Nadeo took the PC racing scene by storm with their flagship title, TrackMania. For a game that launched in 2003, it’s still going strong with well over 11 million players. The success of TrackMania might have been due to the level of stripping down the game into a relatively basic experience, and then opening it up for the community to mod to their liking. Nadeo tries to capture the success of TrackMania with their new competitive FPS, ShootMania Storm, but what worked in 2003 doesn’t necessarily work today.
ShootMania Storm is Nadeo’s attempt to reignite the genre of fast-paced tournament first-person shooters that we haven’t really seen since the days of Quake and Unreal Tournament. It may at first feel like a breath of fresh air in a world now filled to the brim with starch military shooters, but even the freshest air can have a distinct odor to it. In its attempt to stand out, ShootMania Storm only does so by taking several noticeable steps back.
ShootMania Storm (PC)
Released: April 14, 2013
When you first start up ShootMania Storm, one thing is clear: It really wants to be a competitive shooter. So much, in fact, that it almost feels like an angst-filled teenager trying to fit in with the cool kids by mocking everything they’ve successfully accomplished. From the main menu to actual gameplay, I couldn’t help but feel that ShootMania isn’t even trying to be a fun game, just a “serious” competitive shooter trying to weasel its way into becoming an e-sport. While I’m not a huge follower of e-sports, I’ve played every other game featured as an e-sport and managed to have a blast with them, so I know first hand that being competitive doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fun to do so. ShootMania tries too hard to capture the competitive side of first-person shooters like Unreal Tournament, but it only falls flat on its face by stripping away what made games of the genre so successful. Unlike the games it’s trying to emulate, it has next to no personality. For a game that came out in 2013, it feels extremely dated, with environmental textures and player models that feel like they are straight out of the early 2000s. Looks aren’t everything, but ShootMania doesn’t even have the gameplay to back up its ugly appearance.
The primary weapon used in ShootMania Storm is a rocket launcher that shoots powerful balls of light that explode on impact. Unlike rocket launchers in other games, the splash effect doesn’t damage your enemy, it just pushes them around a little. The slow pace the rockets travel results in a whole lot of dodging by simply stepping out of the way. Even at close range, it feels like your rockets travel too slow to make the weapon feel viable. You better get used to that default weapon, because there’s an extremely limited selection of weaponry in the game and acquiring any other weapon feels like an unneeded chore.
You never have access to multiple weapons and can’t switch to new weapons on the fly. New weapons are acquired by standing on environmental platforms. For example, if you want to get your hands on The Nucleus, you’ll have to go underground since it’s meant to only be used in tight areas. The Laser, Storm’s answer to the sniper rifle, is only obtainable on select pads and pre-determined locations like bunkers. When using The Laser, players cannot jump and are limited to their small sniper roost. Restrictions like these really take away from the potential fun that could be had if they were simply available as a pickup that could be switched to on the fly. It’s not a lot of fun to spend more time trying to figure out where you need to stand to use your favorite weapon instead of jumping in and hunting down your competitors.
ShootMania is the first FPS I’ve played where players don’t even get to see what weapon they are holding. Instead of seeing your weapon, you have a boring little cursor in the middle of the screen. I understand that seeing the gun isn’t a necessity but it just seems lazy and takes you out of any immersion you could have had with Storm. The entire HUD is minimalistic, but still manages to feel cluttered and most certainly looks ugly. Once more, you get the feeling that it’s less of a “game” and trying to take itself too seriously.
ShootMania Storm’s one saving grace is its diverse lineup of gameplay modes. From strictly competitive 3-on-3 to and free-for-all to melee only and a time attack foot race, there’s a mode for everyone and there’s certainly fun to be had if you stick with them. I found myself having a blast with Battle, which is basically traditional King of the Hill. Despite the variety of game modes, the stock maps get old real fast. Thankfully, ShootMania Storm has a great drag-and-drop WYSIWYG map editor that’s a blast to use and the modding community are already churning out impressive artistic visions of what a good map should be.
The lack of single-player is really disheartening. There’s plans to add single-player with bots at some point in the future, but ShootMania doesn’t launch with that support. Since there’s no tutorial mode, the second best thing would have been playing against bots. The current state of the game is not very welcoming to newcomers in the slightest. Attempting to learn the ropes against real opponents will only result in high frustration thanks to the long wait times that you much endure after death.
The watered down lack of, well, everything makes ShootMania Storm feel like a free-to-play game. It’s a shame it’s not, because I can’t justify paying $20.00 for it, even if you’re a diehard fan of e-sports. It’s not impossible to have fun with Storm, but they don’t make it easy. You can pray that the community will mod ShootMania into a worthwhile endeavor, but blind faith has no place in the world of video games. As it stands, ShootMania Storm is just another boring, uninspired FPS in a world that getting sick and tired of them.