It seems like all shooters released today follow the same formula. Start off with some guns, level up, get new guns, put attachments on guns and then rinse, wash, and repeat. There was a time however when fire fights with your enemies were fast paced and more about reaction time than simply having a better gun than them. If you ever played games like Quake and Unreal Tournament, then you know what I'm talking about. It’s a shame that there aren’t more twitch style shooters on the market. Well Shootmania, from the makers of Trackmania, is here to change that by providing a simple pick up and play, twitch shooter that provides tons of depth, strategy and best of all, fun.
Immediately after starting your first game you realize that this isn’t Call Of Duty,Battlefield, or any other modern shooter. You are quickly thrust into a game where you will have enemies and rockets flying past you before you even know whats going on. Luckily, Shootmania is a fairly simple game so while you may be constantly getting eliminated at first, you quickly get the hang of the game within no time at all.
You only have one weapon to start with: a rocket holds four rounds of ammunition. Timing is everything as there is a short delay to regenerate your ammo after every shot you take. You can play it safe by only shooting out one rocket at a time hoping your aim is perfect or you can unleash a volley and hope that you to hit an enemy with them. There are a few other weapons in the game but they either require that you are standing on a certain marker in the game or are playing a certain game mode.
One of the other weapons that you can use is a laser which acts somewhat as a sniper rifle and only allows for one shot before recharging. It requires you to stand on a certain platform and players cannot jump while using it. I find I have the most success using this weapon because I love picking people off from across the map. The other weapon you have is the nucleus and it's acquired when you run into the underground areas of the maps. It’s a short ranged weapon but the nucleus rockets can attach to walls or floors and will explode if someone comes near them. Even though this weapon is acquired underground I like to stand at the exit and launch the nucleus across the map hoping to hit some poor soul who happens to run near it.
The number of many lives you have differs from game mode to game mode but usually you will only have about 1-3 hit points. Get hit that many times and you will be sitting out the rest of the round meaning you will want to be quick and think about your movement. You can’t think you’re playing a typical FPS. That’s a good way to get killed quickly! I try to be constantly moving and strafing so my enemies have a hard time lining up a shot. You have to be smarter than them as well. Try to fake them out. If an enemy sees you they will try to read you, anticipate their next move. You have got to keep them guessing. All of these tactics are what really set Shootmania apart from other shooters and really adds to the intense fun of the game.
Speaking of game modes, Shootmania features a plethora of them for you to play around in. “Royal” seems to be one of the most popular modes right now as its your traditional death match style game mode with a few twists. Your goal is to score points by lasting longer than other players, eliminating other players and capturing the pole. All players start at the back of the map and all rush towards the middle of the map to capture the pole. Until the poll is captured players can respawn. Once the poll has been capped, respawns are turned off and a giant tornado closes in on the map forcing the remaining players to the middle of the map. The battle usually ends with the remaining two players fighting against each other at the poll desperately trying to eliminate each other. After each round you gain points based on your performance and once a player hits a certain amount of points they win the map.
“Battle” is somewhat of a tug of war / team capture the flag mode. Each of the two teams is designated as either the “attacker” or “defender”. The attacking team needs to fight their way to the enemy base and capture their poles while the other team defends. You need to be quick as failure to capture enemy poles results in the roles for the teams being swapped. Your team could be in the enemy base fighting for a pole and in the blink of an eye you get switched to defenders and need to rush back to your base to prevent the enemy from capping your poles.
“Joust”, which is my favorite game mode, is a simply 1 v 1 mode where you have limited ammo and the only way to get more ammo is alternate touching one of two poles throughout the map. It seems simple but there is A LOT of strategy that goes into this mode. You have limited ammo and only five or so health points. Firing all your ammo off at an enemy is a big mistake as you are going to have to rush to a pole in the map to get more ammo. Even losing one hit point puts you at a serious disadvantage.
There are various other modes in the game as well such as “elite”, a 3 v 3 mode which if you have seen any Shootmania competition you have seen this mode. There is even an obstacle course game mode kinda like deathrun maps in Counter Strike Source where you have to finish a single course in the fastest time. I was terrible at this. Either way Shootmania provides plenty of content for you to enjoy at the low price of only twenty bucks. I found some game modes more enjoyable than others but there is something here for everyone and each game mode brings new strategies to the table for you to learn. This is what makes Shootmania incredibly fun. Its not necessarily about who has the better weapon, it's about your skill and reaction time. Everyone is on a level playing field so its up to you to try to read your opponents, anticipate their moves, and counter theirs so you aren’t eliminated. There is no violence in the game either. Getting eliminated simply shows your character vaporized on screen until you respawn, meaning this game is fun for people of all ages. If you are a parent and your kids want to get into shooters but you are worried about graphic violence, Shootmania is absolutely the way to go.
Now, what made Trackmania so much fun was the fact that anyone could create their own track, upload them online, and then share them with the world. Shootmania follows suit and includes a map editor in game. I will admit that I haven’t uploaded any maps yet because the map editor limits you to your imagination and to be honest, when it comes to creating content my imagination is pretty limited. The map editor is pretty much the same editor you would expect in a game like Roller Coaster Tycoon or SimCity. You have various terrain, ramps, roads, gates, foliage and other obstacles at your disposal to create your own environments. It’s a good editor and players who are passionate about this stuff will have a blast creating various maps for online play.
I do have some minor gripes with this game and one of them is the confusing menu system when you first start the game. You get these things called “stations” where you will see various titles such as Shootmania Storm, Shootmania Royal, Shootmania Combo, Shootmania Joust. From my understanding, these stations are used to play the specific game modes but anytime I click on the stations they are always empty. It seems like everyone has migrated to the Shootmania Storm station and that is where you will find a majority of the available games. I can kinda understand what they were trying to do but to me it seems like it would have been easier just to have one station and host all the games there. There are other minor annoyances I have as well such as my settings not saving and having to set them every time I boot up the game and the mouse sensitivity settings being almost too sensitive. It took me days to get my mouse sensitivity the way I wanted it but again these are only minor and don’t take away from the fun of the game.
At the end of the day Shootmania packs in a ton of content for only $20 and it's just getting started. This time next year the game will be filled with tons more user created maps, game mode variations and other content that users can all share and play together for free. Who knows what content will be in the game even farther down the line from that. It's a game that anyone of any age can play and caters to both casual gamers and serious competitive gamers as well.