Trackmania 2: Canyon Review
The Trackmania series is something of an anomaly in the racing game world. At a time when realism, in both feel and physics, are constantly pushed to the boundaries of the genuine racing experience; Trackmania took a step back and decided that all players really want is to build crazy tracks and have fun. That, and indulge in the gaming equivalent of crack cocaine. It is no surprise that by 2008 the series had achieved several world records for the most popular online driving simulation and developed the largest content base for any racing game. So, it was with some trepidation that I approached Trackmania 2: Canyon - Knowing the danger of following the rabbit down the hole, back out and then looping the loop into oblivion.
Trackmania 2: Canyon throws you in at the deep end, with no buoy or life guard in sight. Completely absent of any tutorial or even a guiding hint, beyond which keys control your vehicle, the whole process is incredibly confusing from the outset. It is almost as though developers Nadeo assumes that the only players will be hardcore addicts, newcomers will be sitting scratching there head at the blank menu screen.
Overcoming these initial confusions, eventually you may find yourself racing. In solo play your task is to beat the gold time for each track and you may choose to race against ghost versions of these medals, your previous attempts, or even download the best times across the world. The courses range from the simple, what would be considered traditional, to the downright insane. The final tracks have certainly been dredged up from the depths of a fevered addict’s mind featuring monstrous jumps, ridiculous wall climbs and impossible loop the loops where even the slightest error will find yourself careening off into the void. Luckily their length is generally kept to under a minute so even if you crash and burn you will have only lost a few seconds. And you will crash and burn. Your saviour is the delete key which instantly places you back at the start of the race and resets the timer. A few days in and my eyes are bloodshot from ‘one-more-try-itis’ and my delete key is looking decidedly more worn and shabby
You see, this game needs a sticker on the box (or somewhere on the download screen) similar to those on cigarette packages: “Warning: Trackmania is highly addictive” or “Trackmania can cause a slow and painful death”. Nadeo have clearly realised that the secret to this addictive success is simplicity. While it is highly recommended to play with a controller, it is not impossible with just one hand on the keys - there is no handbrake, but the standard brake will power slide you around corners with ease or stop you in an instant. Furthermore, there is only one car model and it handles like a magnetic bullet tank, gripping to the road round corners and even up walls. All of this makes trimming those seconds of your time enjoyable and remarkably painless compared to Trackmania’s racing compatriots.
However, Solo play is merely a gateway drug to the wider world. Multiplayer is where you will eventually find yourself whiling away your life. Here you join the Trackmania community, finding servers filled with other racers. Upon joining a server you are thrown onto a track and begin racing against shadows of all the other players trying to race the fastest lap. While it is disappointing that there are no collisions whatsoever in Trackmania 2: Canyon, you can understand why this is the case. Its whole raison d'etre is to beat record times; collisions would simply slow everyone down.
While the community is the life and soul of Trackmania, it is also its biggest flaw. Each server can host the original or their own personally made tracks, with local times and even local music to listen to. Furthermore, each user can upload their own image avatar and paint their car. This gives each individual a lot of responsibility and unfortunately in any given population there will always be idiots. These asinine fools see it fit to paste porn all over their cars and profile, pump out awful European trance music, and create tracks that spell out the word ‘Boob’ in loops. All too often upon joining a server your screen is flooded with debaucherous images (admittedly Nadeo foresaw this problem and allows you to block users’ images) and the track is some inane mess conjured up by overdosed dunce. Hopefully, over time, the in built voting system will filter most of the impurities out but at present it makes venturing online for that next adrenaline high more like wandering down into the district’s seedy red light district.
Would I recommend Trackmania 2: Canyon? That depends entirely on what you want from a racing game. If you are looking for realism, modern graphics and accurate physics then you will want to steer well clear. On the other hand if you are looking a fun, competitive and sometimes completely insane experiences, then there are very few games that will better this. It is certainly a bumpy road, with incredible highs as you finally succeed making it round the loop the loop, followed by the defeating lows as you plummet off the edge for the thousandth time, but the journey in the end is worth it.