For years, Nadeo has been producing a fine series of Trackmania games, although, up until this point, it seems to have taken more of a hardcore route. After all, not many gamers mention it in the same sentence as Forza or Gran Turismo, do they? But, then again, maybe that’s how the developers want it, since it’s a beast that relies more on getting the races right, rather than simply gunning for a first place win.
See, Trackmania Turbo has a little something in common with Ubisoft’s fellow racing game Trials Fusion. It’s not so much how you cross the finish line, just that you do so with a. minimal errors and b. in a certain time frame. That’s the beauty of Trackmania, is that it does so in beautiful 3D style, while at the same time applying a different set of rules to perfection. It’s a lot of fun this way, although there are certain challenges that exist just for the sake of driving you a little mad. (Hey, persistence pays off – anyone from the NES era will easily recall this.)
The game’s main campaign mode is divided across 200 different courses, placed together in 10-level sections. You have to go through each one in order to unlock the next set, thanks to forward progress. The early levels are easy enough to get through, but the later ones require the kind of split-second timing and almost Carnac-style psychic abilities (you Johnny Carson fans will get that reference) to make the fastest time possible.
Again, the game’s pacing is just about right so that you can get a hang of the physics and master early races easily and effectively. However, as the game goes on, new ones arise that will absolutely keep you on your toes. Good luck trying to get gold medals in all of these – or, for that matter, even bronze.
The game features a suave community feature, where you compare your best racing times with others through global leaderboards, as well as “ghost cars” to see how well someone’s performing – or what they might be doing differently when it comes to shaving seconds off the clock. This is brilliant, although the time it takes to get a race started can be strenuous. You’re waiting about a half to full minute or so depending on the event.
The game’s controls are responsive, but built so that you don’t take too much advantage of a system. That means that you can get used to your car’s physics, but don’t take them too much for granted, especially around tight corners or timing a rocket-boosted jump through a small gap. The more you learn, the better off you’ll actually do – and the rewards will come in spades.
Trackmania Turbo also benefits from suave level design and some great atmospheric work, almost borrowing a nod from Insomniac Games’ ultra-colorful Sunset Overdrive. It’s a fun game to watch, and its speedy visuals are right at home on this generation of console. The audio’s not bad either, with some decent music and running commentary from your crew. (Really, though, some lines wear themselves out too often, like “Go easy on the paint work!”)
Along with a jam-packed campaign and lots of competition online, Trackmania Turbo also features a level editor, which is quite good. It can take quite a while to build a course that’s absolutely up to snuff, but sharing it and seeing what others can come up with is a sheer delight – provided that you can make the time for it, of course.
Trackmania Turbo is an acquired taste, kind of. On the one hand, players will like the opening levels, the leaderboards/”ghost cars” and the track editor. On the other, you need persistence to excel in the game’s later stages, as well as in its design. This is one of those games that get better with the more time you put into it. If you’re looking for a quick arcade racer, it’s great, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find so much more to this game than that.