Trackmania Turbo is a racing game that falls somewhere between the Forza and Trials series. It plays like any run-of-the-mill third-person driving game, but the over-the-top level design is what puts it ahead of the pack. The main antagonists are time and your own incompetence as you race through levels in order to get gold. TrackMania Turbo is a title that fits the game perfectly, as crazy-fast tracks are king, and everything else isn’t really worth mentioning.
Here’s what I liked:
Bite-sized adrenaline — Did I mention the tracks are amazing? You’re not just racing down highways or through muddy tracks; you also get futuristic stadiums and high-rising tracks that are practically roller coasters. The campaign has 200 levels spread across four distinctly themed worlds. Every level is rather short, with most taking less than a minute to complete, making this a perfect pick-up-and-play game. One moment you’re making huge jumps over the Grand Canyon, the next you’re thrusted into first-person mode and are speeding through a loop-de-loop. No matter how much time you have to play, you’re going to experience something cool.
Backseat driving — This is the easiest racing game out there: all you have is gas, brakes and steering. With no fancy do-dads at your disposal, success is purely up to your driving skills. It’s definitely fun to play alone, but there’s also a great co-op mode that lets you play through the entire campaign with friends. Up to four players can tackle a race together, all in the same car, with each player acting like they’re driving, and the car will move in the middle ground between everyone’s inputs. This mode is a lot of fun if you enjoy teamwork and coordination.
Just keep playing — There’s a lot of handy features built in that make playing the campaign very easy and fun. Every track starts by giving you the option to race ghosts, be they from your previous time or the AI ghost for bronze, silver or gold. There are also buttons mapped to go back to a checkpoint or restart the course from the beginning instantaneously. If you’re getting sick of one course, there’s an option to skip to the next one right on the pause menu. While these may not be revolutionary features, they make trying to get that perfect run a lot less painful.
Track creation — For all the crazy tracks already available in the game, the track creator makes sure that things can only get crazier. While it may take a little time to wrap your head around the controls, the step-by-step process makes things run smoothly. First you pick a map, and then you build your track. Once you place the starting line, the next piece will build off of what came before it. Once you place the finish line, you’re able to decorate the course, and then it’s off to testing. If you’re not into building your own stuff, the game can do it for you, as it features an impressive random track generator; just punch in a few options and watch as it literally builds the course before your eyes.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Aggressive unlocks — If you want to experience a large chunk of TrackMania Turbo‘s content, you better get good. There are 200 levels split up into 10-level chunks, and you must meet certain requirements to get the next chunk. For the first few chunks, you need to have a bronze metal in all previous levels. To get past level 80 you need silver on all previous levels, and for the final 40 levels all previous scores need to be gold-worthy. Also, most of the cosmetic items require gold medals to unlock. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if getting gold wasn’t so difficult. As things stand, however, you could potentially drive a course full speed, never crash and still only get bronze. Getting all those golds will require near-perfection on every level, which is too much dedication for a casual player.
Not so multiplayer — The multiplayer offerings in this game are unspectacular. They all boil down to the same thing: get the fastest time. While online matches can get a high player count, all your opponents are ghosts and therefore have no effect on your performance. Worst of all is that the maps are just the campaign levels, making multiplayer feel exactly like single player except on a smaller scale. Instead of putting your best-ever time on a worldwide leaderboard, developer Nadeo has you compete against a few individuals with your current best time. Everything about the gameplay and track creation really feels geared toward playing alone, and the inclusion of multiplayer only emphasizes that fact.
It’s not called CarMania — TrackMania‘s cars aren’t very robust or interesting. The simplistic controls come at a cost, and that cost is repeatedly restarting a course. Huge leap-of-faith ramps and unexpected obstacles can feel like an unfair recipe for disaster, especially due to the lack of air controls or a button to flip your overturned car. Car customization is also extremely limited. All you can change is your paint job, picking from a well of pre-made designs and a few stickers to be placed in pre-determined locations. When playing online everyone looks practically the same, lacking any sort of meaningful self-expression.
TrackMania Turbo is a game I enjoyed more the more I played it, with the tracks growing more difficult and complex as I became more skilled. This game can pack more adrenaline into a single sitting than other racing series can pull off in an entire game. Unfortunately, it takes a few wrong turns, displaying more than its fair share of odd omissions, additions and design choices that take away from the fun. Nadeo called its game TrackMania for a reason, though, so it’s kind of silly of me to have expected anything more.
Score: Reader’s Choice
TrackMania Turbo was developed by Nadeo and published on Xbox One by Ubisoft. It was released March 22, 2016 for $39.99. A copy was provided by Ubisoft for review purposes. Click here for information on XBLA Fans’ new scoring system.