Aside from a dalliance with Nintendo’s Wii and DS, TrackMania has never ventured beyond the realms of PC gaming. Though I built a gaming PC in the intervening years, I was envious of TrackMania 2’s announcement, not least because of some of the mind boggling “press forward” creations that it spawned. In some ways, it looks like the Play, Create, Share racing game that console gamers never quite got – valiant though Sony’s two karting game efforts were. TrackMania Turbo finally brings this series to PlayStation and Xbox gamers.
Of course, while the tracks that effectively play themselves make for some amazing videos, the actual game has you take control of the cars. It starts off in a fairly unassuming fashion, with the easiest White Series giving you some fairly straightforward tracks to beat across each of the four different environments. This is a time attack game, pitting you against the bronze, silver and gold ghost times, as well as the times of other players on the global leaderboards.
The easiest difficulty and the straightforward tracks are important to let you get the hang of the different handling through the game’s four environments. Canyon Grand Drift is the most accessible, with a car that’s easy to put into a drift, but as soon as you get to Valley Down & Dirty, you’re dealing with mixed surfaces that have you skidding around on the grass and gravel, but leave you with an excess of grip whenever you’re on the road. It makes for an interesting change of pace, beyond just the environment looking different.
Things start to get really interesting once you play in Rollercoaster Lagoon and International Stadium, with the much more outlandish track designs coming to the fore across the board as you step up to Green Series and Blue Series difficulties. Suddenly, you’re driving up and along walls, trying to pay attention to the signage that tells you roughly what the next section of track is doing, not to mention contending with occasional modifiers, which might cut your engine out for a few moments, and force you to coast through the track.
With each race against the clock, it’s so easy to get caught in a loop of just playing one particular track over and over, trying to perfectly cut a corner, send your car gracefully through the air and try to nail the landing. The face button to restart the track will soon become your best friend. In fact, I got so absorbed in trying to get a good start on one track, that 10 minutes later, when I did actually manage to nail my landing, I’d completely forgotten all of the twists and turns that were yet to come.
With 200 bespoke tracks, split across four environments and five difficulty levels, there’s an awful lot to sink your teeth into. However, that’s really just the beginning, and the game’s track creation tools will give an endless source of new tracks. You can dive in and use the most advanced tools to truly tweak and perfect a racing masterpiece, if you like, but at the same time, there are toolsets that are simplified and easier to get a hang of, not to mention the ability to let the game create a track at random for you – though it’s not necessarily going to be possible to complete.
That’s a boon to the kind of party gaming that Nadeo have woven into the multiplayer. You can play online, racing against up to 100 other players simultaneously – don’t worry, there’s no collisions in that instance – but there’s plenty more to do locally. There are hot seat modes as well as up to four player split screen play, which can have collisions turned on, but there’s also a bunch of secret party modes which mix different game modifiers together. One lets you play with a Micro Machines-esque follow cam, where dropping off the screen loses that player a life until there’s just one person left, or there’s a mode with Mario Kart-esque pickups from checkpoints to let you try and duff over your friends.
However, my favourite is actually Double Driver mode, which gives two players 50% of the say on what the car will do. If you both push left, you’ll turn left as fast as the car can, but if you push in opposite directions, you’ll cancel each other out. It actually works surprisingly well, and with two players occasionally yelling out prompts, you can get around without too much trouble. Do this in hot seat mode against another pair of players, and it really ups the competitive stakes.
Nadeo are really nailing the game’s presentation, as well. The game looks fantastic in motion, with lush environments and gameplay that’s fast and fluid as they whizz past the side of the screen. Certain clever touches stand out, such as the way that the game switches to the bonnet cam, or first person view when entering the Rollercoaster Lagoon’s loop the loops and more disorienting sections.
There’s also an interesting system in place for the game’s music as well, which adds loops and layers to the soundtrack as you do better and better, and pass through checkpoints. Tapping the touchpad on PS4 lets you bring the music to the fore, instead of the engine noise.
For gamers on PC, much of this might be old hat, but bringing TrackMania to console lets so many more people see and play the game. With a few familiar environments from the TrackMania 2 games, Nadeo have clearly been building towards TrackMania Turbo for the last five years. There’s a little bit of everything, from time trials to split screen, online multiplayer, and a bunch of varied and fun party modes to discover and enjoy.