At its core, ShootMania Storm is an arena shooter. A highly competitive arena shooter at that. In our previous ShootMania preview, we covered the basic mechanics of the game. This isn't a shooter where you pick up the biggest machine gun or rocket launcher you find and try to blast your way to victory. This game is a bit more calculated than that, requiring precision and planning over brute force. We got our hands on the latest version of the game and tried out some of the new mobility features.
As far as the basic gameplay goes, the matches evoke memories of "The Games" competitions from the Tron movies. Two teams of players (red and blue) enter an arena and attempt to vaporize the opposite team's players by firing their respective red and blue beams at each other. Like we mentioned before, you won't be picking weapons up off the ground. Instead, you fire relatively slow-flying energy projectiles from your hands, Mega Man-style, so careful timing and accuracy is key. There are also special sniper-like weapons available only when you stand on specific platforms in indoor bunkers, and an even slower-firing shotgun-like projectiles while standing on any other indoor section.
But there have been a few significant changes since the last time we saw ShootMania. In terms of weapons, a new charge mechanic has been added to the standard beam. Now, if a player stands completely still, the standard beam will gain the ability to reflect off any surface on the map. This is meant to give you an advantage over stationary opponents, like the snipers and bunker dwellers we mentioned before. In addition to the weapon upgrade, players also have more mobility options that speeds up the gameplay.
Arena shooters have always emphasized lightning-fast mobility, and the developers at Ubisoft are attempting to give players that same hardcore, competitive sense of intense motion you'd see in professional eSports matches. Players can now wall-jump, use a grappling hook, or jump on sloped slide pads on the map to traverse the environment in a heartbeat.
Thankfully, the wall jump is fairly easy to pull off. As you approach a wall's surface, a quick tap of the spacebar will give you a small boost up and away. A skilled player would be able to use this to ninja-bounce their way to higher elevations and get the jump on unknowing opponents.
The grappling hook seems like it would take a bit more finesse to master. Small, white grapple points allow you to hook on with an energy beam, letting you swing across the map Spider-Man style. Doing so helps you travel from one area to the next quickly, and makes you an incredibly difficult target to hit. While we found it tough to get a regular Tarzan swing going, in the hands of a pro, the combatants can pull off some impressive aerial acrobatics.
We also got a quick glimpse at the map editor, which gives players the tools to create and customize their own battle arenas. The editor appeared to have a fairly simple interface, letting would-be level designers quickly select and place the assets that form a map. In addition, players will also be able to create their own custom character skins. Both character customization and map editors will be available at launch.
ShootMania Storm releases for PC on January 23.