Nadeo look to conquer a new online playing field…
When playing ShootMania: Storm it’s impossible not to be instantly reminded of the heyday of the multiplayer FPS. No we aren’t talking about Call of Duty or Battlefield 3, we’re talking about the real golden days, when Epic and id we’re competing for our online affections with Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament.
Like those two juggernauts from yesteryear Storm is a fast-paced and focused shooter experience, and during a recent hands-on we got a taste of just how exactly Nadeo are looking to put their unique stamp on the increasingly competitive shooter genre.
We were placed in teams of four versus four on a few different maps, all of which were focused on capturing team-specific control points to accumulate a target points total before the other team. Starting off on a minimalist rectangular map with a protected spawn point, everyone was armed with a two-hit kill plasma gun limited by a four-second recharge time. However by setting foot on an elevated platform located in the middle of the map players were gifted the use of a one-hit kill railgun, but only while they stayed on the platform; open and unguarded.
Like arena shooers of old, battles become grand ballets of death and destruction with players shooting their opening volleys from afar, frolicking left to right with the strafe button to mix up their movement pattern, before subsequently releasing another volley as the weapon recharges. It’s these moment to moment decisions which make battles so compelling, as a quick one-two combo could have you looking at a respawn screen a matter of seconds after you’ve gotten into battle.
Like Trackmania before it, ShootMania seems deceptively simple at first, but the more you play the more you appreciate the subtle strategy behind proceedings. After sampling a few more of these linear layouts we were thrusted onto a map with four control points protected by castle walls which could be bypassed by jump pads. The joys of shooting enemies mid-air is something we haven’t savoured for years and with walled off control points the match was less about raw ability and more about communication between teammates with players nattering back and forth communicating who was going where, which point was unprotected and of course random expletives to put across their distaste for the guy that just killed them from a dozen yards away.
This strategy was completely eliminated in the ensuing one versus one match which had players duelling to determine a victor, while other players waited in the wings waiting patiently for their turn to play. The trick to this mode was that players spawned with no ammo, and they only earned the right for two shots by racing to one of two alternating capture points, which led to a surprising sense of camaraderie before the inevitable slaughter-fest began.
Despite the charged language used in our descriptions of proceedings, ShootMania has none of the giblets or violent visuals of other shooters. Nadeo believes this factor is crucial in order for ShootMania’s e-sports ambitions to be taken seriously around the world. It’s an interesting point and one which is fully backed up by a map editor which is both simple to use and powerful, thanks to the similar block system used in Trackmania 2. Advanced players can also edit their own scripts while the engine is running in order to change jump pad values, weapon strength, movement speed; the whole nine yards.
ShootMania’s arrival will be preceded by ManiaPlanet 2.0 but TrackMania fans needn’t worry. Nadeo isn’t changing the fundamentals of their online portal, instead they’re just adding the ability for players to sell and purchase map packs, shield designs and other mod commodities in-game with their ubiquitous Planets currency, which again is only earn-able by taking part in the game and won’t be purchase-able with real money.
Honestly we were a bit apprehensive about Nadeo’s chances of offering something new in the immensely popular shooter genre, but our first impressions of ShootMania have put those concerns to bed.
Their simplistic approach to FPS design should facilitate a wealth of possibilities when their tools are in the hands of the community and with the new and improved Maniaplanet system, the line between official and user-made content is blurring together even more which not only legitimises actual creation, but actively encourages it. There’s something very humbling about that, especially in an industry currently obsessed with DLC and controlling the user experience rather than liberating it.
That’s a very old-school idea and one that we’d very excited to see Nadeo return to the FPS landscape. Here’s hoping they’re successful…
ShootMania Storm will be released exclusively on the PC later this year.
Tags: ShootMania Storm
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