|Genre||Publisher||Release date||Release O.S||Available on|
|Racing||Ubisoft||24/03/2016||PS4, Xbox One, PC||Amazon|
So far 2016 has delivered a small handful of big, exciting experiences to gamers. Whether it’s in the form of brain-bending puzzler The Witness, cutesy beat ‘em up Pokken Tournament or the nostalgia-fueled Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there’s been something to catch the interest of pretty much any kind of gamer. It’s surprising then that Trackmania Turbo, a relatively quiet release (half my friends had literally no idea what the series even was) has managed to deliver what is easily the most fun I’ve had with any 2016 release yet.
The Trackmania series’ focus has always been in time trials on absolutely insane track designs that take you through hair-pin turns, loops and plenty more and that still holds true here also. You’re never actually involved in races in a traditional sense where you have other vehicles you can bash and shove around but rather you’re relying on your ability to perfect a track and land a strong time. To summarise, Trackmania is a very strange existence in a genre either consisting of realistic simulations or weapon-packed Mario Karts and it’s for that reason alone it feels like such a breath of fresh air to me. I love that a game like this can exist very much on its own, doing its own unopposed thing. We certainly need more experiences like this across any genre in the industry.
Trackmania Turbo is a game that requires patience; it’s very rare you find yourself in a situation where you can land a gold medal finish on your first attempt or race blind without so much as a scratch. Instead it’s all about learning a track’s characteristics; every turn and every jump, scratching off milliseconds with each perfected corner. What once seemed impossible to achieve slowly but surely feels within reach and it’s this slow burn that makes every track worth mastering and every medal worth grabbing. It’s this feeling that kept me coming back time and time again.
Like any racing game, you’ll find a campaign of sorts here boasting a pretty meaty offering of 200 developer made tracks spread across four varying terrains each with their own unique vehicle type. The tropical rain forest sports a car with excellent handling for example while the stadium environment opts for a Formula 1-style speedster. Awarded bronze, silver and gold medals based on your performance, tracks start off relatively simple before slowly throwing in more and more complex objects such as loops, boosters, pads that stall your engine briefly and plenty more. Before you know it tracks start to resemble skate parks complete with ridiculously tall half pipes and ramps as opposed to roads a car can physically travel across.
It’s here where you’ll get to grips with the game’s physics, the way each car handles and a multitude of track surfaces ranging from skidding beaches to grippy tarmac. As previously mentioned bronze medals award those that make minimal mistakes while gold awaits racers who avoid skimming ANY walls and make the most of every drift. If there’s anything negative to be said for the campaign it’s that new tracks unlock in a very slow and painful fashion, requiring practically every gold medal to even see the final forty tracks. Also when the track reaches any off-road sectioning I found myself sliding and flipping on the tiniest bumps in the road time and time again. While tarmac is clear and easy to read, things like grass and dirt make the game that little bit more frustrating to master at times especially when you’re usually going at 300 kph!
Another big aspect of Trackmania is its creation tools giving its users the ability to create some truly fantastic rollercoaster tracks that can be as fun or stupidly challenging as you want. The game’s beginner option restricts track pieces to their most basic making for a good starting point. It’s pretty easy to create a drivable circuit here but if you want to take things further you’ll have to learn the more advanced options. Everything from land sculpting to loops is possible here but it comes with a hefty investment of time thanks to its complicated and vast toolset. When you’re happy with your finished product you can practice it over and over or use it online.
Local multiplayer is often a feature deliberately skipped over with most games these days, opting instead for online shenanigans but Trackmania Turbo manages to cater to both audiences. The options are actually surprisingly varied – hot seat, arcade, trick-attack and even a Micro Machines styled mode that is as unpredictably nuts as it is all-out fun. The best news of all however is that not only are these all playable for up to four people locally but they can also be tackled on any of the 200 official tracks, your user-created tracks or even a randomly generated one. It’s strange that for what initially feels like a throwaway feature, local multiplayer ends up proving in many ways the biggest and brightest surprise.
Online handles things a little differently to your typical racer. Here you participate in user created rooms (either your own or another’s) that run a continuous loop of tracks in which up to 100 people can join. With the “ghosts” of 90+ other cars on the track at the same time the sheer spectacle of it all at first can be very frantic. Vehicles bouncing off signs, drifting past you round corners or simply spinning donuts at the starting line are visuals I wasn’t expecting when first taking to the Internet. It’s certainly different and as far as I’m concerned, different is no bad thing here.
Of course everything you do within the game builds toward your global ranking which is broken down into country and even local area. It’s truly compelling to see your rank rise with every new personal best lap time or strong performance online and as I currently write this review I’m top of the South East and English leaderboard so bring it on!
From a visual and style standpoint, Trackmania Turbo nails both. Whether it’s the vibrant colours of the rainforest, valley, stadium or canyon environments or the sleek, shiny cars themselves the game looks truly pleasing. The same goes for the game’s quirky, arcade flair – goofy looking “insert coin” illustrations and a countdown that switches languages unpredictably to what feels like everything but English, all random and weird touches that oddly suit the game.
Trackmania Turbo frustrated the hell out of me. It challenged me in ways a racer (or any type of game for that matter) hasn’t for quite some time. It even confused me with its unique and quirky attributes. Most importantly though, it was always great fun. Whether I was progressing through the game’s campaign alone, besting my friends in a local game of share screen or braving the massacre that was online there was rarely a dull moment to be had. A truly unexpected surprise that delivers not only in quality but quantity.
- Good sense of style
- Local multiplayer is a pleasant surprise
- Every mode feels fun and exciting
- A little frustrating at times
- Slow progression through campaign
- No horns!