I must admit, I’ve not played any of the Trackmania series before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the series’ first foray onto the Xbox in Trackmania Turbo. After seeing some of the trailers from developer, Nadeo, I was quite intrigued to see what the game had to offer.
From the off, Trackmania Turbo launches you into the action, but it’s probably not the kind of action you’d be expecting. Rather than long, drawn out traditional tracks with traditional racing, the aim of the game here is short, punchy bursts of track and time-trial entertainment in the campaign. Initially, I didn’t enjoy this, but as time went on I got more and more used to this.
Setting up your profile, you’ll have the opportunity to pick not only a country but a region within that country. This then allows you to track your performance against not only your friends, but also the all the folk in your local area who have played the game as well.
So, Trackmania Turbo is different from most other racers. Is this a good thing though? As I mentioned, it took me a little while to get to grips with the short burst racing style and initially I thought that this would mean that the game would have a short campaign with little replay value. How wrong was I? Rather than being the Achilles’ Heel, the fact that the tracks are punchy is the game’s main strength. This is sadly because the racing itself can be so unforgiving that you’ll be using a couple of clever in-game features on a very regular basis.
The developers have included the option to tap a button to either restart the entire race or to drop back in at the last checkpoint you passed. These are all well and good and you’ll find yourself using them time and time again on the many, many devious tracks. The game’s campaign boasts 200 tracks to master. These are split into five series, over four locations with each one offering the opportunity to race with a different vehicle. The locations – Canyon Grand Drift, Down & Dirty Valley, Rollercoaster Lagoon and International Stadium – all have a set vehicle and if truth be told, the almost beach buggy-esque car in Down & Dirty Valley feels like it has the control of a clown car. Each location’s series has ten individual races, with eight of them featuring the short time-trial format. Races five and ten however, give you 3 laps to find your best time. This presents it’s own problems.
When you initially start each new track, you’re given the opportunity to face-off against the ghost of gold, silver or bronze or you can race alone. Given the fact that the tracks get more and more devious as you progress in your career, it might not be a bad idea to race against bronze for tracks 60 and up. So will Trackmania Turbo give you the lasting experience that you’d be getting from the likes of Forza? Well, in short, yes.
You progress onto the next set of stages by fulfilling either bronze, silver or gold medal challenges. Grab these medals to unlock the next set of career options. Up to the end of the Green Series, the only medals you’ll need to collect are bronze. Finish the Green Series with less than 80 Silver though, and you’ll need to revisit tracks you’ve already been frustrated at to try to improve to at least one more medal. This means that if you want to start the Blue Series then you’ll have to score at least a silver in every race. Bearing in mind that it’s probably taken you the best part of six hours to get that far, it might put some others off.
The vehicles themselves all have their own slight handling quirks. I’ve already mentioned the Beach Buggy in Canyon Grand Drift, a machine that seems to want to tip whenever you try the drift feature. This is incredibly frustrating as drifting is something that should be integral to the game. The Buggy just doesn’t seem capable of the drift. The other cars seems more than capable of drifting and indeed, you might find that your times reflect this. It would’ve been nice to be able to choose the machine you’re racing with though.
So far then, Trackmania Turbo offers a solid career with fast and fun if not also frustrating racing to enjoy. What else do you get for your money? There are a number of multiplayer options that offer some respite from trying to beat the AI times. One of these options is the unusual Double Driver feature. This sees you and your couch colleague trying to steer in tandem to guide the car around the track in the best time possible. There is also a split-screen local head to head and an online lobby filled to the brim with tracks and folk to race against.
So, the game offers single and multiplayer goodness, it plays well and it runs at a tremendous pace. I can’t help feel that it’s being let down slightly by the unforgiving scenery and obstacles. It could only be more difficult if they’d introduced damage to the cars. What do I mean by this? Well, the courses twist and turn but they’re not just flat. They rise, they fall, they loop, they bank and undulate. The surface changes, there are chicanes and unbelievably, there are posts mid-track. There are also trees, jumps, water hazards and several different surfaces to contend with. On some tracks you are literally threading a needle at breakneck speed. If you’re a millimetre out, you can scrap that lap. This is especially annoying on the multi-lap trials, and even more annoying on the last corner on lap 3 I can tell you.
Graphically, the game is good. It’s not as polished as the likes of Forza, but it plays at such a breakneck speed that it doesn’t need to be. The engines are fairly whiny and there is a rather repetitive and annoying pit-crew voice nagging you for scratching the paintwork. The game also features a thumping techno-inspired backing soundtrack. There are a couple of nice touches with parts flying from your charger, but this seems to happen regardless of whether you hit anything.