Fast forward to 2003. Nadeo releases a game called Trackmania, a spiritual successor to Stunts, it has the same basic premis: drive on crazy, stunt filled tracks and try to set the best time, and use the built in track editor to make your own tracks to share with others. Nadeo would go on to make a whole series out of this Releasing the games Trackmania Sunrise and even a free title in the form of Trackmania Nations. Eventually these three games were combined to create Trackmania United, which then got a free expansion turning it into Trackmania United Forever. It then got another free expansion, making the game Trackmania United Forever Star Edition which is the version I'm reviewing. Though for simplicities sake I'll simply be calling it Trackmania United.
Trackmania United is an arcade racing game with a bit of a weird twist. You don't race against other drivers, at least not directly. You won't be jockeying with other cars as there are no other cars, just ghost recordings of other racers, even in multiplayer, cars will harmlessly pass right through each other. Instead your opponent is the track itself. Each track in Trackmania is an obstacle course, filled with massive jumps, corkscrews, loops and other things that have no place on a proper race course. These tracks are backed up by a solid driving model. Cars are responsive and fun to drive, and thanks to the game's arcade roots, can even brake in mid-air. this is actually important as controlling your speed is a big part of the game, so being able to slow down in mid air when you might otherwise overshoot a jump is extremely useful. When you do make a mistake, the game also has a checkpoint system, with the ability to respawn at the last checkpoint you passed at any time, so you don't have to restart a track completely if you crash or otherwise get stuck. you can respawn as many times as you need, though the clock does keep ticking while you do this, so there's still a penalty to using it.
|Loops in the track, like this one here are a common sight in game.|
While you don't get a say in cars, you do have a few racing modes to pick from outside of the normal racing, there's also platform, puzzle and stunt modes. platform is a lot like normal racing, except instead of time, your success is measured in attempts. Tracks are raised above ground, and your goal is to complete them while falling off, crashing, or otherwise getting stuck as few times as possible, the fewer times you need to respawn at a checkpoint, the better. Puzzle meanwhile, makes good use of the game's track editor. In puzzle mode, you're given a partially built track, and some parts you can use to finish it, hopefully in such a way as to set a good time. these modes are fun and while clearly not the main focus of the game, make for a nice bonus on top of the usual time trials.
|Each environment has their own unique features, such as Stadium's dirt track sections shown here.|
Between all of these modes and environments, the game has maybe about 200 tracks. it's a very large number and the game would be highly replayable if that was it, but the game went as far as to include a track editor. The track editor is extremely easy to use. Each environment in game is broken up into several building block like segments, which you piece together on a grid to make your track. Each environment has it's own unique segments, but unfortunately you can't mix them together, so you can't use something like the bay environment's bridges on a desert track. Still, thanks to being so easy to use. Thousands of tracks have been made by the games players, which you can download from in game, or off websites like TMX. The game is even backwards compatible with tracks from the previous games in the series, making for even more playable tracks on top of the thousands made for this game alone.
|Big jumps like this are common in game, though you have to be careful not to overshoot the landing.|
Trackmania has a workable soundtrack, the music is catchy, energetic and feels right at home in a racing game. Unfortunately, there's only one song per environment. You're going to be hearing the same music a lot, especially if you spend a lot of time racing in the same environment. Sound meanwhile, is perfectly fine. Engines roar like they should, tires squeal and when you mess up a landing, you're met with the sounds of crunching metal and shattering glass. There is a slight problem in that there's no environmental sounds. meaning There's no roaring crowds or other sort of background noise but it's nothing readily noticeable when you're busy driving.
|With a little effort, you can include some nice scenery in the tracks you create.|
Overall? Trackmania is great at what it does. It's a fun, unique racing game that's highly replayable thanks to an active userbase. and while things like the coppers system, or that everyone in multiplayer only plays the stadium environment can be a bit of a pain, the game is still highly worth playing.
Trackmania United was developed by Nadeo and published by Ubisoft. It is available on Steam and Gamersgate. It's homepage, which includes a demo is available here.