Sunday, February 26, 2006

Trackmania Nations Review

Trackmania Nations: Electronic Sports Wold Cup Edition (to give it's full name) has been getting a fair bit of hype recently and with good reason. The third game in the relatively unknown Trackmania series is all about online competitive play and representing your country. The majority of the game is played online (you can play tracks offline too) with each player being ranked on their times and adding to their countries total in the world wide competition. Nations makes use of a nice graphic engine, with great looking, single seat, cars and fairly simply but functional environments, it runs brilliantly on the relatively simply tracks that come with the game, but some more elaborate user name tracks can cause some frame rate issues though.

Gameplay is a simple matter of reaching the end of the track as quickly as possible, all racing is done against the clock rather than against the other players in the server. Everybody has 6 minutes on each track to put in the fastest lap before being sent to the next track. This leads to some hectic racing as the tracks tend to offer a few tricky jumps or corners which take a few attempts to learn, so the top times are normally set in the last 2 minutes when everybody has picked up the ins and outs of the track. While you can see all your opponents on the track with you, this is all about beating the clock and as such there are no collisions, carts just pass right through each other.

The physics/driving engine is the star of the game, the cars themselves are very simple with no gears and a very light, easy to drive, cart-like feel, but the physics bring the complexity. The tracks have small barriers around their edges but once you fall off there isn’t a way to get back on, you have to restart your lap, as a result keeping you car under control and on the track is vital, particularly over some of the huge jumps. Rolling your car has a similar effect to falling of the track meaning that landing jumps, and avoiding high speed wall collisions is also important. These physics and some skillfully designed tracks combine to make a very challenging and original game.

Considering its free there is no reason not to give this a try.


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