Thursday, September 29, 2011

Drive on the wall, you say?

I never made it as far as Deus Ex last night (and GameFly just shipped Dirt 3 because they are incredible assholes). Once the card was installed and the necessary modifications made to the internals of my case it was time for Trackmania 2. Once I got over not getting preposterous performance from a mid-range card and turned the settings down from very nice to nice it was as good as I remembered it. Trackmania is not really a racing game; it's all about time trials. All that matters is getting from one end of the track to the other as fast as possible, to the point that if there are other cars on the track there is no collision detection between them. This can be hilarious and somewhat difficult to get your head around, especially in multiplayer, but it sets Trackmania apart from all the other racing games out there.

Incredible user made tracks certainly don't hurt either. After a few hours of mucking about on the including tracks I jumped online. There was an over crowded Giant Bomb server that annoyed me into leaving after a few minutes. I had much more luck with international servers: they had more interesting tracking and will much less crowded. It was amazing how quickly the new tracks downloaded. My pipe is indeed fat, but downloading a large custom track in the same time it takes to load one of the included one is something that I do not understand.

I suppose I should take one step further back and explain exactly how Trackania plays, as it never seems to get the attention that it deserves. Think of the best arcade style racing game you have ever played. If you say anything other than San Francisco Rush 2049 then you never owned a Dreamcast (and get off my damn lawn). It is an arcade racer, complete with 360 degree power slides and jumps that last for days. It also plays surprisingly well with a keyboard, has a dedicated and talented fan base and oozes the same kind of polish that makes most people look past how stupidly hard the actual racing in Wipeout is. Leader boards are a big part of the game but they are implemented in such a way that they become a treat instead of a chore. Racing on the included tracks counts as practice; you need to choose to make a record attempt, and when you do there are no restarts. Plus these attempts are limited to once every five minutes. Trackmania has eliminated the grind by eliminating the grind. It just doesn't let you get bored.

There was a console release for Trackmania, on the Wii of all places, so I have no idea if it was any good. At $25 to $30 online you really can't go wrong. It's a great arcade racer that can be as engrossing as the best sims out there if you want it to.

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