The very definition of an acquired taste, Trackmania has been lurking behind the scenes of arcade racing greats for years now. While other games fuss about such unimportant concerns as gravity and gear changes, Trackmania is pure, unbridled enthusiasm for perfecting your driving lines and inching towards time trial glory. The latest outing, Trackmania Turbo, does very little to rock the boat, but that doesn’t stop it being an absolute treat for arcade racer fans.
For the uninitiated, Trackmania Turbo has you racing against the clock around a selection of rollercoaster-like tracks, oftentimes reminiscent of F-Zero, stitched together from various building blocks into countless variations. Each of the four car types has twitchy, responsive controls that has you pinballing about the track in search of the perfect line. For sharper bends there’s an insanely tight drifting mechanic, allowing the better players to hug the very inside of the track in pursuit of a quicker time.
Players can restart instantly with the press of the button, attempt to get a perfect run on the (usually) point to point tracks. You’ll be repeating this feat over and over again in the hopes of shaving milliseconds off your time in order to rise up the leaderboards. That encapsulates what Trackmania Turbo, and you should know in an instant whether it’s the game for you.
For solo players the bulk of your time is basically going to be spent in the career. In here there’s 200 tracks split across four different terrain types, rising in difficulty from firm but fair all the way up to ‘I’ll never even get to the finish line’. There’s no other cars to raise against per se, other than ghosts. It’s just you against the clock, trying to get Bronze, Silver or Gold. Oh, and the elusive Platinum, which I have tragically never seen. I can only imagine such a target is just for the criminally insane to achieve.
Outside of the career mode there’s some extensive multiplayer options and a simple to use track builder that can have you stitching together early creations in a matter of minutes. It’s kind of like RollerCoaster Tycoon in this regard, allowing you to drag and drop pre-built track pieces running from beginning to end. You can manipulate the environment as well. Creating tunnels to fly through, lakes to fly over and canyons to wind down. Should that feel like a bit of a time sink for you then you can even select and track length and watch as it just randomly builds one on the fly. Obviously these vary significantly in quality, but Trackmania Turbo can just build another with the push of a button.
Trackmania Turbo is the first outing, aside from a few Nintendo spin-offs, to hit console alongside PC. Nadeo has been pretty upfront about this being made for console first and then ported to PC. Thankfully this doesn’t come at the cost of performance, which is just absolutely fantastic across the board. Even with a 750 ti I was pulling in frame rates up into the hundreds. No, where it suffers a little is the online functionality. This time around there’s no player-hosted dedicated servers, it’s all ran from Nadeo’s end.
While this provides a more reliable setup, it does restrict the crazier servers which make Trackmania such an enigmatic experience. There’s no custom German techno, no crazy car skins, and no mods in general. For some this could be a killer blow to Trackmania Turbo’s long-term prospects, but the same core multiplayer gameplay is still intact and every bit as enjoyable as it was before. Most people are going to get stuck into the competitive time-trial online play, but there’s also stack of local options as well. There’s the chaotic Double Driver where you and a buddy control the same car, with a full 190-track campaign, or split-screen four-play racing, stunt mode, power-up mode, and Micro Machines-aping one screen mode.
Considering its budget pricing, there’s a heck of a lot to love about Trackmania Turbo. As I said earlier it really is an acquired taste, for that masochistic lot that get a kick out of shaving tenths of seconds off theirs and other people’s time, Nadeo’s latest is a winner. It's the sort of thing I find myself frantically throwing in the last few minutes of my lunch break, desperate to catch a quick session or smash a new record.