by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
A Trackmania for Consoles?
No, this isn’t a review for Trackmania Turbo for the Nintendo DS that came out back in 2010. This is a review for Trackmania Turbo that came out for the PC, and this one also happens to be the first console version in the franchise since Trackmania Wii in 2009. In the past, Trackmania has been heavily focused on PC, to the point where UI elements could often be indecipherable. Now, with Ubisoft owning developer Nadeo, and with consoles clearly being the lead platform, Trackmania is a bit more user friendly. It certainly has that Ubisoft shine to it, but fans of the series don’t fret, as this is still very much Trackmania, the craziest racing franchise out there.
If you are new to the series, then you will need a little introduction, as Trackmania is no ordinary racing game. In fact, it’s hardly racing at all, as the modes are very much time trial based. Levels mostly take less than a minute to complete, however completing them can be a challenge as they feature boost pads, huge jumps, loop the loops, wall rides, and more that mean a single mistake can cost the entire run. Finishing a level the first time is a challenge, but that’s not really what the game is about. Finishing it again and again, particularly in multiplayer mode, is where Trackmania enthusiasts find their fun, shaving a second, half a second, maybe even a hundredth of a second off their time.
Playing on your own
In previous games, the single player mode often felt lacklustre, and there wasn’t really a reason to play it. In Turbo, I’ve played, and will continue to play a lot more of the campaign. There are over 200 Nadeo-made tracks in the campaign mode, split up into four levels of difficulty. Plus, within each difficulty level you will find four different styles of car and environment. Series stalwarts will recognise Canyon, Valley, and Stadium, but the new one to Turbo is called Rollercoaster Lagoon. That’s a literal name too, as sections of tracks will actually take place on rollercoasters which will magnetise your car to the tracks. You get used to being sideways and upside down in Trackmania, but this is gravity defying on a whole new level, and it’s very cool.
The levels get steadily more difficult, with some exceptions where tracks have random spikes in difficulty. This only happened a few times, but it was pretty frustrating to bash my head against one track over and over only to find the next one I could finish in one shot. You need at least a silver medal on every track to unlock the next set of levels, so not only do you have to finish each track, you have to be good at it too. This keeps a good sense of progression going and helps you feel like you’re getting better as you play. The better you do, the more car customization options you’re going to unlock too. Handily, you can race against ghost cars that will signify how far ahead, or behind, of your target time you are. If you make a mistake and see that silver medal ghost shooting off into the distance, you might as well restart the level.
How does it look?
Trackmania has always been good looking, but this is the best looking one yet. Not only from a technical perspective, but Nadeo has also put a lot more work into the artwork and atmosphere of each individual environment. I’m also a big fan of what the developers have done with the music. The soundtrack is filled with electronic and house music, which may not be for everyone, but the way it plays into the driving is handled really well. By default, the volume is essentially linked to your speed, so when you hit that boost pad, the music jumps into overdrive. Some levels have pads which cut your engine until you reach the next checkpoint, and in these cases the sound stutters and splutters along with your engine until it jumps back into life. Alternatively, if you just want to hear the music at all times, there’s a button simply labelled “Music Booster,” which could be the most Trackmania thing of all time.
Sadly, the shift to console focus does have some downsides. Most notably is the way you search for player-made tracks. When you create maps, you can’t name them yourself. The name just becomes an incremental number based on how many you have made so far. So, when you go to look for tracks, the server just spits a whole range of random numbers at you with a small thumbnail of what the track looks like. Nothing differentiates “4” from “11,” and the filter options aren’t really robust enough to make looking for new tracks worth it. The actual track builder is just as robust as ever though, and lets you create some outrageous designs. There’s also a new random track builder, which automatically builds a track for you, populates it, and lets you play it within a couple of minutes.
Playing with others, but still on your own
For finding new tracks, you are better off going to the online multiplayer mode, where servers will rotate through various tracks on a time limit. For five minutes, dozens and dozens of cars all run the same track simultaneously (with no collision, thankfully), each trying to get the best time. You’re not really interacting with other players, but it’s still a social experience and very competitive. Outside of that, there are challenges you can send to other players for them to beat your times on different tracks, and there is also now a split screen mode. It’s in these local multiplayer modes where even more Trackmania wackiness comes out, particularly in Double Driver, where two of you are controlling the same car, and it steers by taking the average of your two inputs. Other modes are hidden within the main menu that are unlocked by a series of button presses - including a strange Micro Machines throwback that has one terrible camera angle with two cars on screen trying to not fall out of view.
It’s been simplified and given a distinctive Ubisoft sheen, but Trackmania Turbo keeps the franchise at the peak of racing silliness. Striving for perfection isn’t for everyone, but there’s something strangely serene about travelling hundreds of miles an hour through loops and up walls as you try and beat your best time. Hardcore fans may not like some of the changes, but for new players, this is your best opportunity yet to jump into the world of Trackmania.
Simplified UI is great for new players. Remains crazy, wacky, and fun.
Oversimplified in some aspects, difficulty occasionally frustrating.