Shootmania Storm is a wild, crazy, and frantically paced shooter that is surprisingly strategic. It’s not about how many weapons you have, its about how you use them. Your brain is the best weapon you can have in Shootmania Storm, because the odds are pretty much even. Furthermore, your ability to manipulate the field to destroy your enemy counts for everything.
Like I said earlier, Shootmania Storm is a very fast game, and luckily the controls are simple. You control your avatar with the WASD or four arrow keys, the left mouse button fires your weapon, and the right mouse button and/or space bar is used to jump and sprint. That’s it. There is no weapon swapping, crouching, throwing grenades – those don’t exist. It’s actually a refreshing change; the complexities have been stripped down for a more straightforward experience. You’ve got shields of course, but once you lose them, you’re out.
And the simplicity extends to the weapons, as there are only three in the game. You have the Rocket Gun as your standard weapon. It fires slow moving projectiles that take away one armor per hit. Or, you can fire it at the ground to displace (but not damage) the enemy. There is also the option to fire at your feet and send yourself flying through the air. Another weapon is the Nucleus, which is a short-range gun, and you’ll switch to it automatically when you’re in a building or tunnel. When it fires, the ball that comes out the gun sticks to surfaces and then explodes a little later, or when an enemy walks over it. Finally you’ve got the Laser, which is a more long range weapon great for sniping, as it’s also a one hit kill. However, they can only be used in certain areas of the map. Each of the weapons have multiple purposes, and the way that you use the weapons depends on what your needs are. If you can plan ahead, then the optional functions of the weapons really allow for great sneak attacks or full on sieges.
Combat is all about dodging, jumping, and sprinting. Spamming the fire button is not going to help you get through the enemy hordes because you don’t have that many shots and you need to recharge your weapons. Not a long time, but just enough that it might get you killed. Firing wildly is also not particularly helpful, but if you’re smart you can fire in a way to draw enemies out. You might also see more experienced players showing off and firing while jumping off walls.
There are also multiple game modes in Shootmania Storm. For example, you’ve got Shootmania the Sport, Storm the League (which has other modes of its own), and Battle (where most players spend their time). Battle mode splits players into red and blue teams where you basically have an all-out capture the flag battle. However, there’s a twist that will keep you on your toes: the attacking and defending teams switch every 15 seconds, unless you capture the enemy’s pole (your flag). There’s also Royal, which is a free for all deathmatch. First you rush towards the pole at the center of the map, and before the pole is captured, you’ll be able to respawn when you die. But once it’s captured, your death is permanent until the next round starts. Once players start getting eliminated, you’ll see a wall close in on the map and if you get caught by it, you’re out. It forces players to play inward instead of lurking at the edges, so all you’ll see is a huddled mass of fighting near the pole in the center as the game goes on.
Another game mode is Joust, which I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of. Joust is a 1v1 match where you play until someone hits seven points. You start out with a limited amount of ammo, and in order to refill, you have to go to a pole. It’s fine, but gets a little tedious, and because it’s not as exciting as Battle, you can get a little bored.
Elite has two teams of three duking it out in a match until someone hits nine points. But there’s a catch: to win, you have to have a two point advantage. Each round, one team sends out an attacking player against the other team’s three defenders. But the attackers get some major help in the form of a one hit laser weapon and three armor points. The defenders have the standard rocket weapon, but only one armor point. If the attacker beats all three defenders or captures the goal, then the attacking team gets a point. If the defenders win they get a point, and it goes on until either team hits nine points.
There are other modes like Heroes, Melee, Siege, and Time Attack. Competitive modes have leaderboards with Ladder Points and rankings. The more people you take out (especially if they’re higher ranked than you), the more points you get. You can also improve your rankings by playing Royal and Battle mode. You’ll be able to easily see your rankings on the menu. For example, I saw my rankings for New Jersey, North America, and World. Let’s just say I’ve got a lot of playing to do to become number 1.
The visuals of Shootmania Storm are pretty awesome, which makes sitting out and watching the battles very gratifying. The sound design is really nothing special. You can hear the weapons clearly, but there is no music to speak of. But in this game, music would be wasted, as you probably wouldn’t be able to clearly hear it. Just make your own personal soundtrack. I, for one, liked listening to Nightwish’s The Tarja Years while playing.
There are also bonuses in Shootmania Storm. If you like map creating, developer Nadeo has given players access to the same editor that they used to create the game’s official maps. If you’ve ever spent time with Trackmania, then you’ll be familiar with how it works. While you’re in the editor, you can playtest the map, exit, or continue to edit. As you get better, you can start importing your own textures and create your own game modes with objectives. Replays also have a pretty smooth editor for you video makers. You’ll be able to save the replay of your last round and then edit it when you’re ready. You can control the camera angle, choose what character to focus on, and alter the visual effect on the replay. It’s pretty intense, and you can really lose yourself editing instead of playing. And let’s not forget the ability to stream to Twitch.tv directly from the game.
I’ve been raving about the simplicity of the gameplay and while I do love it, it does limit Shootmania Storm in a way. You can’t progress in any way other than rankings, and you can’t get bigger and better weapons or armor. You can’t customize your characters look. And in a world where multiplayer thrives on that kind of thing, I can see Shootmania Storm turning some people off.
But in the end, Shootmania Storm is a lot of fun. There is so much competition, so many ways to play, and so much strategy that if pure skill is your thing, then you’ll love it. Shootmania Storm will thrill you, and maybe even keep you enraptured. Either way, it’s a great step in keeping shooters fun.
(Note: Shootmania Storm was reviewed after 20 hours of gameplay on the PC. This copy was purchased by the reviewer).