And so we come to the end of this year’s Wrap Up. Today, let’s talk about TrackMania 2: Canyon.
TrackMania 2 is a game that’s exceedingly difficult to describe. At its core, it’s an arcade-style online racer that’s focused on time trials. In reality, that sells the draw of the game a bit short. The game is also a great example of a worldwide community, user-generated content, and casual fun.
Single player content is present but pretty much irrelevant. Its pre-made tracks are very basic and only really good for learning the controls the first time you fire up the game. The single player stuff has leaderboards and medals to earn for beating pre-set times, but there’s not really incentive to go after any of that stuff.
Where TrackMania 2 really shines is in online multiplayer. How it typically goes down is you join a server with 50-100 other people and race time trials for about six minutes per track. Here, all of the tracks have been made by the community. It’s also worth noting that you’re not bouncing against other players’ cars; they race next to you in real time, but the models are ghosts so that no one is in anyone else’s way.
At the end of each track, everyone is awarded ladder points based on fastest time. The leaderboard system is great, allowing you to check your standing at the worldwide, national, and statewide level. Thankfully, poor performance won’t cause you to lose standing. Only other players outperforming you will cause you to fall in the ranks. I enjoy telling people that I’m the number three player in Oklahoma, but I often neglect to tell them that there are only 46 TrackMania 2 players in the state.
The quest to further increase your standing (especially on the smaller, statewide ladder) is one of the greatest draws of the game. This is boosted by the fact that the game isn’t very hard and it’s easy to become competent at it with just a little practice. Because all of the tracks are user-made, there are some challenging ones, but usually six minutes is more than enough time to figure it out.
In fact, figuring out the tracks and the best way to run them is almost like a little puzzle game. The cars have very basic controls and typically all you need are directional buttons and a button for the e-brake. Then, it’s just a matter of figuring out where to place yourself on the track (the “racing line” idea) and whether to use drifting or grip to turn corners. Grip is usually faster and fine for high speed tracks, but sometimes drifting is a must. Also, drifting just looks so cool.
At the end of the day, that’s pretty much what TrackMania 2 is. You can customize your car’s paint job and some servers will run custom music tracks to keep things fresh, so user influence is essentially king in multiplayer mode. There’s also the Valley expansion to look forward to, sometime in the future, which will expand the game’s environment variety.
If you’re the type of person who likes to get all OCD about your lap times in racing games, the idea of retrying a track over and over for six minutes just to shave mere miliseconds off your time will probably be a dream come true. But TrackMania 2 also provides a great time if you want to just play casually for a while. The six minute-per-track design makes it an easy game to jump in and out of when you have some time to kill. Then again, once you start playing, you’re likely to develop a “one more track” mentality and keep playing way longer than you intended.
That does it for the 2011 Wrap Up. It’s been an exciting year and here’s hoping 2012 is even better. Thanks for reading, happy holidays, and don’t forget to play some games over the break!