The Rocket Arena Is Reborn
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There are a lot of shooters available on the market today, not the least of which in the genre would be those of the first person variety. Some believe that first person shooters today have nothing on those of old, and if you're similarly minded then this might be the game for you.
ShootMania Storm is a game built off the premise that the old school ways were the best ones: Fast and frantic action is the dish being served, no garnishing or fancy appetizers may come along with this meal. As an FPS, this game shares more in common with Quake and Unreal Tournament than it does with Call of Duty or Battlefield, which can be like a breath of fresh air since there's been an inundation of aim-down-the-sights and cover based shooters. ShootMania has a severe focus on being an FPS for classically minded gamers, with plenty of game modes currently available with more on the way.
There's literally no story to ShootMania Storm: Upon loading up the game you'll be thrown into a menu that looks as if it is more suited for a tablet user interface than for a PC. Large square panels will be visible onscreen, showing a few of the various game types after signing in. The menu is somewhat unwieldy, but most players won't be spending their time there. Players can jump into a server and begin playing almost immediately.
While the arena is being loaded, keybindings will be shown onscreen to the player, which is convenient, but some things are left to the imagination and aren't explained in game at all. For example, rather than having the player manage an inventory, stepping across certain spots in some modes will force the player to use a different weapon, changing the rocket launcher main weapon into the sniper rifle-like laser and exchanging the jump/sprint button for a zoom function. That is something that would be nice to know before stepping onto a plate that suddenly changes your weapon in the middle of a firefight for the first time. Sometimes players were typing confusedly into the in-game chat not understanding why such an occurrence happened multiple games in a row, completely unaware that the plates littered about the landscape aren't simply decorations but integral to combat.
ShootMania eschews ideas such as tutorials and...really anything that's not just move and shoot. To shoot, you'll be using weapons such as a plasma shot-esque rocket launcher, a pulsing green blast that has a somewhat slow projectile speed. This is one of the many ways in which this game bridges the skill gap: Hitting a fast moving target with a slow moving projectile is one of the first things a player must become acclimated to while delving into what this game offers. It's because this weapon is perennial, ever-present across all the available game modes. There are, of course, other weapons that can be utilized, stepping on certain plates or in some of the tunnels on the maps can trigger the weapon to change to the sniper rifle-like laser, an explosive area of effect weapon called the arrow as well as a sticky grenade launcher. Some weapons are defaulted per game type, and the newest mode, Combo, allows you to switch your weapons manually. Otherwise, your weapons change depending upon where you're standing.
Now, let's talk about the meat of any multiplayer focused title: the game types. There is quite the variety of modes to play, with more seemingly on the way. Combo, referenced above, was just released around a week after the game's release and is an absolute blast to play, being a mode where players can actively switch their weapons.
Storm is what a lot of players in-game referred to as an introduction or, 'Rockets training' mode, which might be accurate. Players begin with the rocket launcher and gain points for hitting an enemy, capturing the pole in the middle of the level or being the last player standing. If a player takes three hits, they're out for the remainder of the round and the namesake tornado encircles the map every so often, forcing players into the middle and dissuading campers. It's fast, frenetic and a great way to learn the physics of the game.
Elite is a mode that might be familiar to some, in this type a member of one team tries to capture a pole while the entire opposing team defends. It might sound unfair, but the attacker gets shields, that is to say a number of times which they can be hit, equal to the number of defenders, but the players defending only have one shield a piece. The attacking player also gets the long range laser weapon, but that player can't just sit back and snipe the enemy team-there's a strict time limit that must expire before the pole can be captured, and once it can, the attacker must be next to it within 15 seconds. So there's sure to be some close quarters combat going on pretty regularly.
Joust is a dueling mode where players begin with no ammunition, so they have to recharge their weapons by going to one of the various poles littered about the map.
Heroes is a pole capturing game like Elite, except it's 5v5, there's multiple poles and each team has different weaponry. Defenders get to use their trusty rocket launchers while four people on the attacking team has lasers and one has the sticky grenade launcher, and the goal of the defenders is to keep the attackers from capturing the poles.
There are more modes to play on top of these, with more on the way. Another interesting thing about this game is that user generated content is a heavy focus. User generated game modes and maps are pretty easily integrated and played. Players can also rent or use their own servers for play of this game, or to host their own maps from the editor that's located directly in the main menu of the game. Players can create their own game types, maps: there's even supposed to be tools that will allow gamers to make their own guns and integrate them into a user generated title pack for easy play and distribution. This kind of focus is a fantastic concept in an age of strangling publisher control. The tools are simple enough to use, so placing around tiles and landscape objects on a map isn't a tremendous hassle, and thanks to the Mania Planet integration getting your creations out for other gamers to experience seems like an incredibly smooth process.
A simple and advanced editor both exist, each of which has their advantages and disadvantages, but thankfully sharing content is still just a simple click. Because what use is user content if no one but the creator plays it? It's nice that custom content is so easily distributed among gamers, and ease of use ensures that the respective editors won't be forgotten later on down the road.
As it currently stands, it's hard to find a game with other people in North America. This is a competitive online multiplayer game but unless you get on at specific times of the day you may have to join servers where your connection speed can't compensate for the distance between yourself and the server, causing a lot of lag. The community is quite helpful and a lot of players do use the chat for things other than just trash talking (a nice change of pace), but sometimes it can be difficult to get to an active server and experience the great populace without being buffeted by latency issues.
To summarize: ShootMania is an eclectic barrage of action that is as much of a game as it is a toolbox with which competitive gamers can exercise their creativity and play skill. There's a lot of game modes to ShootMania already, and there's going to be a lot more coming. It's a game that seems extremely simple on the surface, but has a lot of unexplained complexity that could deter less competitive or pervasive players from fully enjoying what this game has to offer if they go in blind.
There is a kind of gracefulness in this game's straightforward, classic approach. Those wanting perks, experience and weapon unlocks should probably avoid this game (unless the Royal Exp mode becomes more than just an experimental game type), while those yearning for a more classic, skill intensive first person shooter should feel right at home after conforming to this game.
Vincent is an RPG lover and masochist who constantly gets beaten in online fighting games. When in doubt, Shoryuken or Megidolaon. You can write him at : PookandPie@gmail.com.