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shootmania-storm

ShootMania Storm

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By Bobfish28-06-2013
Bis18marck70 (editor)
MrJenssen (editor)

The Defence

Developer:
Nadeo
Publisher:
Ubisoft
Genre:
Shooter
Release Date:
10-04-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 1.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
RAM:
1 GB
HDD:
1.5 GB
DirectX:

The Case

 

There's a storm coming. A manic, laser filed storm. A storm of shots fired in an eager fugue. A Shootmania Storm. See what I did there? Intense, action packed and dizzyingly fast, battle arenas harken back to the days of the rocket jump from those crazy cheese fiends at Ubisoft. How does it stand up in the days of regenerating health and bacon shields for your favourite SMG?

The Trial

 

Now, I'd like to start out by saying, right off the bat: I am not a fan of competitive multiplayer. Not one little bit. But, I love this game!

Coasting to victory!

Coasting to victory!

There's something insidiously compelling about it. It seeps into your brain and scratches you behind the cerebellum, whispering 'play me, you know you want to!' until you can't resist. Fire it up, check how many planets you have... Yeah, they give you planets to build your own solar systems and play God with... okay not really, but more on that in a moment. Pick your game mode, and promise yourself just one match. That turns into two, then four, then ten, then it's the following day and a bacon shield for your gun sounds really good right about now. Bacon is tasty.

But what exactly is this game? What's it all about? What's the deep, subtly woven metanarrative? A complex, multi-layered plot covering generations? Because, y'know, it's Ubisoft. They always do that, right? Not this time. Shootmania is all about the gameplay, which is incredibly simple, but not so much that it becomes stale or repetitive - despite the fact that it is, actually, incredibly repetitive. But it's the good kind. A classic example of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.”

There are a number of game modes, though they all pretty much play out the same way. The only real differences come in the number of players. There's the obligatory Deathmatch (called Melee in the Shootmania world) and Team Deathmatch, which play out exactly as you'd expect. Though, points are granted per hit, not necessarily by kill. With two shields per character, it can sometimes take more than one hit to score a kill. There doesn't seem to be any clear rule on what constitutes a one-hit kill, as I've hit people in the shin, and they seem them drop dead, and put several shots into someone else’s face and seen them keep going. Maybe I just suck.

Cool. I always wanted to play God.

Cool. I always wanted to play God.

A nice variation on deathmatch is the combo mode. A 2v2 variant which requires killing the opposing team within a time limit. Once your duo scores one kill, you have a timer counting down. To win, you have to hunt down and eliminate the other guy or there's a respawn and voila, on you go.

 

Battle mode is akin to the classic Capture the Flag mode, though there are no flags to capture, but instead massive spires on the opposing team's side of the map. The game starts with a mad dash to reach the mid point, with the team that reaches it first being given a few seconds (usually fifteen) to reach one of the spires and start the attack phase. Upon reaching a spore, you’ll stand around it in close proximity until it's been captured. If you step away, or are eliminated, the timer starts again. If one team doesn't reach a capture point in time, it flips round to the other team. If they don't reach it in time it goes back, and so on until one team has captured all of the other team's spires.

Elite, now that's my personal favourite mode. It's similar to Battle, but plays out in 3v3, with only one member of the attacking team active each turn. The goal here, is to either eliminate all three of the defenders, or to capture the solitary spire. However, the spire can only be captured after surviving for a certain time (usually 45 seconds) and the actual capture takes a lot less time to complete. To offset the inherent unfairness of a 3v1 battle, the attacker is given three shield layers and a laser weapon that guarantees a one hit kill. If it hits. It actually makes things a lot more unbalanced than you may think in certain situations. But in a good way. Skill will immediately, and always, be the deciding factor in an Elite game.

Feel the pwnage noob.

Feel the pwnage noob.

There are, of course, many other game modes available, as there is an immensely deep level editor available. This has led to more user generated maps and game modes than you can shake a stick at. I'm not even going to attempt to list them all. Frankly, there isn't enough time in the universe to see them all, never mind talk about them. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of creativity in the Shootmania player base. Some of the maps are visually impressive from a design perspective. Featuring high plateaus, narrow tunnels, boggy marshes and so much more.

Visually, the game itself is decent. Not superb, and it won't win any awards for it's graphical fidelity, but you wouldn't really expect something that is effectively a 21st century set of digital LEGO to be the next graphical benchmark. That really was not what they were going for. The overall impression and ease of access were clearly the driving factors. And the game succeeds expertly in its goal.

Sound effects, gunfire, footsteps and all thats, they're all solid and fit right in, without being anything complex. They're functional and simple, designed simply to enhance the experience rather than stand out and draw centre stage. Which is just another one of those things that adds to the overall experience, a small part of a more significant whole. That's very much a running motif here. The music on the other hand...it was like listening to Daft Punk's OST for Tron Legacy on a continuous loop. It's absolutely incredible. I'd sometimes just sit there in spectator mode, watching what other people were doing, just so I could listen to the superb, techno soundtrack.

Shameless self plug. We are the Judges. Bow before us.

Shameless self plug. We are the Judges. Bow before us.

The control scheme is yet another aspect that's simple and purely functional. Custom key bindings, of course, allow you a small degree of, well, customisation. But as there are effectively only three things you'll ever do (move, shoot and jump/sprint) there are only really six buttons to worry about. The four compass points for movement, your fire button and the 'stamina' button, which is your jump when pressed and sprint when held down. Which allows you to jump and go straight into a sprint when you land if you keep holding it. Hey, you can even 'sprint' in midair to shoot forwards and sort of glide at superhuman speed - because fuck physics.

The Verdict

 

Though I've already said quite a lot, I've honestly only scratched the surface of what's on offer here. The game is what you make it. It really is. If I was to make any real complaint, it would be the planets (see, I didn't forget) as they don't really do anything. They're supposed to be a kind of in-game currency. But since downloading maps and new game modes - so far at least - is free, they seem to be only superficially useful, if at all. However, as Shootmania is a new addition to the Maniaplanet series, I expect we'll see more uses develop for them over time. Perhaps buying entry to competitions with real world prizes?

Case Review

  • Audio: The music is frikkin' incredible.
  • Complexity: The map editor gives you everything you could ask for except diagonals.
  • Replayability: User generated maps and game modes offer infinite diversity.
  • Simplicity: See enemy, shoot enemy, what more do you need?
  • Planets: 'You received 100 planets' sounds good, but what do they even do?
  • Online Only: It's an online game, and I have to have at least one negative point. It's the law!
4
Score: 4/5
Seeps into your brain and scratches you behind the cerebellum whispering 'play me'.

Appeal

ShootMania Storm is a shooter with much less of a focus on firearms than other games within the genre. There are only three different types of weapons, and they are randomly allocated to you each game. Furthermore, you shoot lasers rather than bullets. ShootMania feels a bit like a laser tag. No, the focus here is rather on keeping players in-game for as long as possible. For instance, whilst waiting for a match, players can participate in battle royale-style ‘warm-up’ matches. This keeps even periods of waiting interesting. There’s also a variety of different types of game modes for a variety of ability levels, from beginner to elite. It’s always comforting to have the option to get your rookie mistakes out of the way in an arena specifically for the rookies. The maps themselves, whilst there isn’t a lot of diversity, are quite extensive with lots of cover, tunnels, varied terrain - and each one looks great. The arenas feel very natural, featuring grassy knolls and crumbling ruins. But this design choice feels a bit odd alongside the fluorescent character models, which look a bit like they’re wearing futuristic paintball gear. Still, everything in this game is very nice to look at but, the entire design aesthetic feels a bit bland, lacking any real personality or memorability. Not that you’ll get the opportunity to really stop and look.

Gameplay is fast, frenetic and addictive. I’ve spent many a match going “Okay, I’ll write the appeal after this match...after the next match…after the match after that.” Gameplay feels practically frantic, largely because if the player stops moving for even a second, it could prove to be the difference between victory and defeat. However it doesn’t pay to shoot wildly around as most weapons need to recharge after a few shots are fired. Players are thereby encouraged to make each shot count. Well, as much as one can do whilst desperately jumping around the map, frenziedly trying to avoid being shot by the other team. Which is also what your opponents will be doing. Sometimes shots hit purely out of luck, and gameplay can quickly devolve from strategic to flailing. Whilst the level of skill required to play this game is questionable, the game is still a lot of fun. It truly is a satisfying feeling when the onscreen notification pops up, informing you that one of your shots actually connected with an opposing player. However, the servers are very quiet; I’ve ended up on a map alone more than once. For a game with such a high focus on keeping players in-game, this doesn’t bode well.

3
Score: 3/5

Appeal

Shootmania Storm is a game like no other. It is reminiscent of the games of the old, with some DNA from Quake 3 Arena and the Original Unreal Tournament. It is a fast-paced arena shooter - and those are usually pretty fun, right? The problem here is that Shootmania has the gameplay, but it lacks in content variety. You will spend most of the time shooting the same slow moving laser-rocket thingie at the identical looking virtual people. There are no skins, no classes, perks or other things that every any modern player is accustomed to. You see, Shootmania Storm is an e-Sport title, or at least is trying to be one, and all those slick e-sportsmen don’t need no fancy looking gun models to clutter their screen. It’s all about practicality.

So, being so focused on the sporting aspect, it automatically leaves a lot of people on the other side of the fence, because we know God didn’t give everyone the ability (or will) to grind day in and out to become a professional. Though, this makes it a perfect training game. A game that can help you rule other games. I can assure you that, after playing SM Storm, your reflexes and your ability to predict enemy movement will increase greatly. If it doesn’t, then you are probably hopeless, and should quit online games forever. Now if Nadoe only added bots...

3
Score: 3/5
Comments (2)
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Posts: 2635

It's like Agincourt all over again

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Posts: 1190

Elof. In that "Feel the pwnage noob." screenshot, you just fought a bunch of Frenchies. Doesn't quite count...