Monday 26 September 2016

Trackmania Turbo review – Pedal to the metal

Mark O'Beirne

Published 01/04/2016 | 15:15

trackmania turbo
trackmania turbo

Trackmania Turbo races onto consoles, offering hundreds of single player tracks and a packed multiplayer mode. Here's how we got on in the hotseat.

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My first experience, and essentially the bulk of my history with the Trackmania series, came with the release of Trackmania Nations. It was a game that was accessible, but provided enough scope for the cream of the crop to rise to the top; packed with interesting tracks that tested the boundaries of skill, as well as realism; and offered endless replayability through multiplayer.

Little has changed in this regard with the release of Trackmania Turbo, which is great to see. Once again, all you really need to know is how to accelerate and brake. That’ll be enough to get you around one of more than 200 tracks. But it won’t be enough to earn a coveted gold medal or climb the track’s leaderboard.

To do that you’ll need to learn how to drift, how to take jumps, and how to use every inch of the road. This is done through trial and repetition, which is the cornerstone of the Trackmania experience. Each single player race lets you challenge a ghost time and if you beat it, you earn that medal. Then you challenge the next medal or simply try to improve your best time in an attempt to climb a few places on the global or country leaderboard. And believe us, when you start to perform, this becomes an obsession.

If you mess up, it’s quick and easy to restart the race or simply jump back to the last checkpoint if you want to scout out the rest of the track. However, you will have a team member bleating in your ear about watching the paintwork or being careful, which can grind after a few tracks. You’re going to make mistakes, even on the easier tracks, because that’s how you learn where the limit is.

Even though you’re repeating tracks over and over again, it manages to avoid feeling repetitive. Track design is a large part of this, as they provide a constant challenge, a wonderful mix of layouts, and often over-the-top elements like loops, ramps, and jumps. Yes, realism certainly takes a back seat on this ride.

As said, there is a huge number of tracks on offer. However, to actually see the lion’s share of them, you’ll need to get pretty good at the game. You’ll start with 10 unlocked, but to progress to the next batch, you’ll need bronze medals or better on each. This continues for many levels until the unlock requirement jumps to silver medals, followed by gold.

What makes this trickier is that there are also four locations, which offer their own distinctive challenges, while the vehicles’ handling varies drastically. The International Stadium, for example, gives you a perfectly surfaced track and tests your mettle through long, sweeping corners at times, while the Valley Down & Dirty requires you to balance speed with control and keep the car out of the dirt to the side of the track where a rock or tree is just waiting to put an end to your progress. To unlock the second tier of one, you’ll need to get through all the others.

There is a saving grace in the form of the Joker system; if you try, and fail, to improve your time to earn the next medal up a couple of times, you can use a Joker to “acquire” that medal. In the track overview, there is a difference between the Joker and properly earned medal, so you’ll know what track you need to go back and conquer.

If you happen to run out of tracks, or you run aground, there is a comprehensive track editor that lets you build and race your own creation. If you don’t have the skills to emulate what some of the great builders have created, you can even input a couple of parameters and randomise. The game will give you a fully-built base, which you can then modify at will or simply validate and publish.

Trackmania Turbo is chock-full of single player content, but there’s also plenty to keep you entertained in multiplayer too. The game features a cooperative multiplayer mode called Double Driver, which puts two players in charge of the same car, and a variety of local multiplayer modes. Once you’re ready to take on other players, you can take to a multiplayer lobby that caters for up to 100 players.

This may sound overwhelming, but just like in single player, all other players appear as ghost cars. They’re a distraction more than a nuisance; the track can be swarmed with ghost cars, which means you need laser-like focus, and chat is limited to pinging out a “Hi” or “GG”. It’s a different kind of test, giving you a set amount of time to set a quick lap with tension ramping up as your time at the top comes under pressure from your fellow competitors. And if you can stay focused on a particularly quick ghost player, you may learn the best way to approach a segment.

Trackmania Turbo is a brilliantly accessible, yet deep game that will challenge you every step of the way. Personal improvement is remarkably addictive and once you’ve had a taste of the upper echelons of a leaderboard, you’ll simply want more. One more track is never enough.

9/10

- Mark O'Beirne

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