As far as racing games are concerned, I much prefer those that are not about precision and skill, and those that don’t require a driving degree to excel in. As a result, I tend to steer myself toward the more arcade-centric driving, like those found in the TrackMania franchise.
Let’s be honest though, TrackMania is far from casual. Sure, it may be easy to pick up and come to grips with for any gamer, but mastering any given track requires an immense amount of practice and patience. Still, I love the franchise, which is why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on TrackMania Turbo.
Does this new edition from Nadeo manage to retain that addictive, fast-paced racing formula found in previous titles in the franchise? Absolutely! Did I want to throw my controller at the screen and swear the game into oblivion several times over? Yes, without a doubt! TrackMania Turbo really is the definitive experience – it contains just about all you know and love from previous iterations, and then some.
The main campaign is split up into 4 environments. Physical locales aside, they all play very differently to each other thanks largely to the vehicles that feature in each, as well as some unique track designs and attributes.
Grand Canyon Drift gives players a car that has a nice balance of both speed and control. It drifts around corners with ease, and generally speaking, is a dream to handle. The Down & Dirty Valley vehicle is the same essentially, though its handling is much sharper, especially off-road. Rollercoaster Lagoon has a beast of a machine that comes packed with a little too much speed and control. It’s capable of flying along rollercoaster-like tracks at breakneck speeds.
The last environment is probably the most recognisable of the lot. International Stadium features a formula 1 vehicle, which drives identically to its counterpart found in TrackMania Nations Forever. It’s packed with speed and handling, but lacks somewhat in the drifting department. It’s a lot of fun to drive regardless.
The first batch of the 200 tracks on offer will gently teach newcomers how to handle these vehicles, and remind returning veterans why they love the franchise in the first place. It all starts out easy enough – go straight, do some turning here and there, and presto, a bronze, silver, or gold medal is yours for the taking.
I flew through the first 60 tracks or so myself with relative ease, grabbing mostly silvers and golds along the way. Before long though, the difficulty ramped up significantly. Simple straights slowly got replaced with hazardous ramps and dangerous jumps. Single corners transitioned into numerous, tight gaps. Lastly, surfaces became a shuffled affair, and required different kinds of attention from all the vehicles.
The Canyon Grand Drift vehicle for example, is a dream to handle on tarmac. Put it on a dirt road however, or a stretch of grass, and it becomes somewhat of a nightmare to control effectively. The slightest steering miscalculation can result in the grazing of a wall (if not an outright crash), which translates into the loss of valuable seconds. That then, is the difference between a gold or a silver… or any respectable finishing time for that matter.
This in itself is not a problem per se. TrackMania has always been challenging afterall. Having it made too easy would certainly detract from what the franchise is all about – speed and precision. What I really didn’t like about Turbo though, is its progression system.
In order to unlock the more difficult levels, a certain amount of medals are required. Unlocking the first batch of tracks only needs a couple of bronzes. The later ones however, require a lot more effort. The last 40 levels for example, require a gold medal in every single race beforehand. Achieving that, I assure you, is no easy feat.
Thankfully, this problem is somewhat mitigated thanks to the joker system. Its application is pretty straight forward – finish a race three times with a certain podium position, and you can unlock the greater one with no additional effort. So for example, if I’m really struggling on a certain track, I can drive and complete it with a bronze ranking three times. I can then trade in those three finishes for a “fake” silver. It’s not a perfect workaround, but it does at least ensure that the game isn’t entirely locked off to those (like me) who aren’t the best racers in town. I’m thankful to Nadeo for at least thinking up the joker system, for without it, I may have missed out on some really stellar tracks.
Despite the difficulty, and the questionable progression system, I just couldn’t put TrackMania Turbo down. Well, that’s a lie. There were many times I quit in a frenzy of fury.
When I wasn’t playing though, all I could do was think about how I couldn’t wait to hop back into the drivers seat. And when I did, it was bliss, mingled with anger, yes, but bliss nonetheless! That restart button got pushed many thousands of times, and I couldn’t stop myself from doing it.
Nadeo have put together some incredibly memorable tracks for this game. Those found in Rollercoaster Lagoon in particular, are quite fantastic. They snake up and down, flow in and out, and include many magnetised twists that made my palms just a little too sweaty for my liking. There really was no greater thrill than completing one of them to perfection, and grabbing that gold medal. This I suppose is what makes TrackMania Turbo so damn addictive – just like all the titles before it.
Shut up and Drive
The best part is that TrackMania Turbo can be enjoyed with friends, both off and online. There are a host of features and modes which will suck up even more time beyond the lengthy campaign (which in itself will take the average gamer a good long time to finish).
For starters, there’s a track editor. Putting together a course really is as difficult as you want it to be. You can opt to make use of a beginner-friendly designer, or something far more advanced. Either can bring any madly conceived track to life, and in no time at all.
If putting in actual time and effort into design isn’t your thing, you can just go ahead and generate a track. It’s simple really – mess around with some preset options, click build, and the game will do all the hard work for you!
Once your track is done, you can put it online, or keep it aside for you and your friends to enjoy. Speaking of which, TrackMania Turbo features split-screen multiplayer. It really does make for a perfect party game. It’s easy to pick up, and can be enjoyed by all.
When beating your friends becomes old hat, you can take your driving skills online. There are thousands of tracks to be enjoyed outside of TrackMania Turbo’s main campaign. What makes them particularly enjoyable is that up to 100 people can race on them at any given time.
It’s always quite something to see dozens of real-time ghost opponents flying around corners, and restarting, and flying around corners, and restarting again, and again. It can be a little overwhelming at first, truth be told. I could never quite grab a podium finish once I adjusted to the chaos (some people really are too good), but I had a blast online nonetheless!
Nadeo really have outdone themselves with TrackMania Turbo. Apart from the sometimes questionable difficulty, and the even more bizarre progression system, it’s an all around fantastic arcade racer, and one I could happily recommend.
You don’t even need to be a fan of the racing genre to enjoy it. Take me for example. Generally speaking, I hate racers, yet here I am, writing words about a game I wish I was playing right this second instead.
Alright, I’m done! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to throw my controller in frustration. I can’t wait!
Last Updated: March 30, 2016