Trackmania Turbo PS4 Review
The Trackmania series has lived on the PC since its creation back in 2003 and has been sort of this amazingly secret niche title that is powered by dedicated fans who love its high thrills, arcade handling and challenging gameplay. Nadeo did release a couple of games outside the realm of PC, with two DS releases and a Wii instalment, and while those did not include the visual flare that the PC platform provides, it did capture the heart of the gameplay to bring a solid experience to those platforms. It’s been over three years since the last Trackmania (Trackmania 2: Valley), and now it looks like Nadeo are ready to release the torment of earning gold medals all over again with their simultaneous release of Trackmania Turbo on PS4, Xbox One and PC, marking the series’ first release on both Sony and Microsoft platforms. But don’t worry fans, the flashiness of the Turbo name does not mean this has changed into some Fast and the Furious title to try capture casual fans, as Trackmania Turbo is just as much Trackmania as any other game in the series, retaining the incredible challenging gameplay.
Being on these new platforms is sure to bring fresh people interested in Trackmania Turbo. For those people, Trackmania Turbo is purely an arcade racer based on taking cars through checkpoints on radically designed point-to-point tracks to beat target times. We are speaking 90s Hot Wheels’ tracks, ones with loop-de-loops, corkscrews and huge jumps across many metres, doing your best to keep composure at high speeds to stay on track in this deadly time attack sprint.
Courses are the soul of the game, and the single player campaign is packed with 200 of them. Tackling the campaign begins with the White difficulty, which eases in players with short courses not really aimed to be the most stressful, but will still take a few retries to acquire gold medals. As the difficulty increases with Green, Blue, Red and Black, so does the track design, requiring more precise movement and the master of the game’s key mechanics to get gold medals to unlock harder tracks. Ghosts for bronze, silver and gold medal times can be shown on the track to give you an idea where you might be going wrong, but mostly, they are there to show where you are against the target time.
Practice is key to getting good. Drivers need to learn from mistakes and correct them, taking corners better and finding the optimal speed for jumps. There is certainly trial and error involved in the more demanding tracks, but refining oneself to get those gold medals comes with such an sense of accomplishment – very similar to Ubisoft’s other title, Trials Fusion, except whacking up the madness to 11. For people who want to punish themselves, the unknown Trackmaster medal can be unlocked – a time set by the developers – showcasing that you are truly the king of the stage, posting an exceptional time that only the true Trackmania Turbo elite will accomplish.
Fans will already know what to expect from the game’s campaign, but what is surprising is the progression has been restricted. Now you have to linearly advance through the campaign ten tracks at a time, starting on White and moving across each of the four environments, grabbing the medals and then moving up to the next difficulty. The open aspect of tackling whatever environment the player desires is gone, which might upset some who favour one location over the other.
And you will have a favourite location from the four of Canyon Grand Drift, Valley Down & Dirty, International Stadium and Lagoon Rollercoaster (the latter a brand new environment to the series), because each one comes with their own vehicle featuring unique handling. I like bringing my love of Initial D and drifting around corners with the Canyon vehicle. It’s truly made for sliding, bringing back the days of Ridge Racer 7 (where is Ridge Racer 8, Bandai Namco?). On the other hand, the buggy from the Valley environment is incredibly sensitive, as nudging the stick on the 360 controller (you can use keyboard, and it works well enough), will cause it to take a sharp turn. That car requires delicate controls to master its weird cornering, and can be a cause of frustration due to easily destroying the car’s momentum with a badly taken corner. For purists, the F1 inspired vehicle in the Stadium environment is sure to appeal to them, as this car does not drift well, as its made for gripping to the track at high speeds. Not only do the handling of the vehicles make for a refreshing change, but they add personality and their own challenge to the environment they are created for.
Environments are not just skin swaps, but follow a trend. Valley is often full of uneven, hilly dirt roads and cliff jumps, Stadium loves to abuse wall riding and Canyon brings the sharp bends for drifts. As a fan of the old games, the standout for me was Lagoon Rollercoaster, not only because it is brand new, but one of its key features is the magnetic rollercoaster. Imagine those theme park games where you could create magnificent and outlandish rollercoasters, now change that thought and imagine driving around them at 400mph, oh, but with jumps, side jumps and mad spirals that border on the physically impossible. There has been courses with loops and corkscrews before, but being stuck to them opens up plenty of possibilities, as you no longer have gravity working against the car, so speed is not an issue when the car is attached to the track.
No matter the environment, Trackmania Turbo always contains some amazing track design, and while a few tracks are out of order in their difficulty, overall, the campaign brings intelligent, scary and memorable courses that will kick your ass. They somehow manage to stay fresh by constantly introducing new ways to spice up layouts, such as engine cut-outs, where you have to coast along to the next section to restart the engine, but if you hit something on the way, you are done, as you cannot accelerate until you are past the restart engine checkpoint. Another is altering the track surface, changing how your car would normally handle by making the ground slippy or awkwardly uneven to mess with vehicle balance and control.
A pleasant game design is how tips litter the tracks on huge billboards, alerting when to drift, slowdown, keep away from the centre, or a big jump is coming up, and while this does not always help on first experience when aiming for gold medals, it does help when getting a taste for the track, using them as key indicates to build memory of the course layout. There are at times when frustration kicks in, because mistakes keep happening. Maybe you hit a rock that put a dent in a record setting run or that little nudge on the stick caused the car to land awkwardly after a jump, and yes, naughty words do get shouted out when you are struggling to get those gold medals, but the tracks are often short, not lasting more than 50 seconds (only the 40 multi-lap courses are longer), which reduces annoyance and offers a pick up and play incentive to keep coming back after short play sessions. It also helps that restarting a track, something that happens all the time in this game, is met with an instant respawn back to the start with one button press. Nadeo even added joker medals to allow people to leapfrog tracks they are stuck on. Keep getting silver chasing that gold time? After three tries, the game will let you joker the medal, allowing progress to the next group of tracks, which is a great way to allow people to see all the game without having to be masterful stunt car drivers. For me, I tried to not succumb to the desire to skip, since it leaves the track screen with an empty space – sure to activate someone’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. The only issue some people might have with the gameplay of Trackmania Turbo is that it is heavily focused on time-attack. This is not a typical racing game, you don’t race against AI opponents, only their ghost times, so no collisions happen between vehicles, even when versing other human players and their ghostly silhouettes.
Away from the campaign, Trackmania Turbo features a deep track editor, an easy tool to let creative people tap into their minds to come up with some brutal and jaw dropping tracks. I have never been great at designing my own courses, often leaving it to other people to share their work of art with me, which is still retained in this new title. To have a track successfully uploaded,it has to be validate by its creator by taking it for a test run to make sure it is beatable before issuing it as a challenge to the world. Another option is to let the game randomly generate tracks for you, a cool feature to experience fresh content fast, but these tracks are usually never as good as some of the madness that builds up over the months as people become experts with the editor.
Multiple options for couch multiplayer makes Trackmania Turbo a great local party game. There is split-screen for up to four players and the option for up to ten players in the swappable hot seat mode. Additional options unlock odd game modes, such as Stunt (use stunts to acquire boost to go faster), Mono Screen (one screen with all four cars where getting left behind or pushed off the screen removes you from the race – exactly like Micro Machines), and Bonus mode, where power ups, such as tiny car and big jump can be used to clear sections of the track that otherwise should be impossible. One of the most bizarre inclusions is the Double Driver mode, which requires two players to be in synchronised control, as the car takes input from both players and averages out what the outcome should be. Colour indicators on the user interface alert what each player is doing. If you are looking for local racing multiplayer action, then the reality is that Trackmania Turbo is your number one choice, since there is nothing else on these systems that offers this amount of options for local multiplayer content in a racer.
If friends and online leaderboards for countries and counties aren’t enough (I ranked first on some tracks for Yorkshire and the Humber, Woo!), then there is always the 100 man online sessions that pits yourself against 99 other ghosts, who are racing to get the best time on the track before the clock ticks down to zero. It’s an hectic mess of epic proportions, as people don’t know what to do and try follow each other, causing a chain reaction of mistakes that always brings a chuckle or two.
Previous Trackmania titles made their online experience something that could not be forgotten, thanks to fans being able to rent dedicated servers and customize them with their own soundtrack and custom vehicles (click for scary Sonic the Hedgehog mod). With the move to console, the option of dedicated servers has gone, and so has all the customisation that came with it (apart from created courses). While that does take away some of the bizarre surprises that could spring up when joining random servers, it still does not stop the game from being any less enjoyable. Also, the move to console has helped with the menu and user interface design tremendously – the previous games had atrocious unfriendly messes of a menu system, but in Trackmania Turbo, it feels normal and clean, a much welcome upgrade to the series.
With a clean and sharp presentation, Trackmania Turbo‘s aesthetics scream the arcade racing experience of the 90s. It’s jammed with blue skies and bright colours offering beautiful and appealing visuals while travelling at blistering speeds. It might not be a graphical showcase for these consoles, but it’s certainly no stinker, and with a near constant 60 frames per second, this PlayStation 4 version holds up well against the PC release. The soundtrack is a bit of a mix bag for me. There are some tunes that will get you bobbing and in the mood, while others sound like generic takes on Daft Punk, fading into background noise.
Trackmania Turbo brings its unique blend of thrill ride, arcade and puzzle racing to current generation consoles, and purely speaking about gameplay, is probably the best title in the series – it’s certainly turned into my favourite of the bunch. Trackmania Turbo is a special game, a one-of-a-kind racer that manages to bring joy, but also anger, as players are task to overcome its challenging content. Practice is key, and the reward for sticking with the game after hitting that reset button many times over is met with a feeling of satisfaction that only a few games deliver on. Packed with content and hilarious multiplayer modes, Trackmania Turbo will entertain for many hours to come, and is an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a clever solo or multiplayer arcade racer on consoles.