Shootmania Storm

Listen up grumpy old gamers, it’s time to grab your easy-open arthritis medicine, glue your toupees on extra tight, and buckle up for some old school shooting!  These punk kids today with their Battlefields and Calls of Duty are all a bunch of spoiled little sissies!  Back in the old days, we knew how to do online shooting.  No Perks, no Experience Points, no infinite series of unlockable upgrades and customizations.  Our shooters were brutal competitions where skill alone determined who survived and who got gibbed.  The new game Shootmania Storm is here to bring back the glory days of competitive online PC shooting, and these kids can go cry to momma if they don’t like it!

Back in the late 90’s, games like Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena ruled the internet, and anyone with 16 megs of VRAM and a 56k modem could dial up some hardcore shooting on their PC.  This was before the days of paid DLC, so when a publisher put out an online shooter, they made the game as brutal-yet-balanced as they could, then threw it out to their community.  The players then created their own mods, maps, and game modes, refining the experience to suit their chosen play styles.

This is what’s going on with the new shooter Shootmania Storm.  The developer Nadeo has released a multiplayer-only game with no campaign mode, and no tutorial.  Players are tossed into an online arena to fend for themselves in a dangerous, confusing place.

Shootmania uses a science fiction setting for the fights, but there’s no backstory.  The red team fights the blue team.  Or it’s every man for himself.  End of story.   It is going to divide the gaming community; players will either love it or hate it.

The players who will hate Shootmania are those who can’t image a game without all of the features that have been added to shooters over the last decade. People who loved playing Rocket Arena back in the days of Quake will love Shootmania. “Rocket Arena” was one of the popular mods for shooters long ago.  This was the one that separated the Men from the boys.  Bouts were fair and balanced, but also swift and brutal.

Shootmania is entirely skill-based, and players who put in many hours of play gain no advantages aside from the knowledge they learn.  It doesn’t have any sort of perk system, and there isn’t a series of unlockable upgrades to the arsenal.  In fact there’s no arsenal at all, just a handful of weapons.

All of the guns have a couple of things in common.  They fire slow projectiles, and only hold a few shots at a time.  Players will need to “Lead” their targets, anticipating their enemy’s movements, and fire at the place they will be in half a second.  This means that skilled defenders can confound their enemies by weaving and jumping, while smart shooters will learn to evaluate their prey’s tactics.

Every gun has unlimited ammo, but they can only fire a few shots before they need to recharge.  Some guns only have a single shot, but even the “High-capacity magazines” in Shootmania on hold four rounds.  The spray and pray attitude of noobs with m-60’s in modern military shooters is not an option here.  Soldiers will have to aim carefully and keep a cool head.

There is a shield, but it doesn’t provide much defense; in some matches a single hit spells instant death.  Even in the more generous modes the shield is usually limited to two or three hits before the Player dies.  This limitation combined with the small amount of ammo that guns can hold means that combatants will often engage in heated duels that end quickly.  It’s not uncommon to see two players kill each simultaneously in this game.

Because the shields aren’t very protective, jumping is an important tool for evading enemy projectiles.  The characters have super-human jumping abilities that make them extra hard to hit when on the move.  This is limited by a jump meter that quickly depletes when in the air, but also quickly recharges.  It prevents players from exploiting their jump powers, but still makes them a useful tactic when fighting.

The designers have still made it relatively friendly for noobs, in terms of matchmaking,  There are servers dedicated for “Beginners”, and when players create a custom server they can flag their game as not for newbies.  In most other respects, Shootmania doesn’t do much to help new players.  There is no tutorial at all, and each game mode will have to be puzzled out on its own by players who’ll need to decipher what locations on the map they are supposed to attack and defend at any moment, or what the significance of each counter means.  Vague warnings won’t help first time players avoid the sudden appearance of a tornado that devours most of the map!

Once players get the hang of the basic modes and maps they’ll have the option of contributing to the pool of maps and game types.  Here Shootmania thrives!  There is a level editor that is very accessible to new users, and its fundamentals can be figured out in mere minutes.  It uses a block-based system that allows players to create walls and buildings for their levels without having to master a complicated system.  These can then be shared with the whole community.

There is also a scripting option so that players who host a match can add in their own custom variables to it.  Players who can’t write custom scripts can still tweak some variables when hosting a game too.

Shootmania is still a young game, only launched a few days ago as of this writing.  It has the potential to introduce this sort of highly-competitive gameplay to a new generation if it takes off and gets some mainstream success. Even if it doesn’t cause a revolution in how online shooters are made in the future, it will still bring a lot of nostalgic mayhem to players who remember this stuff from the old days.