Arcade-style roller coaster stunt racing at its finest.
I prefer driving games over racing games, which is why I never got behind the virtual wheel of the Trackmania series. However, after playing Trackmania Turbo on PS4, I now know that I should have given the series a try on the PC instead of blowing it off. This high-octane racer has all the things I love about the genre—intense speed, surrealistic tracks, tight controls, and couch multiplayer. If I had known that the developers created a racing game that seems tailor-made for me, I would have been a fan from the beginning.
Trackmania Turbo has several modes, but the main focus is the single-player campaign that spans 200 tracks. Yes, you read that right, 200 different time trials that become increasingly more difficult, more death-defying, and more creative as players progress. Oddly enough, most of the tracks only take 25-45 seconds to complete, but you'll be on the edge of your seat the entire time because the slightest mistake will send the car flipping and flying through the air. Yes, this game is like the Michael Bay of racers (in a positive way)—nonstop excitement with no fluff. As a result, just like a Michael Bay film, it can only be endured in small doses before it becomes... oh look, a squirrel!
This is the first time I've played a racer filled with tracks that zip up vertical walls, race upside-down, jump over huge gaps, and go through loop-de-loops as if I'm driving on a roller coaster track. It reminds me of playing with Hot Wheels cars in my youth. I'd spend hours setting up custom tracks that incorporate household objects so I could send cars through loops and over jumps just to eventually crash into something.
Feeding into that nostalgia, this game has a deep track editor with three different toolsets to let you craft basic, moderate, or extremely elaborate creations. This feature alone adds infinite replay value, but what's really cool is that custom tracks can also be used by their creators to host races in online multiplayer. Too bad there's currently no way to browse custom tracks and separate them from standard ones, but that seems like a simple fix.
Since all races are time trials, you race against time and also against ghost vehicles. At the beginning of each race, you choose whether to compete against gold, silver, or bronze ghost cars. If that car is beaten, then you earn that medal. Don't worry about missing out on higher medals, though, as it's possible to earn a gold medal by achieving a near perfect run against a silver or bronze ghost. An additional ghost car of the player's last run also appears in subsequent races, so it's not uncommon to race against two ghost cars on any track. Normally, I don't enjoy time trial races, but something about racing against an A.I. ghost car and my own ghost car on these whacky tracks propels me onward. Add in the fact that I'm a perfectionist (i.e. anal retentive), and the result is a game where I continually try to one-up myself.
Several features in Trackmania Turbo may seem insignificant, but they end up being fantastic design choices. For starters, the track reset button instantly takes you back to the beginning of a race without a confirmation or any delay whatsoever. This is important as mere seconds seem like minutes when waiting to restart a race. While it certainly isn't new to have numerous turbo pads on a race track, it is new to have pads that cut the engine off. This unique design feature adds a new strategy by forcing players to anticipate them and then coast through sections of the track before having the engine turned back on.
Another great choice is having extremely responsive controls. I really love how the tires grip the road because it lets me zip around obstacles and scream through turns at very high speeds. Conversely, the ability to drift at the mere tap of the brake button and still remain in control is also very empowering. Sure, it's easy to complete most tracks and earn a bronze medal, but acquiring gold medals on the harder tracks requires a mastery of speed, control, and drifting.
Hitting objects or the side of a track will slow players down in most racing games, but cars frequently fly through the air while flipping and spinning in Trackmania Turbo. One hazard that players have to be aware of is how easy it is to crash when simply going over a jump. If it isn't lined up correctly, players will end up flying off the track or missing a bridge landing completely. One of my pet peeves is that I have to watch out for lampposts that line the side of a road during jumps. In most games, these items don't have hit detection, but one slight tap in this game will send cars flipping out of control. It would also be nice to be able to control the pitch and yew of my vehicle in the air as I have frequently crashed because my car didn't land at the correct angle.
In addition to Trackmania Turbo's single-player campaign, you can enjoy a race variation where two players work in unison to control one car. There's also local multiplayer racing and action-packed online multiplayer modes, including one where 100 players race ghost cars against each other. Add the deep track creator to the surrealistic mix, and the result is a fantastic racing game that will keep players coming back for short doses of fun-filled mayhem!