Malcolm Owen On March 25, 2006 at 2:50 pm

Once upon a time, there was a development team with a dream. A dream to make the weirdest and best racing game ever. However, because they had very little in the way of resources, they shyed away from making a clone of Gran Turismo and created a game with just 3 different types of vehicle. Instead of focusing on making the cars race as accurately as the laws of physics could allow, they centred on the idea of weird and wonderful tracks. They even went further and allowed the players the ability to make the tracks themselves, just like scalextric did. Trackmania was born.
However, the world didn’t bother to look at the game, since Gran Turismo looked better and featured cars with actual brand names, and poor Trackmania was left on the side of the road, hoping that someday the world would give it another chance.

Trackmania Sunrise is the sequel to Trackmania, the weird track-building, stunt-driving, time-beating racing game which gave players more control over things than most people know what to do with. TMS does have some slight changes, such as the complete overhaul of the visuals to allow it to compete against other racing titles on an equal footing, but fundamentally it stays the same as before. The cars look a lot more realistic and the tracks have extra detailing that didn’t exist before, such as jettys off the side of islands. A lot of little touches that make the game a lot better than before.
Your choice of showroom models continues to sit at a measly 3, but each handles differently and their tracks reflect them. Two that remain from the original are the sports car (for any tracks involving high speeds and huge jumps) and the off-roader (primarily for stunts and more technically challenging tracks than the sports car), and they are joined by the “Luxury Sports Vehicle” which in comparison to the other two vehicles is a very huge change to what it replaced in the original. Aside from being slower in terms of accelleration, it’s also takes an age to brake and cornering is a pain, and that makes it a challenge to drive.

The way you play the game is similar to the original game. The core values of over the top track design and the need for reckless yet precise driving which was a potent mix before has not been altered at all.
Just as you would expect for a racing game, there’s the ability to race along a track as quickly as possible to beat times set by the creators, with the usual Olympic medal awards structure for however close you are to the Developer’s times.
Puzzle follows a similar line to Race in that you must complete a track as quickly as possible. The major difference, however, is that one or more pieces of track are missing and you have the task of slapping them into place on the ground. The obvious path gets you a bronze time, but some deep thought can get the time down by a few seconds or maybe even minutes.
A deviation from the usual speeding to victory plan is Platform, whereby the aim is to get to the finish without having to restart at the last checkpoint you crossed. The fewer restarts the better, with 0 being the gold standard.
And then there’s the last mode: Crazy. Imagine you are going to race along a short track on a huge time limit. As soon as you start, a fleet of ghost cars appear, racing the same track. Every lap you do replaces one of the ghosts with your own recording, so as time goes on the race becomes less of a mess and more of a tightly grouped together of ghosts following the same racing line. It’s confusing to start with, and the mass chaos at the beginning is one of your biggest enemies to contend with if you’re going to replace all ghost recordings within the time provided.

The centerpiece of the Trackmania series has to be it’s construction elements. Using a wide assortment of pieces (corners, straights, bends, inclines, loops, curves, jumps, holes, bumps and other similar items) you can build your own balls-out track for others to try and best you at. As an incentive to get you to play the main tracks to death, you have to earn coins to spend in the track builder by getting medals in the other modes first. Granted, some great short tracks could be done on a tiny budget, but having a huge amount to play with is better.
If you are feeling brave enough, you can join in with the sheer madness that is multiplayer Trackmania. Driving against other players is always a good idea, but seeing the times get lower and lower becomes an incentive for you to do well, even if it’s a track that someone else has created (And since each track is built on a piece by piece basis, the track files themselves end up being really tiny and so 56k friendly). Track swapping has become a good way of seeing what everyone else has done so you can incorporate the good bits into your own tracks to impress others. It’s “Keeping Up with the Jones’” for the 21st Century.

Trackmania had a “One More Go” quality that was hard to shake off. Trackmania Sunrise continues this with much more gusto and with almost Sim-City-esque addictiveness. In a world dominated by Gran Turismo and Project Gotham Racing, TM:S is a nice diversion away from the usual replica cars and hitting the apex gameplay, and anyone that plays racing games should give Trackmania Sunrise a chance. Sure, it’s different, but different in a good way.


An addictiveness that many will find hard to beat.


Very slick and a major improvement over the original.


The music gets to you. Eventually.


Anyone that needs a change from Gran Turismo should give this a try.

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