ShootMania Storm
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Pretty scenery couple well with surreal stand-offs

Developer Nadeo excels at giving the gamer community a blank canvas. They masterfully develop a powerful tool set that provides the imaginative gamer the ability to draw whatever panorama they see fit. What this ends with is almost limitless game replayability and diversity from a constant flow of user generated content. ShootMania Storm is no exception; a customizable online First Person Shooter that lets players pit their skills against others' in a fast paced, lively competitive environment.

Straightforward menus and quickly accessible servers put you in the battle in less than a few minutes. Right off the bat, you're set amongst a hectic laser gun fray, against a cluster of fluorescent-suited mean guys who are looking to either dominate your base or just downright eliminate you. Shootmania Storm comes with a bunch of game modes, each with a specific feel that will change the way you play.

Battle mode sets two teams against one another, and every team has to both attack and capture the enemy Poles, while defending their own. Spawn points are placed on both extremes, a countdown releases players to huge maps, and a middle point located right at the centre of the stage which starts the face-off. The beam-skater that walks over the point will give his team the chance to start the offensive. Team based game modes come in all shapes and sizes, another interesting one being Elite. It's also about capturing  Pole/Flag, but this time around there's one attacker and three defenders in a Juggernaut style of match.

Gameplay mechanics work just fine regardless of which game mode you fancy, then again it's nothing beyond understanding. Fast-paced shooting action and simple controls make ShootMania appealing for lovers of the genre, though might feel underwhelming considering how facile it is to play; two health bars, a four shot beam gun and a stamina meter which boosts the already rapid movement speed. You can survive up to two hostile shots before respawning, in case you're playing a team game mode, but it's not as easy to die. The pace at which you can move is quite jumpy, hence you'll find yourself avoiding more shots than you'll be taking, be it knowingly of the incoming firing or just going round the place.

Considering there are a whole lot of experienced players bashing through newcomers as of now, there isn't really much customization, further than the map creation. I was always in the same situation as the top hundred players on the Ladder rank, it just so happens that they've spent enough time on ShootMania to surpass me. Skills do matter, it's not just about jumping around and shooting (since there's a cooldown between the shots you fire once you use up your initial four bullets), instead you'll have to predict your averse's movements and shoot while dodging the laser blitz around you.

Weapons assortment are one of the letdowns of ShootMania, as you can only find three different ways of shooting down your opponents, and that is circumstantial. Most of the time, you're stuck with a Four shot launcher, whereas when standing near to specific zones found on a map will automatically change your stock to either a two shot sticky bomb-like weapon, or a cool Zoom in Rail gun with incredible recoil. The situations in which you'll be able to use different arms are rather unsatisfying, sometimes inside cavernous edifications which players tend to avoid because of that mere reason, or separated booths with little space to maneuver. Once you manage to get a hold on one of the non-production weapons though, you'll have a fun time sniping people down with lightning guns.

Map editing comes into play once you've played enough hours to satiate your shooter needs. The learning curve is fairly simple, placing columns here and putting up a block there; it doesn't take much time to set up a decent map to have fun in, but your creations might be overshadowed by some of the Top custom-made stages you'll find. And thats a good thing! When you let the world of gamers loose with a powerful tool set it doesnt take long before they start to push the boundaries. Some interesting examples include no-shooting arenas that take timing and patience to complete.

Music and sound effects are nothing really impressive, but at least they do the job. You'll hear each step you make and where the shots come from, since there's really nothing too loud going on at any given time, maybe the exception being the regular Pew pew wild fights. 

Graphics are certainly worth mentioning. Nice lighting effects and decent enough detailed landscapes are your play field. Despite not having CryEngine or Frostbite visuals, ShootMania's technical assets are more than pleasant. ShootMania does not go hardcore on the hardware though, it ran smoothly on the trusty HD6670, almost hitting the sixty frames per second on a modest 1366x768 resolution.

ShootMania: Storm is available to purchase for $20. As the user content of Shootmania grows, this is one of those games that keeps offering more bang per buck over time. Making it certainly worth a shot.

If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm...