Three years after the last release in the series, Nadeo and Ubisoft are back with Trackmania Turbo, and now for the first time it's also on console. There are plenty of racing fans out there that have waited a long time for this fast-paced arcade racer to make to leap from PC, and now that it has we're pleased to say that it's landed on PS4 and Xbox One in great shape.
We have always associated Trackmania with simple, clean fun. Maybe not magnificent graphics, but the driving has always provided us with great entertainment. This iteration is no exception, but it looks just so much better, as one might expect with it now appearing on the current generation of consoles as well as its traditional home on PC. Nadeo has also managed to stay away from adding in detail that might make the frame-rate stutter while driving, which is pretty essential in this kind of game. The speedometer goes well past 500 km/h several times during some of the game's many races, and at that speed a tiny frame-rate dip would be devastating.
In the solo mode you're racing against ghosts. There's the option to go up against vehicular apparitions ranked bronze, silver or gold, and the more precious the metal, the faster the ghost. You can, if you prefer, race alone, but we found it helpful to have another car to compete with. One of our favourite features - something that reminded us of the Trials series - is the instant restart that's mapped to one of the face buttons, so every time you stack your car into a wall and watch a gold-standard ghost fizz past, you can easily restart and give it another go (alternatively, you can restart at the last checkpoint).
In terms of controls, Trackmania Turbo is very simple, which reinforces its arcade credentials. There's no manual transmission here, no handbrake; just accelerate, brake/reverse, and, of course, steering. Despite the simplicity, the controls here work great, and you'll be drifting around corners and sliding through chicanes in no time at all; just don't expect a lot of nuance.
As was the case with previous versions of Trackmania, once again we felt like we had to mute the game, and instead listen to our own playlist. The music in Turbo is, however, of a higher quality than before, but even with an audible improvement, we still ended up playing our own tunes before long, as we thought the soundtrack and commentary got repetitive and boring after a very short period of time. There's a limit to how many times it's funny to hear that you're driving like a blind mouse or hear about the commentator's concern for the paintwork on the car.
The biggest advantage that Trackmania titles have over many other racers is that you'll never run out of new roads to race on. When you have completed the 200 developer-crafted courses the game itself has to offer, there's a jungle of user-generated tracks online just waiting to be explored. Nadeo has also added an auto-generator that, in theory, makes it easy to create new tracks by simply choosing the environment you want to race through. Unfortunately this particular feature doesn't work as well as it should, and it can create tracks that feel strangely constructed, and it's not always very clear where the racing line is. We hope that this can be addressed in an update, and if they can get it working well, it means we'll have access to even more tracks.
If you're the creative type, not to mention patient, you can also build your own. Here it's only your imagination that limits what you can do when building your own masterpieces. While laying down a simple track is intuitive and simple, more complicated constructions are, naturally, more complex to assemble. There's different difficulty settings, so the more proficient you are at making them, the more options you'll have at your disposal. There are plenty of possibilities and Nadeo has built a good set of editing tools. If you take the time to learn its various systems, it's possible to use the tool effectively and create fun tracks to race around and share with the rest of the community.
Trackmania is fine for playing hour after hour alone, but it doesn't stop there. There are a wide array of modes for those seeking multiplayer thrills and spills. Whether you want to race faster than the speed of sound, or even if you only want to perform stunts, you'll find options for both here. In addition, Nadeo might also tempt you with the "Double Driver" feature, which is new to Turbo. Here two players drive the same car, and the vehicle behaves somewhere according to what both of the drivers do. If one player swings abruptly to the left, and the other abruptly to the right, the car will drive straight. This is only possible if you have a friend physically by your side; it's local multiplayer and not an online feature (any possible delay would naturally make this mode far less precise).
There's a decent range of asymmetrical modes. Whether you're racing against over one hundred player ghosts and trying to come out on top during an online race, or taking it turn to sit in the "hotseat" in a local multiplayer contest, there's plenty to be getting on with. Nadeo has done a great job of fleshing out the offering, and when you consider that the official tracks are complemented by player-generated content, it's clear that there's the potential to spend dozens of hours racing around insane tracks.
At the end of the day there's not many negatives to tell you about. We're most critical of the aforementioned soundtrack. In addition, the menu looks outdated (although if this is why the said menus are incredibly responsive, that's absolutely fine by us). Apart from that all we can think to say is that Trackmania Turbo doesn't really offer all that much that we haven't seen from the series before, so on those terms it's not worth a higher score than it already gets.
We'll no doubt be spending many, many hours with Trackmania Turbo in the days and weeks ahead. This is arcade racing in its purest form, and it's a game that has been built with longevity and community in mind. There's so many options here, from different ways to compete through to creative editing facilities. However, it's the thrill of the high speed racing that won us over; there isn't much that beats the feeling of when your name is sitting pretty at the top of a leaderboard that's propped up by over 100 different names (Nadeo does like its leaderboards). It's fun to be the best, and in Trackmania Turbo anyone can be the best every now and then.