Published on Friday, 16 March 2007 23:22
Written by Nasirul Huq
Trackmania United is the latest installment in the Trackmania series. It's a worthy successor to "Trackmania Nations", it's free counterpart which is extremely popular. Trackmania United combines all previous Trackmania games into one thereby giving you a complete package.
You'll find all the famous Trackmania settings from Sunrise, Original and Nations, with countless changes and improvements.
Trackmania series has been one of the most popular and addictive online racing series, ever since its inception by Nadeo in 2003. What sets Trackmania apart from other racing games, are the crazy and insane tracks with heart stopping jumps and beautiful environments. But apart from these subtle differences there is one major difference:
There are no car collisions in Trackmania. This means that the opponent cars act as ghosts and while playing the player's car just passes through opponent cars. While this may seem wierd for some, it allows the players to focus on pure racing and not worry about opponents. In Trackmania, the Tracks are the KING, so players have to fight against the track to win. Trackmania series spans games such as "Trackmania Sunrise", "Trackmania Original", "Trackmania Nations" and now "Trackmania United".
This game was released in some parts last year. In other countries, it would be released on 23rd March, 2007.
Having played Trackmania Nations, I desperately wanted to get my hands on this one. So, I got it finally and after playing it for 2-3 hours I couldn't stop myself from writing a small review.
After installing the game i couldn't wait and fired it up. Ardent Trackmania Nations fans will notice that the initial dialog is exactly the same as Trackmania Nations:
Here you configure the game settings which include performance settings, video, audio and network settings. You can also set your custom avatars by clicking on the Help button and selecting "Custom Data". The game can be started by clicking on the Play button.
After clicking on the Play button for the first time, the game took around 10-15 seconds to load fully, which according to me was pretty fast. The initial Menu screen looks cool with nice looking icons on the left. Here you can choose different gameplay modes like Solo, Multiplayer, Hotseat and LAN. In addition to these, you can connect to the huge Trackmania community by clicking on the ManiaLink button. You can also edit existing tracks using the Track Editor.
Windows 2000/XP/XP-x64/Vista - CPU: Pentium IV 1.6GHz / AthlonXP 1600+ - 256 MB (512 MB with Vista) - video: 16 MB 3D accelerator DirectX 9.0c compatible - HARD DISK: 1.5 GB - Sound Card: 16 bit DirectX compatible - DIRECTX: 9.0c or higher (included in the installation)
Gameplay mainly consists of two modes: Solo mode and Multiplayer mode.
Solo mode is single player mode in which you can play alone and earn medals. Solo mode can be further divided into 3 modes :
- Race mode
- Puzzle mode
- Platform mode
Race mode is the heart of Trackmania. It consists of time trials in which you have to get the best timings within the allotted time to earn medals i.e. Gold, Silver and Bronze. Each medal has its own time which players must beat if they want to earn medals.
Medals can be classified in three (based on the race timings): Gold, Silver, Bronze
One cool feature is that each medal time has its own ghost car (ghost car means that you can pass through it). So, before starting the race you can select your ghost car opponent. For example: if you select Gold time as your opponent, then you will race against the Gold time car and you have to beat it to win the Gold Medal. Once you get Gold times in Solo practice mode, you can switch to the Official mode so that you can compare your timings with other Trackmania United players.
Race mode consists of 7 varying environments i.e. Stadium, Island, Desert, Rally, Bay, Coast and Snow. Each environment has its own set of cars with different looks and completely different handling. So, if you are racing in stadium, you will get the fast Formula 1 car whereas if you are racing in Desert, you will get a completely different vehicle (a truck). The different environments are amazing and bring a real value add to the game. The graphics are quite good considering that the game is hugely scalable and can run on low end systems with basic graphics and good frame rates.
By winning medals in Official modes you will win “Coppers” which is the in-game currency of Trackmania United. “Coppers” can be used to trade cars, tracks, replays etc. with other Trackmania players. “Coppers” can be earned by winning races in Official mode, uploading content etc. Another cool online feature is that you can download replays of other Trackmania players by playing “Coppers”. This essentially means that you can race and test your driving skills against the top Trackmania players in single player mode. Once you finish all the single player tracks, you can download more challenging tracks designed by the Trackmania community. The online Trackmania community is huge. You can download new maps, cars and other stuff from the community. Trackmania United has a dedicated car sharing site: Trackmania Car Park
Here you will find lots of user-designed cars and tutorials for getting you started, so that you can create your own cars.
Puzzle mode has been designed to test your innovation skills. Here, you are given an area with starting and finishing points along with the checkpoints thrown in-between. You have to build the track using the given set of blocks through all the checkpoints from start to finish point. After you are through with the track you have to complete the race on the same track. The main purpose of puzzle mode is to make players comfortable with the track editor, so that they can design their own tracks from scratch.
In this mode, you are presented with random tracks and vehicles. Each track has a number of checkpoints. So, if you fall of a bridge or get enveloped in water, you can just restart from the previous checkpoint. Your job is to complete the race using less than 10 restarts. This might sound easy but with Trackmania’s insane tracks you can never be sure. You have to race with extreme precision to complete the race. All in all platform mode is a good value-add to the game.
Once you are through with the Solo mode and want some real competition, check out the multiplayer mode. Multiplayer mode gives you a chance of testing your racing skills against the best players in the world. Here you can earn “Coppers” by winning races, sharing vehicles, screenshots and videos with other players. Trackmania United has a unified ranking system like Trackmania Nations, though I wasn’t able to check it out. Having played Trackmania Nations earlier I know that the multiplayer mode is extreme fun and can be really addictive, so play it at your own risk.
The soundtracks in Trackmania United are similar to Trackmania Nations. The sounds are good but get repetitive after a while. The music sounds quite good on my Sennheiser HD485 cans. I couldn’t find an option of customizing the soundtracks though.
Track and Video Editor
The game consists of a fully featured track editor with thousands of basic building blocks. Trackmania Nations featured a similar track editor but with only a few building blocks. Trackmania Nations had an insane number of user-designed tracks. With thousands of basic blocks at their disposal in Trackmania United, what can be achieved by the Trackmania community can only be imagined.
In addition to the track editor, Trackmania United also contains a video editor in which you can edit, upload and share your best replay videos with other players.
The Little Extras
The Trackmania United designers have done a great job in providing some cool little extras like:
- Option to change game and music volume while playing without going back to the menu.
- Option to switch from full screen mode to window mode and vice versa by a single click of mouse.
- Insanely fast loading times: Donno about other systems, but on my Core 2 Duo with 1GB RAM, it takes less than 5 seconds to load a new track.
Conclusion and Ratings
All in all, this is an excellent racing game with lots of different vehicles, tracks and environments thrown in. The online Trackmania community really spices up the replay value of the game with innumerable number of maps, vehicles and add-ons. Once you get the hang of the game, you are sure to get hooked. The inbuilt track editor can bring out the game designer inside you and utilize your creativity to the fullest.
On the flip side, the multiplayer mode can be a bit difficult for beginners as user created tracks are really insane and almost everyone would seem to play better than you in the beginning. But with practice, patience and perseverance you are bound to improve and bound to get hooked. This game has been designed by merging all other Trackmania games, so the gameplay is similar to the older versions. One would have expected some innovations on the gameplay front, so the gameplay might disappoint some. Here are the positives and negatives:
- Loads of different vehicles and tracks with great gameplay and graphics.
- Amazing replay value with online play.
- Great online community allows players to exchange tracks, vehicles, videos etc.
- The game is light and scalable and can run on a wide variety of hardware.
- Superb loading times.
- Inbuilt track and video editor.
- Volume control option and window switching option (fullscreen to window mode) while playing.
- Sound is decent but gets repetitive after a while. In addition, i couldn't find an option of customizing the soundtracks.
- Multiplayer mode can be a bit difficult for newbies.
- Solo mode has a wide variety of tracks but it can get over too quickly.
- Game is NOT FREE unlike Trackmania Nations (not really a negative).
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Overall Rating: 8.5 / 10
Windows XP (SP2), Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 1.83 Ghz, 1Gb Transcend 667 Mhz DDR2 RAM, Intel G965 chipset with 384 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0C