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Trackmania Turbo Review

Trackmania Turbo is the latest instalment in the long-running Trackmania series. Developers Nadeo, (who have developed most of the games in the series) team up with publisher Ubisoft to deliver a racer that favours absurdity over practicality, resulting in a game that is bags of fun and highly addictive despite its repetitiveness.

Playing Trackmania Turbo (TMT) is like being thrust into the driver’s seat of your own Hot Wheels car; there are no Ford Falcons, Holden Commodores or Ferraris here. Your vehicular arsenal is limited to four cars, with each car type being appropriate for the location of the race you’ll be doing. The game’s driving mechanics are basic and very simple to pick up. The only buttons you really need are for accelerating and steering as you can drift around most wide corners. Occasionally you might feel the need to brake around sharp turns but where’s the fun in that? Your car’s turbo boost is determined by turbo points on the map and when you drive over them your inner Vin Diesel is released and your car hoons around the track at breakneck speeds.

No gold, no glory

The game has a slew of modes for you to play, so there can be no complaint in regards to the lack of racing options that you see in some other modern racers. TMT Primary Mode is the main campaign which can be completed either solo or cooperatively (in a mode called Double Driver). The campaign features 200 tracks across four different race locations/types: Canyon Grand Drift, Down & Dirty Valley, Rollercoaster Lagoon and International Stadium. There are five different difficulties and varying degrees of awesomeness to each track. Some will have huge jumps, massive loops, bridges that you can easily fall off or gaping holes that appear out of nowhere.

Each time you finish a block of ten tracks in each of the aforementioned locations/types (so 40 tracks in total) you move up a difficulty. For the uninitiated, you’re not racing other cars – you’re racing alone to record the quickest time. There are three medals awarded at the end of every race (gold, silver and bronze) – the faster you race, the better the medal and the higher your ranking. At the beginning of every race you can select which ‘ghost’ car you want to use as a marker (gold, silver or bronze) or you can choose to drive without any guide.

The aim is to get as many gold medals as possible, because these golden beauts unlock customisation options so you can pimp your ride to the extent that you might even get your own MTV show. Obtaining the gold medal is no easy feat and it’s good to have an arcade racer with a degree of difficulty. Unfortunately, these customisation upgrades are limited purely to aesthetics and include things like paint jobs, logos and such. There are quite a few different looks your ride can have, however it’s one look fits all as your paint jobs apply to all of your cars. As mentioned above, the better the time you record, the higher your ranking. These rankings are divided between global, country and state (you choose your location settings when starting the game) which is a cool way to incite competition and to remind you just how many people are better than you at racing games.

The co-op side of the campaign is the Double Driver mode. This is where you and Player 2 are both controlling the car’s acceleration and steering while completing the 200 campaign tracks. It’s quite a unique and neat mode, and while it sounds like it would quickly descend into unmitigated chaos, you’ll find you and your partner quickly settle into a natural rhythm as you work as a team to propel your little car around the track.

The Campaign modes

That’s a lot of tracks (my early campaign progress)

Aside from the racing, the best feature of the game is definitely the Trackbuilder. Have you ever wanted to design your own Hot Wheels tracks and race on them? Well Trackbuilder makes this childhood dream come true.

Race rockets in flight

You can build your dream racetrack!

Sim racetrack

It might seem like it will take forever to plough through the abundance of tracks and it probably will in your head, however a lot of tracks are quite short so you’ll be burning through them quite quickly. However, even the most dedicated of gold diggers will not be able to play through the campaign without some form of monotony kicking in.

TMT is most enjoyable when playing with mates, and there are several multiplayer modes for you and your friends to sink your teeth into. There is the Hot Seat mode which can include up to sixteen players all taking turns trying to record the best time for a chosen track. Probably the biggest boon for the game is the inclusion of split screen racing (up to four players), which (oddly) is the first racer on current-gen consoles to feature this. The Split Screen mode puts you and your rivals against one another in a best of five battle across one track. The only downside is that there is no option to turn on contact between players, so you’ll simply clip through each other rather than have a satisfying collision. I mean who wouldn’t want to ram their opponent in an attempt to knock them off a cliff?  Arcade Mode takes players back to the arcade racer machines of yore – think Daytona, Sega Rally and Scud Race. Here you’ll challenge for a spot on the top ten local (not online) high scores list, which can be completed solo or with double driver. The last multiplayer mode is Secret, which is essentially a race randomiser.

The online component of TMT is fairly basic. You join rooms containing up to 100 racers and compete for the best time. Each room is a collection of tracks and each track has a time limit. You can run as many laps as you can in that time limit to record your highest score. The only discombobulating aspect is that all the other cars’ ghosts show up on your screen. Even though you can’t hit them it can be off-putting when there are fifty other players all rubber-banding around the same corner. You also have the ability to create custom rooms for your mates or the other players to join.

Aside from the racing, the best feature of the game is definitely the Trackbuilder. Have you ever wanted to design your own Hot Wheels tracks and race on them? Well Trackbuilder makes this childhood dream come true. There are three trackbuilding options in TMT: Beginner (basic tracks), Normal (standard track options) and Advanced (for the true architects). You can choose any of the four locations to build your tracks and it is really easy to spend copious amounts of time perfecting your track. At any stage during the building phase you are able to test your track to see how practical it is. I spent over an hour building what I thought was the Sistine Chapel of race tracks, however at no point did I test the track before completion, which had a decidedly detrimental effect on its quality and the following should serve as a cautionary tale for those dabbling in creating their own tracks. Upon validating my masterpiece (you must time trial your own track to validate it) I discovered that my architectural skills actually weren’t very good at all. Not only was there a distinct lack of checkpoints, but a lot of my early turbo points were about twenty metres before sharp corners resulting in multiple spills. Lastly, about two-thirds of the way through the race the track became uncompletable – I simply fell from one of the (many) loops I had erected. Thankfully the Trackbuilder allows you to go back and edit your track, however you must delete everything prior to get a certain point, which can be a bit of a motivation killer if you find yourself doing it multiple times.

The game’s graphics are impressive, and some of the locales are rather picturesque. The beach locations are especially idyllic and coupled with a soundtrack that is tailored to match the location and the tempo of the race, the impact is quite visceral and it’s easy to buy into the game’s overall vibe.

Race to paradise

Final Thoughts

Trackmania Turbo is a great pick-me-up-and-play racer. It’s the type of game you can just throw on for a bit of senseless fun for an hour or so and not have to worry about the pressure of your tyres or whether you’ve gone with the right exhaust. It’s also the sort of game that you can spend hours on crafting your own tracks or having a jovial time with your mates either locally or online.  However despite the fun you can have, the game has the ability to become repetitive and enjoyment can dissipate, especially if you play one mode consistently. If you do spread your time across the multitude of modes you’ll find the game feels like your own Hot Wheels theme park.

Reviewed on PS4