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PREVIEW

SHOOTMANIA STORM

BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM. "Damn!" BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM. "Hah!" BLAM. "Damn!"

Five minutes ago it was all about the jokes and bravado-fuelled one-liners fired between the two teams. Now all we'd hear is the sound of clicking keys - if our PC headsets hadn't been wielded to our ears in complete sensory concentration.

ShootMania's team-based FPS multiplayer, decked out in the sports arena stylings that you'd expect come any near-future Saturday evening game show.

Red versus Blue team designations, exterior maps with big open spaces, moats and hills, and a simplification of the weapon system - two in total, default and a charged shot equipped through touch-pads dotted in the arenas. Singular or multiple goal posts touched for score counts located near your opponents' respawn points. Little in the way of blood or gore. Family-friendly - or in this case, mainstream - entertainment.

Shootmania Storm
Face-offs like this are expected: without scopes, success of long-range shots is entirely dependent on two things - skill and luck.
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It's a far simpler setup to what's expected from the genre today, but a lot purer as well. Less time spent antagonising over load-outs or excessive stratagem. Gameplay boiled down to attack or defend, dodge or repulse.

We play a handful of maps that remain engagingly non-complex but are tellingly well-balanced around a few simple setups. Take the third match stretched across four platforms - the two furthest both spawn point and launcher platform for either team.

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Jumps will land you on the triple-goalpost platform closest to the other team's starting point. Cover's a laughable term here, with only the posts offering any solace from killing shots, and at that you're still exposed to the side you're not facing.

Tactics form naturally: teammates hold back to snipe mid-jump attackers, kill those landed or at least keep them occupied with dodging rather than point scoring. Other comrades make the leap to their goalpost platform and repeat the same trick their side.

Shootmania Storm
Exterior terrain feels a boon after years of inclosed streets and interior FPS maps. Wipeout (the game show) with guns anyone?

It leads to a very mobile game. There's a nice flow to the running here, as one mouse button press will leap, and a hold will follow that on a small glide turned speed burst when your feet hit the floor. The long open stretches of land and wider spaces between platforms in other maps made glides necessary, and welcome the need to stretch your legs. Perhaps due to the bombardment of Olympian adverts recently, the charges are gratifyingly liberating.

During its presentation preceding the square off, the studio Nadeo emphasis the balancing issues its tinkering on behind closed doors with the game, making sure that it'll be an FPS accessible to all and in which the victor isn't always the most experienced at PC FPS action.

There must be something to it, because despite the hardened PC crowd debuting their headshot skills from the off - all of whom are clad in opponent colours - our side manages to pull back the scores during the latter stages.

Shootmania Storm
Map creator at work: we didn't go hands-on with this but looks fairly easy to craft, as these editors need to be.

Post-match, we try out another mode built specifically for one-on-ones were players are given limited shots before needing to recharge, while the studio outlines the customisation plans that it plans to be ShootMania's lifeblood for the future.

Map creation and sharing seems simple enough with pre-loaded objects offering expansion of the existing set of maps or the creation of new ones, and access keys can be limited to invite set numbers of players.

Shootmania Storm
The heavier electro-charge is selected through touching in at spots around the arena - like an Oyster card, but one that turn a foe into chunder.

It's where and how you access this that takes up a majority of the post-game chat. ShootMania is the next stage, or genre extension of what's already been seen with TrackMania, accessible through a umbrella server that'll offer full community support, sharing and store support. Players will be able to create their own works and advertise them within this Mania space. Though it's not in full effect yet, the dev examples some of the work created by players in TrackMania as an idea of what a fully-fledged community can offer and how it can sustain itself.

That referencing at least shows dedicated support through community can grow around a product. ShootMania will initially release with one pack, Storm, including a handful of maps to play, and hopefully form the foundations of what fans will be generating for some time to come - at least until later packs are released. But whether they'll bite for a pure-bred multiplayer shooter is something we await with interest.

Shootmania StormShootmania Storm
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