A Review by Al
It may be obvious from the title that Trackmania focuses more on the track aspect of the game than it does on the racing element. This may sound like a bad thing, but it's a nice change to the ever repeated racing genre. It has some excellent features, including a huge variety track editor and online capabilities. It has been out in most of Europe for a while now, giving the online players a head start to get in that practice on the American online rivals.
Trackmania has very arcade style graphics, but the budget wasn't that high for a small company game like this. The cars look a lot like toys. But most people nowadays are more keen to have game play rather than graphics, but it must be pointed out that this is one of the games few weak points. While there isn't anything particularly bad about the graphics, there's nothing good about them either. The textures are rather bland and jagged are somewhat basic, with no real dimensions.
But still, the graphics aren't awful.
The sound effects aren't very detailed either, the usual revs and groans of the engine, however they get the job done and help you lose yourself in the game. You probably won't even notice them most of the time. As for music, You either like it or you don't. Trackmania has no licensed music and with only about 8 different songs, it can get a bit monotonous to listen to. The music does fit in at times with the style of the game, being loud and fast during races, and chilled and tranquil during the game designer features.
Trackmania has very basic physics, but they're still very good. It's basically get from A to B in the quickest time possible. For each track you complete within the time limit you will earn a medal, and thus progress onto the next level. The race controls are as simple as you only really use the four arrow keys. There are 3 different options to play the game in, race, which I just mentioned, puzzle or multiplayer. The racing is all about precision. As a matter of fact, there's never a collision between cars. This may sound like a bad thing at first, but when you're lining up for a narrow bridge or a precision jump, you'll be glad the cars around you don't affect you and ruin that perfect stunt. On the first couple of levels you could fly through them in a space of about 5 minutes, which can lure you into a false sense of security, as soon as you start on a new track you can be 30 feet in the air, on a platform track with no side rails to stop you careering off into the snow.
The fun is really in the puzzle mode, this is not simply a space invader or Tetris type affair though, but actually involves constructing levels to get your vehicle from point A to point B easily. The track allows the car to move faster than on bare terrain, and also gets your car to a higher level, so good placement is essential.
The track editor is where this game really shines. Unlike some games with editors, you aren't adding to a continuously growing line, you're simply placing track (and hills, trees, and pits, etc.) wherever you want on a grid, which significantly increases the possibilities and makes adding multiple routes simple. Trackmania tracks use the simple principle of get from the start, through each checkpoint in no specific order, and reach the finish. There's actually not just 1, but 3 editors. Each of the 3 environments (Desert, Alpine, and Countryside), while sharing the same basic concepts, have very different styles and pieces to choose from. The game even has a puzzle mode, where you're given a partial track and set pieces to choose from, to try to make a route that can get you to the end in the fastest time possible.
Online play is great thing to have, but its not done very well. When creating a profile you enter you're country and big city and that's how all games are sorted. This is annoying because if you want to look at games in the USA, you might find some people put USA, and other's put US. Quite a hassle. Also, the only chat is in-game which makes it harder to set up a game with a friend. Hosting from behind a firewall or router will require you to open up some ports and even then it still might not work depending on the router or firewall. Despite all this, lacking online still beats no online any day as most would be just as happy playing alone and trying to beat personal bests set on previous runs.
As for modifying the game fully supports letting you make car skins and avatars and putting them into the game. Other mods have been done by people out there, but its not very common.
While some aspects of the game aren't great, Its still wonderful at what really matters. With the combination of excellent track editor, and online play, you'll be playing for quite a while.