March 24, 2016

Trackmania Turbo - Review

The Trackmania series has been around for quite a few years at this point, but it has never really taken off, that could be in part to its PC only focus before, or because people never really understood what it was about, but with Trackmania Turbo, are things about to change for the series?

Trackmania is split into three distinct game modes, career, multiplayer and track creator and each mode has quite a lot to offer players, for now let’s look at the career mode. The career mode plays out in a very linear fashion, each cup contains 10 different events, these can be point to point sprints or races, with each taking place in different themes, the first being desert. As you play through each of the tracks you will be awarded a medal, based on your time, which in turn unlocks the next cup. Before you start an event you can select a level you want to aim for, which means that you get a ghost car who will race at the right speed for that time, which shows if you are behind that car, you won’t get the medal you selected. This element does help keep you aiming to stay ahead, which is good, but it also acts as a way to learn the best route for each medal.

In order to unlock the second cup, you need to get at least a bronze on each track in the first, the pattern repeats itself going forward as well, which means in order to unlock the eighth cup, you need 70 bronze medals, but that is where things stop being easy. In order to unlock the ninth cup, you need a silver on every track before that and that process repeats when you want to enter the gold cups. While a good way to encourage replaying tracks, there is a fundamental flaw with it, some of the tracks are not good at all and just trying to get a bronze can prove to be painful. Because you are not able to proceed in the career mode, until you have gotten at least a bronze on most tracks, you will need to repeat playing the harder ones until you do, which will build a level of resentment against it and likely stop you from playing career for some time, thankfully, the multiplayer mode is better.

The multiplayer modes on offer borders on the insane, just think of a way to play a game with people and you are probably thinking of something here, you can do standard races, time trials, stunt events, point to point competitions and more. What makes the variety of events on offer fun, is that you can do them against people or with them, with the games Double Driver mode, where you use two controllers to drive a single car, which means both players need to be working together in order to achieve anything that resembles driving. Should each player attempt to turn their car in opposite directions, the car will go straight, or as straight as it can, if one brakes and the other hits the accelerator, the car won’t move. The with Double Driver is that you can use it in every form of event, racing, point to point, stunt, the options are pretty wild when you consider it.

Of course, you can also deal with more direct competition, you have the split screen style racing, which most people will know, then there is the pass the controller style, perfect if you only have one, where each player will get a go at the event, before passing the controller onto the next player. Each of these will be sure to drive a healthy rivalry through your group of friends, what is even cooler is that the tracks you do use can be ones pulled from the career mode, those you created in the track builder, or even the ones the game will create on the fly for you, so no one has an advantage.

The track builder tool is one of the easiest creation tools that I have used in a video game, which is good as it will help to cultivate a community of track designers. You start by choosing your theme, the four of which are shown through the career mode, then you select your time of day and the game will load up the creation tools and using them is a breeze, you just need to set your start piece, then drop in addition pieces, like puzzle pieces. Each section will snap together from the previous, which means you just need to select the one you want to place and it goes down, if you are unable to have it place, it means it clips with something in the space, another piece, some trees, a whole in the ground and so on. Once you have built your track, the game will populate all the decorations around it, which is the big downside to it, you can’t go in and place stands down, signs or anything, as the game does that for you. Once that is done you select your lighting method and the track will render. You should note if you select beautiful, the game will take forever to prepare the track, in fact the game takes a while with a lot of loading.

As you play any track for the first time, the loading time is long, quite long actually and while all the loading screens will offer some form of inspirational quote from people like Mario Andretti, Henry Ford, Homer Simpson and such. While nice, they do little to help distract from the incredible load times, once you are in the track, if you restart at any point, there is no load at all, which is nice, but when you think of some tracks only taking at most 30 seconds to complete, having load screens that live in double digits is not good. All of this is less important than the actual handling of the cars, which shifts from super arcade like, to god awful. Depending on the course, you will be given a car designed for it, so bashing around the desert the cars will be heavier, while when you are within the stadium, they tend to be more grip based, as one might expect, through driving on sand, forget about it. The problem is, the handling is not quite the right level for an arcade racer, it should be responsive enough that you don’t spin off the track, but also loose enough that you don’t need to slow down to a halt to make a turn. Here, the moment you apply any lengthy push of force in a direction the car will pull a sharp turn, that is on asphalt, do it on dirt or grass and its worse, on sand, nope forget about it.

When your game is a racer, you need to make sure that, above all else, the racing works and sadly, more often than not, I was fighting it, with the slightest touch sending me bouncing around and if the track was tight, it would send me flying. One area the team exceeded at is the presentation, there is a theme of chaos at play, while if may look like things were just thrown together, when you create your own track, you can see the elements come into play. Giant signs help to highlight directions you need to take, obstacles to avoid and all that, but they are in multiple languages, so seeing signs flashing red, usually means danger, but the words might not be in English, the multi-language approach works for it. The music is also really well done, there are two ways to listen to it, having it just play, which is good, or have it play in time with what you are doing, so if you slow down, the music will fade down, if you stop it stops and then if you go again, so does it. Perhaps the only annoying issue with the audio is the completely pointless voice that speaks, only when you crash the car into anything, hit a tire, have to listen, launch off a ramp into a sign, same person asking what you are doing, nudge the side of a wall same thing, when you add that into the messed up steering, you end up hearing it a lot.

Trackmania Turbo is a really fun party game, but it lacks any sort of fun when being played alone. The track creator is simple to use, but at the expense of personal touches, but when all is said and done, it is still Trackmania.

Thanks to Ubisoft Australia for supplying the game for review

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