by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
What’s New, Stadium?
As it happens, very little. There is a new car, a small track racer that feels a bit like a Micro Machine. It does control differently from Canyon’s larger vehicles but that perception quickly fades. Of course, the stadium setting itself is a fresh and a welcome change of pace but mostly for the tools it presents to track creators. Maps oscillate between Dirt and NASCAR, sometimes switching between the two on the fly. The new car slides much more on soil, but again, after a couple races compensating for these control differences become second nature.
The real benefit of this content pack comes in the additions track editor. Here, content creators can utilize pre-made tiles and structures to create their masterworks. Like Canyon, custom textures can also be imported to give each element a unique look. Just today I raced on a map titled “Field Day” where hundreds of feet tall balloons made up the racing structures. Objects can be suspended mid-air and tiles used unconventionally to design the perfect Trackmania experience. The possibilities inherent are spectacular and playing on some of the best-made community tracks is nothing short of inspiring. To actually build, however, is another matter entirely.
Time to Restart
Nadeo, it seems, believes in learning the hard way. First attempts at designing custom tracks are likely to be exercises in frustration. The only tutorial comes in the form of an under-written loading-screen with only the most basic tips. To create something inspiring yourself likely means reading a guide or long hours of trial-and-error. The editor does feature both a simple and advanced mode but both are obtuse and obfuscate basic functionality.
The racing experience also has several remaining issues. The camera continues to be an annoyance and the available options are lacking. Entering a loop-de-loop forcefully switches the viewpoint to first person. It is both jarring and unnecessary if the camera were to control properly in the first place.
Nadeo has also included a new type of pad which is both poorly thought out and glitchy. This “free wheel” pad kills the engine with no warning or explanation and destroys any sense of speed. It almost always comes before a large hill so is, in effect, a speed check and a peremptory killer of fun. With the engine cut, hitting the incline slows the game to a crawl and slow backwards roll. Worse, hitting the pad cuts out all engine sound even after restarting the checkpoint.
As an owner through Steam, I also found Nadeo’s insistence on ManiaPlanet, Nadeo’s in-house client for their Mania series of games, grating. Launching the game within Steam raises ManiaPlanet which then requires you to reselect your game. If you should change your mind and decide to try the opposite Trackmania title, a full client restart is required. It begs the question, why include a separate launcher at all?
Taken as a whole, Stadium presents the best Trackmania 2 experience. It offers every feature found in last year’s Canyon and for half the price. More importantly, Stadium has adopted the bulk of the community, so new players would be advised to choose this better, cheaper option. It is disappointing that Nadeo chose to release it so bereft of new features and baffling that it took so long to complete, but more Trackmania is a good thing and Stadium is a welcome addition to the franchise.
Easy to learn. Addicting racing model. Community tracks. Affordable.
Doesn’t bring much new to the table.