Trackmania Review in Progress

A welcome change of pace

The latest in the Trackmania series is hitting consoles and PC, and so far the game hits all the high notes fans of the series have come to expect. As a sort of love child between classic arcade racing like Ridge Racer and Matchbox toy cars, Trackmania Turbo carves out its own special niche in the racing genre. The focus is on time trials, where you only race against ghost cars along tracks that are frequently defying all laws of physics.

So, Project Cars this is not. With markedly improved graphics over past iterations, Trackmania Turbo looks and feels right at home on the Xbox One we’re playing on. Although it’s nothing close to the hyper-realistic graphics of Forza 6 or Project Cars, the sharp graphics evoke nostalgia to the heydays of arcade racing without devolving into retro blockiness.

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There’s a significant focus on multiplayer this time around, but since that’s actually still undergoing beta testing and optimization, we’re ignoring that at the moment in favor of the beefy single player and sofa-based multiplayer options. Trackmania Turbo is clearly geared as a very casual racer--the physics and handling are strictly arcade style. So expect powersliding, simplified steering, and absurd levels of unrealistic speed and you won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve played any of the earlier Trackmania games (and this series has been around a while), you’ll likely feel right at home in Turbo. Newcomers expecting something more traditional, however, will be left confused for the first few races. Since the focus is entirely on single-car racing purely to beat specific time goals, competition in Trackmania is a lot different than most other racing games.

Frankly, it’s a nice change of pace. While it’s hard to beat Forza for the ultimate all-around racing experience, sometimes it’s nice to see how fast you can go through the loop-de-loop before careening over a cliff and past a blimp to land roughly a half a mile away. Comparisons to a solitary version of Mario Kart might not go amiss in such cases.

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With around 200 tracks, divided up into five tiers of difficulty, there’s clearly plenty to do. Each individual race takes maybe a minute or two, but perfecting each track to get the gold rating can take numerous tries. The difficulty level ramp up is pretty smooth so far as well, with the earlier tracks geared to boost your confidence as well as speed and skills for when the really crazy tracks roll around.

Special notice goes to the insane co-op mode called Double Driver, where two players must move in tandem to control the same car. Trackmania Turbo includes several other sofa-based modes that we’ll be delving into more deeply for the full review, but so far, they all have their own special twists on traditional racing modes. Another nice feature in this series is the track maker, which allows players to make their own road creations. A cursory look at the tool shows off its ease of use, and the ability to share your tracks with other players may make this option the surprise draw of the game.

A refreshing change of pace from more serious racers.

With a distinctly nostalgic arcade look and feel, tons of tracks that focus on extreme jumps and even puzzle-like elements, and a powerful track creation system, Trackmania Turbo looks great so far and the unusual focus on time trials instead of traditional racing is thus far making it a refreshing change of pace from more serious racers.

If the online multiplayer elements live up to what we’ve seen of the rest of the game, Ubisoft could have a sleeper hit in the making.

Jason D'Aprile on Google+
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