This over-the-top racer may lack single-player content but fun gameplay and good online options entitle it for a medal.
+ Great sense of speed and track design
+ Time-trial based races pack plenty of challenge
+ Free online community with no slowdowns
+ Simple to pick up and play with minimal system requirements and its free
- Later events in the single-player mode are simply infuriating
- Annoying automatic first-person perspective when taking ramps and loops
- The engine sounds are unconvincing
Racing games are not about racing to the finish line towards the checkered flag, or race your opponents and grab the race in an engaging and illegal street race or going head to head with an expensive sports car. The Trackmania proved that, and it continues to do so since Nations Forever sticks to the usual formula; time-trial based racing with great sense of speed, level design and simplicity and a difficulty which haunts you near the end of the single-player mode.
I had never played a Trackmania game before playing the Wii version which was released after this version. This downloadable and free game gives you on the stadium type races. There is the single-player mode which includes plenty of challenges in which you race in time-trial based tracks to earn medals. The more you have the more tracks you unlock. The type of race varies. You have a normal race against ghost AI, obstacle which a more challenging, endurance which are usually circuit races and demand concentration and endurance to finish and finally the acrobatic which consist of shorter tracks but include insane jumps and flips. To cut it short, this mode is plenty limited and slightly repetitive since the scenery doesn't change that much. Luckily there is something else to kill time with. An online community mode allows you to play online with other players. This mode still forces you to play against ghost opponent, but this time your opponent are really fleshed humans beings, I suppose. The track will be timed and the best three times set will be the winners. The online works great and I have not yet experienced any kind of slowdown or lag except for the short wait before starting the race.
If you have never been in touch with Trackmania, this series is no street racer or simulator like other residents on the PC. Nations Forever is a fast game and highly addictive game which uses only stadium type races. That said the minor repetition kicks in after some time but each track is designed to have different curves, turns, jumps, loops and such. That's not the problem. The difficulty in later tracks is incredibly difficult, with U-turn loops almost impossible to nail multiple times in a row mostly no thanks to the annoying, automatic first-person view that is enabled each time you're about to take a loop. This camera angle is occasional more frustrating than the third-person view since it restricts the view. These kinds of loops are popular with Acrobatic type races where tracks are shorter and demand more patience and luck. The AI is challenging but never cheats at least. It may require more than a few tries to win a medal but thanks to the instant restart race button you can retry as many times as you like without any loading times to interrupt or disrupt the fun. Winning medal is usually a matter of milliseconds not seconds especially when dealing with the gold ghost AI. The game will be frustrating but never cheap and impossible.
As its name suggest, Nations Forever is something about nations. A sheer variety of customizations await you, where you can put the flag of your country on the car or even redecorate it yourself. Unfortunately not ALL of the countries are here. It doesn't have to be your country though. There are millions of players playing online and thanks to the leader boards you can check your position in your country, and in the entire world. Winning medal increases your position but obviously other players will surpass you so your position is never secured. There isn't much to Trackmania: Nations Forever really. The racing is simple to get used to but the difficulty ensures that you don't rush through them.
For a simple playing game, this game looks pretty simple as well. The tracks are very well designed, and are fun and exhilarating with genius use of tracks. The only car available is solid enough with plenty of different flags to use to your liking. Of course then there are the graphical options to visuals and others. The grass needs more volume though. The sound is more than a tad down. The soundtrack is good even if it loops but the engine sound is severely disappointing. Whenever you race you'll hear two engines roaring, so the game makes you think that there is someone else right behind you when there won't ever be a physical opponent behind you. It's pretty strange.
In the end, Nations Forever is not another racing game for the PC. I can't say about other Trackmania games for the PC, but this game is a good installment with plenty of challenges (and some frustrations) on the way. If you strive for world glory, you'll find plenty to keep you busy and plenty of time to change your goal. Anyone not up for the challenge shouldn't even bother; this challenging and addictive game may be limited but it offers plenty of hour of fun.
Graphics = 8.1
Good visuals; but what shines most is the track design. Green needs more greenish color. Lots of flags to decorate your car.
Sound = 7.1
Unimpressive across the border. The looping soundtrack may at some point irritate you but the engine sound is annoying.
Presentation = 7.6
The system requirements are low and the online functions without slowdowns. Annoying first-person view when taking loops.
Gameplay = 8.3
There is only one type of terrain, Stadium. A lot of challenges to keep you busy. The racing is fast and fun. Difficulty spikes near the end can spoil the fun. Time-trial based racing only with ghost opponents.
Modes = 7.7
The single-player mode doesn't last forever but there are quite a few good challenges. Online functions well but it could have had more variety. Great scoreboard online.
OVERALL = 79 / 100
This over-the-top racer may lack single-player content but fun gameplay, challenge and good online options entitle it for a medal.