shootmania Storm; and at least we have the snowy Cryo environment to look forward to later this year and the as-of-yet still unannounced third environment pack.
The most notable addition to the Shootmania level editor in the final release is the option of choosing between land and water-based arenas (awesome!) and selecting a time of day to set the mood for your respective levels: sunrise, day, sunset or night. The different time elements affect the atmosphere of each arena in a really big way and it’s amazing how such a simple option can change the entire dynamic of a map. It is in these moments that the graphical prowess of the Nadeo engine really shines, where looming spotlights cast lively shadows on the broken walls of night environments and the purple skies at sunset reflect beautifully against the shimmering water. You still have the option to use the simple level editor when working on your maps, although the features are much more limited and restricted to what you will find in the advanced map mode, which I wholeheartedly recommend you try, regardless of your experience with the game.
In the end, Shootmania Storm treads an intricate balance between two conflicting “less is more” and “more is better” mindsets: but oddly enough, it somehow works in this context. There aren’t many weapons or long-term progression goals, but you’ll always seem to find a reason to keep coming back for more. Whether you’re a seasoned FPS veteran or someone just trying to get into the genre, Shootmania Storm has a home for you. The game always seems to offer the perfect dose of simple shooter fun, whether you only have a few minutes to zap some foes into vapor or hours on end to create an intricate labyrinth with hidden corridors and gravity pads. And as a lasting experience, Nadeo’s dedication and involvement with the title after its release is already prevalent, with tons of unique contests and player tournaments already being offered on a weekly basis, and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Pros and cons:
+ Great customization
+ Very easy to pick up and play
+ Strong servers and fan dedication
– Lacking in diverse textures
Graphics – 8/10
Gameplay – 8/10
Music – 8/10
Multiplayer – 8/10
Replayability – 8/10
Total Den of Geek rating – 8.0/10