howl /// Friday April 12 08:11 2013

http://www.maniaplanet.com/shootmania/

PC - ShootMania Storm

First Impressions

Right from the start you become part of the maniaplanet. With a click of the biggest button you can imagine you can start your very first game of ShootMania Storm and get into the action as a beginner. I had no idea what I was doing and it didn't matter. I already knew how to play, being a Quake and Unreal veteran. The things I didn't know I learnt in next to no time. It's all new, yet instantly recognizable.

What was most striking however was that I was elated. ShootMania was just pure FPS fun that I have had countless hours playing before in other games. I loved having that feeling again, as the burdens of modern shooters all just lifted away. There were no @#$&*@!'s, there was no hacking. Just people running around, shooting the place up and having fun. A fresh community experience that had not yet been overrun by the trolling horde (at least in my region).

ShootMania screams eSports with displays of who is leading the pack at the spawn point and constant updates of what's happening on the field. It's such a relief to have something that feels traditional but has some twists to breath new life into a tried and tested formula for the genre. Just keep your eyes on the action rather than the readouts as a single moment of distraction can be fatal.

maniaplanet

The maniaplanet interface is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. It's rather slick, it very successfully imparts the notion that there is a large range of experiences to be found and played. In other ways it can feel rather slow and clumsy since many operations that are performed start with accessing the internet and you sit there wondering if its working or not. maniaplanet is basically a game browser that works over the internet and you have to set your expectations to that.

I can see what Nadeo is going for, it just doesn't quite work yet. Want to open the in-game store? Well good luck finding it using the mouse. Its just easier to type "Store" in the address bar. With a little time it all becomes obvious once yet "get" how everything is arranged. You can install new game types into your "stations" to access them quickly. Its just that maniaplanet will cause some initial confusion for the uninitiated.

There is even an in-game currency called "Planets" that you can earn while playing games or by having people buy content that you create. Want to advertise in the game itself? Spend some planets and have people see your important messages.

Tetris

I also stumbled upon a pretty authentic Tetris clone while I was playing around with maniaplanet. No idea how I started it up (thanks interface!), but it's actually a pretty fun diversion. Just remember to mute the music as its chip-tune audacity will cause your brain to try to escape your ears after a few minutes exposure.

Just enter "Tetris" into the address bar and you're set to go.

Mechanics

ShootMania Storm is every other Quake and Unreal style FPS you have ever played. A combination of skilful and tactical play is needed. Good tactics can overcome a player that is better skilled than you as there are many opportunities to trap an opponent, so use them well.

To succeed you must learn how to feint and predict a player's movement well. You will need to shoot the air at an intercept point for the players movement relative to your own. I have amusingly at times dodged attacks by simply standing still, since most people assume you're going to feint and aim at your predicted feinting locations. Just don't stand idle for long...

You don't need to pick up ammo, its infinite,  however it comes at the cost of weapons energy, shoot too much and you may be caught out when an opponent is 5 feet away and about to bunny hop your face. Best hope you have a shield up, as many game modes will count you out after 2 hits.

I only have a rocket launcher? ShootMania combat, in the general sense, is driven by a surface area mechanic, where you get to use different weapons and have different types of movement based upon where you are standing. Your default weapon is a rocket launcher. Stand on a rail gun platform, you shoot rails, stand in a grenade launcher tunnel, shoot grenades, stand in the null weapons zone and... get the hell out of there since you're about to be vaporized. Changes to your reticle indicate what weapon you can fire including whether you can fire at all.

Want to run fast? Then hop onto a super highway and press the boost button and watch the world flash past, and perhaps your life too if you stay running in a straight line for too long. You can't bunny hop off of them to save your hide and at the end of them you might not have any boost energy left to get out the way. Want to be stuck to the ground and become a lame duck? There's a platform for that too.

Wall jumping is now the norm, catapult jumps that will send you flying up onto high terrain and jump platforms will allow you to get some serious air, the perfect accompaniment to a wall jump for that death from above kill.

The humble space key gives you the ability to jump (or bunny hop as you normally do) boost and glide, all depending on your current attachment to the ground. The glide ability allows a skilled player to get some serious movement advantages, and as its name suggests, you glide through the air in a gravity defying fashion that seriously drains your boost energy. Just don't play as the duck once the duck shoot begins.

To train you in the art of the glide there is are obstacle course arenas that are just about getting from one end to the other using ShootMania's advanced movement techniques. These courses will train you well if you have the patience for them, they can be seriously hard.

Don't get carried away with all these movement options though,  they will use up your boost energy fast and can hinder your escape from a un-winnable match-up. Just like the water does. Lucky you can rocket jump!

When a player is eliminated from the arena a ghost will remain on screen for a few seconds which may cause other players to shoot the air of where they are as it can be easily mistaken it for a player in the heat of battle, wasting valuable weapons energy. I'm trying to get out of the habit.

Living up to ShootMania's name, a players can capture poles that summon a deadly storm that will herd players to the centre of a map in a Hunger Games fashion. The tricky part of the storms is that you cannot always see them if you're inside a structure, and it can sometimes be hard to spot the boundary on the dusk and night time maps when you're in a spot of bother, but you sure as hell can hear it.

The Long Haul

Leaderboard'. Thats your long haul in one simple word. You have a rank that is tracked from a world region, down to your individual zone within a country. Play well and watch your rank increase dramatically. Inspecting other players rank while playing can be a handy indicator as to whether you're about to get vaporised. There are multiple leaderboards depending on what games you're playing.

I don't normally concern myself with on-line leaderboards. They are such notorious targets for hacking, as even the briefest glance through the iOS game leaderboards will show, but in ShootMania it's rather gratifying seeing your rank leap by 600+ places by doing well in a game.

Since ShootMania is powered by players, the enjoyment that you will get from it is dictated by those same players. My region doesn't have that many players at the moment, so I've had rather limited choices in the game types that I could play. I don't fancy going up against people on servers in Europe for obvious reasons.

I played the Royal and Battle game modes mostly, as they were the most populated. Luckily they are both great fun and I enjoyed myself a lot. I'm looking forward to getting some Elite and Joust games in, once people start playing them more.

Map Editor

Modders rejoice. An in game map editor allows you to create your own game and comes in a simple and advanced mode. I had a crack at it and it was easy to create a map to run around in it and test out. Certainly a lot more accessible than many editors I've used before.

The community has already gone wild and there are so many game modes that they can't all be listed and described. Just hope there is a server for what you want to play, that's in your region and has a good ping.

Final Opinion

ShootMania Storm, I have noticed, tends to have a polarizing effect on people. They seem to either love or hate it. It distils the classical FPS experience into a pure form, while still offering those small twists that give something new that skilled players can take advantage of.

As a player, I've pulled off amazing trick shots that should never have had a hope of hitting anyone and they feel great and are incredibly rewarding. When you get hit by a trick shot, you tend to have a laugh after the initial burst of shock or frustration because you acknowledge the skill that it can take (if its not just blind luck). Though some of my victims of the grenade launcher drop that I perfected, might have a different opinion.

When you buy ShootMania Storm, you are not just buying into a single game but into an entire gaming franchise, complete with a FPS construction kit. A franchise I am quite embarrassed to admit I had never heard of until ShootMania. I'd never been one for racing games outside of Wipeout, F-Zero and Mario Kart.

It's the players that are going to make or break ShootMania Storm. Nadeo is pushing hard to make ShootMania Storm a success in the eSports arena, but alas, success is up to us.

Edited // Sunday May 05 16:40 2013 // Minor errors. ///