Thursday, 29 September 2011

Trackmania 2 review

This review comes courtesy of Richard McAuliffe from the Everything Comes Back to 2000AD blog and podcast - go check it out!
Unless your very young, in which case - wait until you're older!

Some of you may have played the first Trackmania game so to you I'll just say its more of the same but WAY better looking and polished. Actually it probably doesn't matter what the hell I say. If you played the first you've probably already bought this. So I'll just write this for the newbies.

Trackmania 2 is a driving game in which you get two basic modes, offline and online. So looking at both in order :
Offline is basically time trials. You get dozens of tracks to choose from and opening each you are presented with three medals to race for, gold down to bronze. Depending on which you choose a ghost car also appears on the track and in order to win the medal you have to beat it across the finishing line. Easy as that. If you fail to win and replay the track again there is a second ghost car which is your best performance so far so you race the computer and yourself.

This might sound slightly dull on paper but it really isn’t. For one thing there are the tracks themselves which are insane. Totally impossible physically with crazy jumps, twists and drops so it’s more like you are racing over a huge tarmaced rollercoaster than a racetrack. Then there's the rankings. I've never been much of a person for leader boards but after putting in my details and playing a few tracks I'm told "Well done, you are 250,496th in the world (or whatever) and 327th in Wales". That's what gets you. The need to be 326th locally. Then 325th. That "I'll just have one more quick try" factor to try and shave a quarter second off your best time.

Then there's the immediacy and pure arcade style fun of this. Going through the tracks four out of every five have something around 30-40 seconds as your target time. It’s this short burst element which gives it an Angry Birds style addiction and you'll find your "Just one more go, it'll only take half a minute" will suddenly turn into two or three hours. To compliment this rapid play, at any time you hit the backspace button and the track resets without even the slightest hint of a delay. While this is fun though the real meat of the game is online.

Online runs through its own server which works really well but to be honest I would have preferred it personally if, like the first game, it ran through Steam. As you'd expect you log in, select one of the hundreds of running games and are thrown in with 20 or so other players. Here though you are given a set time per track, usually five minutes, and its down to you to get the best completion time during that period. The fact the other cars are intangible did seem a bit of a shame at first but due to the complexity of most tracks it would be fairly impossible to put that many impactable cars on without it being total chaos. In game banter is generally done in text, but I did join a few servers which were giving channels of a game chat add on should you prefer. The game allows you to upload an icon to represent yourself and these are shown as little floating tags above the other cars for indentification in-race which does make for some fun competition when transferred to the leader boards between each track. Knowing you only need to complete a lap a second faster to go from 20th to 10th is some serious incentive.

The last factor of this game is the inbuilt level designer. I'll admit I only dabbled with this slightly but it did seem very straightforward and intuitive and having raced on some custom home made tracks in the online mode I can attest that it’s possible to make some seriously hardcore levels of your own. What I did spend some time with though, was the car designer. You can only manually paint onto a dozen or so basic car shapes but I did quite enjoy doing this. As a result if you do get this game and see a jet black car with a black and red rear spoiler and the Batman symbol on the doors and bonnet that’s me. And yes I know its childish and NO I don’t care because it looks AWESOME in-game. Even if the "Oi Batman... last again, eh?" chants got a bit old quickly  :(

So in summary this game rocks. I'm not usually a big driving game fan (exluding the insanity of Split Second : Velocity) but I'm totally hooked on this. The offline mode is a fun distraction for when you have 10 minutes to kill and the online is insane fun. Even when I was invariably coming in at the tail end each time I was still eager to play the next track and try and do a bit better and the online community seemed surprisingly idiot free and were more about the fun of the game than abusively lording it over newbies. Add to this the fact that the level designer means new tracks are constantly being uploaded and you're getting a LOT of game for your £20.
Highly recommended.

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