The TrackMania franchise has been an underground darling on PCs for well over a decade. Despite its popularity and high level of critical acclaim, console releases have been few and far between. Except for one on the Wii and an even smaller-scale release on the DS, core gaming device users haven’t had many chances to experience the series. As the name implies, the real star of the show are the tracks – and with over 200 to play by default, the game certainly isn’t lean on content.
Most racing games pit you against rival drivers. Here, your rivals are a mix of your past, higher-medal ideal ghosts, the clock, and the track. TrackMania can be described as exactly what a kid would want from a racing game. You’ve got crazy tracks that seem like the things you would come up with as a kid with a few too many sodas in your system and Hot Wheels sets at your disposal. So many racing games are about the cars – but this is about the tracks. You’ll want to master the ones that are given to you, and then dive into the world of track creation to test your skills and those of players across the world.
Vehicle types aren’t robust, but they don’t need to be. You just need to drive a thing shaped like a car with four wheels and you’re ready to go – the key is how well you race and deal with the obstacles in front of you. You can tackle 200 default courses across many kinds of environments, with everything separated into five different series. The white series is for beginners, while the green series is tougher, blue is hard, red is harder, and the black series is the master-class in TrackMania. Each series has courses set across settings like a canyon-filled area, a jungle full of dirt and grassy roads, a steel-heavy environment based on a roller coaster, and then the game’s biggest stadium – which is hyped up a bit in loading screens as having the highest indoor attendance possible of any fictional arenas.
They may not be a selling point you put on the back of the box, but the loading screens themselves are highly-amusing and something you’ll laugh at every time you see them. One talks about TrackMania being a disease that can’t be cured by anything but driving really fast, while another says you can unlock super hard mode by holding your controller upside-down. They’re perfect at adding a sense of humor to a game that really doesn’t have much context to it.
TrackMania Turbo is very easy to play, but difficult to fully master. You have your usual trigger controls for racing and braking, but unlike most racing games now, you can use a d-pad to move as well. Given the franchise’s history on PC and digital inputs, this makes sense and d-pad controls work about as well as an analog stick would in other games. However, TrackMania Turbo adds in a touch of supercross games by using the right stick for your car’s suspension. This isn’t something you’ll need to make use of at the lower levels, but on higher-tier tracks, it can really help you out. Rough landings can stop you pretty much dead in your tracks for a second, but if you adjust the suspension in mid-air, you’ll be fine.
Trial and error is the key here, and figuring out what doesn’t work is often as important as figuring out what does. You’ll learn pretty quickly that hitting a turn too fast will hurt you far more here than in a standard racing game. There, you can always catch up to a rival. Here, you’re stuck either hoping for a bronze medal or restarting. Surprisingly, there isn’t a restart button mapped to anything. Instead, you have to go through a few menus to get to that feature. It’s cumbersome, but hopefully something that a patch can address and make a bit simpler.
As-is, the game is still a blast to play and infinitely replayable. That sounds like hyperbole, but with this game already having 200 included tracks and the ability to have you either make tracks or download an endless supply of them from other players, it’s true here. The creation suite is a bit like a DSLR camera – it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. If you just want to see what’s possible, make a randomized course with a few presets like time of day and track type. If you want to get your hands dirty, try to make a simple short track. Then, if you feel like you’ve mastered things – go for the gold and create a track all on your own.
The use of medals keeps you playing much like it did for me in the Project Gotham Racing days. Many games have used medals, but few have done as well as either that franchise or this one. You’ll get bronze just to get something and earn more courses. Then you’ll strive for silver because it’s “only” a second faster than your current time and you know you can shave a few seconds off your time if you hit a turn differently or changed your angle on a big jump. It’s a never-ending dangling carrot and it keeps you coming back for more day after day, week after week, and year after year.
Graphically, TrackMania Turbo is a structurally solid title with a 60 fps framerate that ensures smooth play. The environments are fairly varied with things like jungle areas, swamps, cold steel, and neon-heavy parts to make every area feel different. Industrial zones feel like they’re against you, while the more white and silver-colored test environment-style tracks feel like they’re here to punish you – even if they have a giant grinning pig balloon above them. Other amusing props include blimps and even a Simpsons-esque giant pink frosted donut. Sadly, Lard Lad is nowhere to be seen.
The soundtrack is way too samey, and while it isn’t bad, it does get old quickly. You’ve got a lot of dance and techno to listen to, and while those genres are good, you’ll be hearing the same songs a lot because you will naturally be re-trying courses over and over. First, you’ll aim to get used to the track – then you’ll aim for a medal before finally setting your sights on the gold. You can make your own playlists though, so you can kind of prevent this problem to some degree – it will still creep up though. When it comes to sound effects, TrackMania’s crashes feel satisfying – but not violent.
TrackMania Turbo is going to be the first TrackMania game for many console players, and it’s pretty much a perfect gateway game for the franchise. You get tight controls, crazy tracks, a constant desire to better yourself from medal-to-medal, and a never-ending supply of content for $40. It’s a fantastic deal, and the lower price point is a great incentive for first-time users of the series to give it a shot. It’s a fun-focused game and something that should give you enjoyment for years to come.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of TrackMania Turbo for the PlayStation 4 provided by Ubisoft.