Nadeo graviously invited me in to the Shootmania Storm alpha. I’ve been playing around with the late alpha builds, and I am having a blast. Shootmania Storm is a competitive multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) video game bounded with the ideals of the creativity and engine of Trackmania, Nadeo’s claim to fame. Read on for more impressions….
Shootmania Storm is a true genre restart. So many conventions have continued to build up with all the FPS games that it actually feels progressive of Nadeo to revert back to the origin. An FPS is where you move, aim, and shoot. The less forced frills the more likely emergent complexity will spring in to existence. I really feel that is the case with Shootmania Storm.
There is plenty of elegance in the simple mechanics. Movement is conventional FPS controls, but players have momentum. Keep moving forward and players will pick up speed. They can also jump and sprint for short periods. There are currently three weapons in Storm an fast-moving energy bullet, a slow-moving energy rocket with splash damage, and an insta-kill railgun. There is no weapon slot. Instead the weapon is either assigned based on game type or depends on terrain. The energy rockets are automatically equipped in tunnels, and metal platforms become railgun sniper spots.
Instead of ammunition the weapons recharge constantly. Currently the energy bullet weapon can fire off 5 shots before a full recharge, and the other two weapons have one shot before full recharge. Instead of health, players have shields, which can be recharged on other special platforms. The railgun removes all shields eliminating the player while the other weapons take one shield on each hit.
There are quite a few game types, with tellings that players will be able to create their own later. There is normal free-for-all arena and team-based capture point maps with some fun small variations. Royal is a fun variant on king-of-the-hill where a player captures the middle point and causes a insta-death force field to slowly reduce the playing field to a tiny kill spot to ensure there is only one last player standing. Players are rewarded with points on kills and survival rank. My favorite variant is Jailbreak where two teams are pitted against each other for whole-team elimination. Once players are eliminated they are sent to jail, but they can be broken out by team members. I’ve seen some nice turnarounds where a team down many players will come back with a complete jailbreak to wipe out the opposing team.
There are two other “titles” that were in the alpha. These titles can be downloaded through Maniaplanet, I am assuming, once a player owns Storm. (Maniaplanet is the client that will eventually run all Maniaplanet titles like Trackmania² Canyon and Shootmania Storm.) I believe that Nadeo is promoting these as separate things from Storm since they use their own unique ruleset. The first is Joust which is a one-on-one gameplay type. Players are given points based on hits (which don’t cause elimination), but the difference from the rest of Storm is they must keep moving through the map from control point to control point to regain ammunition. If I recall, the winner is the first person to 6 hits with a 2 hit advantage.
The other extra title is Elite, which seems to be the most popular game type of the Shootmania alpha community. It’s 3v3 which pits one attacker on the first team against three defenders on the other team. The attacker is a railgun toting menace that can one-shot the defenders and take a few hits, while the defenders have dinky energy bullet guns. The goal is for the attacker to claim the control point before time runs out (or kill all defenders). If the defenders kill the attacker or keep the control point unclaimed they win the round.
This game requires so much skill, and I am looking forward to the time when the unwashed masses descend on this game so I can play with people that suck as much as me. Many of the current alpha players are really good at picking me off with a railgun through the leaves of a tree while I am trying to dodge in a spastic manner. I am not horrible, but playing against skilled opponents all the time can be tiring. Thankfully respawn is so quick that I feel like I can get right back in to the fray.
Going from Team Fortress 2 or Call of Duty to Shootmania Storm feels like going from a sledgehammer to a scalpel. There is no spray and pray in this game. There was one fight in free-for-all where a player unloaded on me, and I somehow dodged each energy bullet. I hadn’t fired back, and the balance of power shifted in my favor so swiftly it was a glorious feeling. I now had 5 potshots to take with much less threat in my face. Hubris, whether a dumb unload or rushing ahead, is dealt with in a swift manner whenever I see it.
I played a bit of Shootmania Storm followed by Team Fortress 2 last night to get a sense of things. I am pretty decent at Team Fortress 2 on a public server level. I wanted to compare the feel of Shootmania’s main weapon to the Team Fortress 2 Soldier’s rocket. Shootmania feels so much faster, almost twitchy, whereas Team Fortress 2 felt slower. I could more easily lead with a rocket. I was watching two players go at it in spectator mode in Shootmania’s Joust title, and they felt the best movement defense was this erratic, twitchy strafing. It appeared to take a lot of concentration because once bullets started flying a smoother strafing defense was deployed. I hope that like Team Fortress 2, eventually my muscle-memory and brain-derived physics calculations will just internalize the weapon and player movement in Shootmania Storm.
I feel that this requirement of fast-reaction skill is going to make or break Shootmania Storm‘s community. With no solo-type mode during alpha it has been rough learning the ropes. Even a decoy training mode to get a small tutorial would be greatly appreciated. Learning how to lead shots is going to be critical. On the other hand, the system seems to allow for a very high skill level, and if this gets picked up as an eSport I think it could go far. Even in alpha, they are pushing quite a few tournaments at the gaming conventions.
Overall I am pretty impressed with the Shootmania Storm, and I plan on buying it (~$25). I love the atmosphere, and am really enjoying the quick hits of gameplay. Hopefully as I continue to play as target practice, I’ll get to the point where I can run with the wolves.