Shootmania PreviewPublisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PC exclusive
Check out our Shootmania Storm review
Shootmania may look simple, may sound simple when you discuss the way the game is actually played, but it's not. It's hugely complex and most of that comes down to the fact that Shootmania is not a game; it's a far bigger product on Nadeo's Maniaplanet platform which is then broken down into other components. The component we got to play was called Shootmania: Storm.
This idea starts off basic - the pitch is that Shootmania is to FPS as Trackmania is to racers, which is to say that it's heavily streamlined, customisable and multiplayer focused. Storm itself represents merely an array of smaller pieces which are packaged similarly to how Trackmania: Canyon was. Shootmania: Storm contains a selection of modes, modules which can be used to build custom maps and a wealth of other content. It will cost €19.99, says Ubisoft.
But that's not all. There's also an in-game currency, called Planets, which players can accrue by doing things such as playing regularly or hosting public servers. These can then be spent on such frivolities as in-game customisation or items (or levels, portions of script) made by other players. You can't buy planets using real money, says Nadeo - that would ruin the fun. It also makes the planets virtually worthless though, in a sense.
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It gets more ambitious from there, with players encouraged to purchase in-game advertising to attract visitors to their hosted servers or customers to buy their virtual wares. There's even talk about a betting system being possible introduced that would allow players to wager planets on in-game results. That said, between the thick French accent of Nadeo's Florent Castelnérac and the sheer quantity of information being unloaded, it's hard to tell if this is something Nadeo really plans to have ready for Storm's early 2012 release.
So, the financial model behind the game seems unwieldy and complex - but it's compensated for by the sparseness of the game itself. Shootmania: Storm deliberately presents itself in a way that's counter to all the expectations you might have of a triple-A shooter. Following the precedent set by Trackmania, it subjects the genre to a Lloyd Grossman
style reduction; boiling it back to the barest essentials.
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Trackmania honed in on the sensation of speed, sacrificing collisions and car models to that end. Shootmania is all about agility and excellence with a small toolset, dropping huge arsenals and elaborate death sequences as a result.
There's only one weapon in Trackmania: Storm - a pistol type thing which by default fires slow-moving, non-explosive rockets but which changes to different modes when you step on certain platforms. Shiny metallic platforms will give you a rail-gun that charges slow but kills in one shot, for example, while other context-sensitive firearms we saw included a fast-firing gun that fired arcing rounds similar to a bow shot straight up in the air.
The fact that your weapons change depending on where you're stood is an unusual one and will likely be divisive for players used to engaging enemies on their own terms, but it's also an idea that suits Shootmania perfectly. This is a game built to be accessible at the start, but tough at the high end - more like virtual paintball than a realistic shooter. Why should the guns be the star, when it's all about what you do with them that counts?