TrackMania Turbo Review

There’s not many racing games that will dangle you from a helicopter before dropping you down onto a ramp and sending you on your merry way. TrackMania Turbo is in a pretty exclusive club in that regard, and this way that it starts so many of the 200 tracks in the game and its arcade style time trails just sit perfectly with the bright and colourful world through which you’ll be racing.

Even the Canyon environment, with its otherwise dusty reddish-brown cliffs that are so reminiscent of Monument Valley, is gorgeously lit by the sun and features huge signs, LED screens, blimps, helicopters and more. There’s a good contrast to the green grass, fields and gravel tracks of the Valley, the tropical Rollercoaster Lagoon and its ludicrous rollercoasters, or the neon infused International Stadium. It doesn’t matter where you’re racing, TrackMania is gorgeous.

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Each location features a slightly different style of driving and demands on the player as well. You’d expect the dirt racing of Valley to be slippy, but the car is a lot grippier on roads compared to that of Canyon, which you can happily send into wide, sweeping drifts. The tight barriers of the rollercoasters are a particular challenge in Lagoon, needing you to make sharp and precise adjustments even as the track twists and turns away from you in all manner of directions, and that contrasts with the wider tracks that you’ll tend to find in Stadium. Jumping back and forth can be a little tricky, but TrackMania lives by the mantra of being easy to learn but difficult to master.

That plays perfectly with the compulsive nature of the game’s time attacks. Even in the easiest of the five difficulty levels, there are a few tracks and gold medal times that can be tricky to best. There’s a little bit of common ground with another Ubisoft published series, Trials, in that getting to the end of a track is usually doable, but every little mistake that you make along the way will cost you precious time. The instant restart that lives on the circle button will be your friend, as you never get past the first 20 seconds of any of the game’s music tracks and worry about whether your trigger finger is going to go numb.

However, it’s not just your own compulsion forcing you to perfect each track, the game’s progression demands it. You unlock tracks in blocks of ten, going through each of the environments in turn at a given difficulty level, however to unlock the second set of tracks you need to have ten bronze medals. That’s simple enough, but the middle difficulty Blue Series then demands that you have silver medals for all the previous tracks, before the most difficult Black Series requires all gold medals. That’s all before you have to consider the Trackmaster medals…

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The game does let you skip tracks with a joker system, if you fail to beat it three times, but this feels like an archaic workaround. Other games have gradual unlocks as well, but taking Driveclub as an example, you don’t need all 18 stars from the first six events in order to unlock the first championship. That gives you a feeling of being free to play the game how you want, but TrackMania made me feel like I have to beat that time or have the need to do so hanging over me later on.

It also means that you can’t really explore all that the game has to offer. There’s some astonishing set piece design, whether it’s a huge leap off a cliff that requires precision down to the degree, gravity defying loop-the-loops, abstract ramps and driving along walls. Nadeo have done a really nice job of keeping thing mixed up and interesting, with some devilish layouts that almost feel like puzzles to solve.

Chasing down a time, nailing an apex and coming out of a corner ahead of the ghost is core to the game’s appeal, but there’s several ways to get that particular fix. Naturally, there’s the single player’s ghosts, but you can also pit yourself against the times of your friends in the Record Centre or create and take part in specifically created Challenges, which can span several tracks.

You can also head online for the game’s quite ludicrous 100 player multiplayer mode. You simply browse a room, find a room with space that you like the look of and hop in – these are all player created rooms with bespoke tracklists hosted on dedicated servers. Nothing really prepares you for the sheer madness that is trying to race against 100 other ghosts all at the same time. As the round’s 5 minute window starts, you can barely see the track for all of the ghost cars, but it quickly calms down as people fluff their lines and restart. There’s an added satisfaction to knowing that you’re beating these people in real time, or the dismay at seeing how fast someone passed you out of a corner.

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It can be just as manic in local multiplayer, but for very different reasons. This is much more of a party game, with a comprehensive set of options available to you. You can play with four player splitscreen, pass the pad in hotseat, simply set times on an arcade leaderboard, but there’s also a “secret modes” menu item. There’s a logic to it that you can figure out, or you can simply mash some of the face buttons and it will spew out game modes for you to play. There’s the possibility of collisions, simple Mario Kart-like pick ups, Micro Machines-styled single screen nonsense, and combinations of all of these.

Another unique trick that TrackMania has up its sleeves is the Double Driver mode, with two players given 50% control over every input of the car. If you both steer in opposite directions, then you go straight, but the mode engenders communication and cooperation to try and take on whatever fiendish track lies ahead of you. It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds because you’re both most likely to be giving the game similar inputs, but it’s still a lot of fun.

And there’s a potentially infinite number of tracks for you to play on as well, thanks to the Trackbuilder. On the simplest level, you can let the game generate a track for you at random, approve it and get racing, but you also have three levels of tools to let you create your own masterpiece. The beginner and normal toolsets are fairly basic, but they let you quickly bolt together your own track in a fairly intuitive fashion. The advanced tools are much more intimidating and confusing to start off with, thanks to the twin radial menus that are introduced for item selection, but once you get the hang of them, it seems as though you’ll be able to create tracks every bit as complex and mindboggling as those created by Nadeo.

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Unfortunately, though you can share these online for others to play, there’s no user created track browser in game. It’s a huge oversight to send you to an oddly minimalist website – https://players.turbo.trackmania.com – and have you log in to add tracks to your favourites list. Other parts of the game, such as finding and racing against a friend’s ghost, can also feel quite obtuse, and online room load times were disappointingly slow, even if some of this can be chalked up to pre-release servers during the game’s open beta.

What’s Good:

  • Compelling “one more go” gameplay.
  • Gorgeously vibrant graphics.
  • 100 player online play.
  • Tons of local multiplayer modes.
  • Comprehensive track creation tools.

What’s Bad:

  • Restrictive single player progression.
  • No built in user creation browser.
  • Occasionally clunky menu system.

Some parts of the TrackMania Turbo’s structure feel restrictive or poorly thought out, but there’s little to detract from the compulsive time attacks, the outlandish track design and the gorgeously vibrant graphics.

Score: 9/10

Version tested: PlayStation 4

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19 Comments

  1. First game I’ve bought this year, I do like a decent arcade racer.

  2. R1MJAW pointed in the way to the closed beta of this and I thought I’ll try it because he said he was really looking forward to it coming out. I thought yes I’ll play this beta for 5 minutes and delete it like I usually do but didn’t expect to still be on it 4 hours later and still wanting to play more. I also tried the multiplayer the next night and found that to be great fun. I was trying to ignore all games coming out to clear my backlog but I’ve decided to add this to it but it’s this and Action Henk I can see myself playing for a while.

    • Ha! A double whammy of time sucking “one more go” games.

      • Yes they really take the time up but great fun. I’ve not got time to play much else with these addictions :-)

  3. My impression from the beta was that it looks nice, and it’s reasonably fun, but there’s just something missing. Just little 30 second chunks of racing and then try and beat your time. Which would be fine if it was some mobile game ported to the PS4 and sold for a fiver. Maybe even 7 or 8 quid would get my attention.

    Also, the annoying voice saying the same half a dozen things every time to do anything wrong.

    The track editor looked fun though, but if there’s no way to find user created tracks in the game, that’s a pretty disastrous missing feature.

    A beta version is supposed to test important things before it’s unleashed on the world. I guess it worked in that way, as the online part worked fine (and yes, it’s a lot of fun racing a hundred ghosts at a time). But I think we all know that “beta” really means “demo” these days. Something that’s supposed to persuade you to buy the game. In that case, it kind of failed.

    Nice idea, just implemented in a perfectly competent way, nothing more. And I just know it’ll tempt me some day in a sale.

    • This.

    • There’s little reason to stick around after getting a golf, but I nce you best each gold medal, you’re onto the next race, the next challenge, the next environment. The beta was a slice of the earlier content in order to be accessible for people demoing the game, with later levels seeing Nadeo really flex their muscles with unusual and more challenging layouts.

      • That’s interesting, ultimately i think this game is more arcade than the racer i’m looking for but i will look out for some gameplay videos.

      • Do the later levels get to be any longer though? Or are they still little 30 second chunks of racing?

        Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying there’s not a place for games like that, with little bits of game you can have a quick go on. Just that £27 probably isn’t the price point for it.

        As someone else mentioned Action Henk… That’s the price they should be aiming at. Short little levels you might just end up playing a ridiculous number of times until you get it right. For a bargain price.

      • @MrYd there is a race against the clock at the end of every 30 bit which is all the little 30 second segment put together, I think it’s a 3 lap race too.

      • As Divid said, every fifth track is a circuit, and the point to point tracks do get longer than 30 seconds. And in terms of price versus Action Henk? It might be a similar bitesized format, but there’s also a lot more of it.

    • Same here, lovely looking game and responsive steering but overall the short events made it feel more like i was progressing through a chart rather than racing my way to victory. Not for me but i can see the attraction.

      • This will sound silly, but.. only the short events are short. Online you can filter by track length, some take much longer to finish. I played the original on PC some 15 years ago and this game is all about the user created element. People make really mind blowing tracks! Even in this beta I was racing around several minute long relentless upside tracks with gut wrenching twists. This will be insane on VR!

  4. I enjoyed the demo. About time the PS4 had an arcade racer. Hopefully more environments are added down the line.

  5. Awesome, glad you like it Tef and I think the word ‘compulsive’ sums Trackmania up perfectly. Can’t wait for it to arrive later in the week.

  6. Really did enjoy it but don’t know if it’s worth the asking price…. DiRT is out in 2 weeks though xD will probs get trackmania for short burst before going to bed or coming home from work but will wait and see

  7. Having had a good play on it last night, I can confirm it is oodles of fun but the 30s races are a tiny bit annoying. Looking forward to making some ridiculous tracks myself and then playing against chums on split screen.

    • I recommend going to Online Racing then filtering on Lagoon and Platform or Concept.

      Just finished one user created roller coaster track that took over 4 minutes to beat :)

  8. Dunno what this says about the controls ( or me…..)

    But I was terrible at the beta until started using the control pad for steering. Much easier.

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