Trackmania

Review

posted 7/19/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
Some of my all time favorite games have been arcade stunt racers. On the Amiga, it was Stunt Car Racer that had me hooked. On the PC, Whiplash was so addicting for me, I used to skip classes in college to play it on the LAN with 7 others. I was so disappointed when the Voodoo2 didn’t support Whiplash that I kept my Voodoo1 to play the game in 3D accelerated mode. When I heard about Trackmania, I was pretty excited about the premise and that it could satisfy my craving for a Whiplash substitute.

Published by Enlight, in release in Europe for six months, and now getting a US release, Trackmania lets you race tracks with loops, corkscrews, jumps and obstacles. Not only can you race but you can also build your own tracks. Supporting LAN or Internet multiplayer, Trackmania has all the ingredients to provide an addicting and fun experience.

For starters, the game features three types of cars: a rally car, a stock racing car, and a jeep. Each car appears in the three different types of environments that the tracks are set in. They all seem to drive a little differently too with the racing car being fast and unstable on tight turns and the jeep that hugs the road. Three modes of play are available with race, puzzle, and survival. Race lets you race against the clock to get the best time for the track. Survival pits you against multiple computer racers for first, second, or third place. Puzzle is an interesting concept whereby you are giving a start point, end point, and a limited number of track pieces. You’ll have to not only build a track to get you to the end point, but race through it as well. All three offer a good variety of play and incorporating the track editor into a game mode was a nice idea.

The physics is very arcadish so those looking for a realistic driving experience will disappointed. But I rather enjoy the simplified driving experience over something more realistic in these types of games. There is some flipping of the cars and you’ll see some nice tumbles at times. Hooking up my Logitech MOMO wheel, I was breezing through the various tracks with ease. Sometimes, driving games are harder to play when using a wheel, but I found Trackmania to be quite easy with one thanks to the simplistic driving physics.

One of the things I loved about Whiplash was the intense action and fighting for a spot by bumping into the other cars. The game also had a damage meter for each car and would slow down as you were damaged more. Unfortunately, there is no car collision in this game as each car on the track is a ghost. Even on multiplayer games, you’ll drive the track as if you’re the only one on there but you do see your competition. The tracks are too narrow to really allow more than one car on the road so having collision between cars would really hinder the game. The lack of collision does ensure smooth play from those that just want to cause trouble by running into everyone.


The various tracks though are what make Trackmania so fun to play and there’s some really unique tracks that come with the game. Going through the racing portion, you won’t just go through straight point A to point B races as you’ll come across ones with multiple paths and there’s even one that’s built like a parking garage with multiple levels and large support poles that stand in your way. This race makes you control your speed more and is a little more intense as the tight spaces and tight corners always has you on your toes. Your car will also react differently on different track surfaces. For example, once you hit an ice patch, you’ll be going in the direction you hit it and will be at its mercy until you hit a drivable road. While there are only three environments, they do offer a little something different in each one.

Graphically, the game isn’t outstanding but does stand up well. The cars are modeled well and each track environment has some good looks. With the cars, you’ll see nice little touches such as doors flipping open on tight turns when you’ve banged your car up a bit. There’s no real physical damage modeled though and that’s a little disappointing. The loops and twists are impressive to see from a distance and make the tracks very impressive visually. Elaborate track designs will look stunning though and driving through you’ll be treated to some nice visuals. When you’re going top speed from a very high jump to an underground tunnel into a corkscrew, you’ll be thrilled at the quick changing track.

Trackmania’s editor isn’t bad but I would’ve liked to have seen a little more polished GUI. You can edit pre-built tracks or go out on your own and create some really crazy ones. With a little imagination, you can design some really outlandish tracks with the pieces available to you. Controls are pretty simple with point and click getting you by most of what you need to do. You’ll get around using a combination of keyboard and mouse controls. It’s not hard to create tracks and you can really get wild with what you want to put in there, but I still would’ve liked to seen the GUI be a little more user friendly.

Playing the game online, I found the action and driving to be very smooth and that’s playing with servers in England. When I was reviewing the game, I didn’t find any US servers to play on but a few servers overseas. The game’s very enjoyable online and I did like to race against other human opponents. Seeing four cars fly through the air ahead of you as each land in a different position is a pretty cool sight. I did experience some clipping issues such as a car being sunk into the track halfway while it's racing around though. It's a minor issue since there's no collision anyways, but can be visually annoying.

For a price of $30, this game’s a steal. It’s very fun to play and offers great online action along with plenty of tracks to play with in game or downloadable off the net. Several shortcomings like ghost only mode, no damage, and average graphical user interface keep this title from being an editor’s choice. There's also a lack of force feedback as my Logitech MOMO wheel didn't budge when hitting walls or landing from jumps. I couldn't see any option to turn this feature on in the game either. Even so, the game’s great for stunt car fans and you’ll get plenty of enjoyment for a very low price. And it’s worth every penny at such a low price.






B
A fun racing game that's nicely priced. A nice community is being built up offering leagues and tracks.