I don’t see myself getting tired of Trackmania Nations any time soon. The graphics are incredible, the sound is amazing and it’s ridiculously fun and addictive.

The Good: All of the above… and it’s free!

The Bad: None of the above. S’all good here!

On January 27, 2006, French game developer Nadeo did something no developer has done before. They released a game specifically designed for the ESWC absolutely free for the entire world. Trackmania Nations ESWC is the third installment in the Trackmania series and will totally knock your socks off… if of course you’re wearing any.

Trackmania Nations ESWC

I will admit, this is my first Trackmania experience. Which could be why I’m so taken by TM Nations. For those that aren’t familiar with the series. Trackmania falls somewhere in between arcade and sim racing on ‘Hotwheels’ style tracks where you aim to get the best time possible. There’s no collisions with other cars – which definitely threw me for a loop the first few times I passed through an opponent. But it makes perfect sense once you play a few races. It’s all about time here. There’s a few game modes, but they all revolve around the best time. It’s not at all about knocking people off the side of the track or cutting someone off just before the finish line. It’s about style, technique and finesse. And I must say, this is probably the most fun I’ve had with a driving game and I honestly don’t remember the last time I was this hooked on a PC game.

The first thing you’ll notice when you start playing is just how great this game looks. I can easily say TM Nations could give Project Gotham Racing for the Xbox 360 a run for it’s money. The car models are very detailed and have extremely accurate, real-time reflections. The texture on the tire looks like it uses a form of bump mapping as every groove in the tread looks real. And never have I seen concrete look so good!

The sound effects are also very good. Exactly what you’d expect the cars to sound like. I actually really like the soundtrack too. It’s unique and suits the style of gameplay very well. It’s subtle at times and more aggressive at others. It does a good job of keeping you ‘on track’ in terms of being enough to keep you focused without being a distraction. I can’t deal with wicked fast punk rock blaring in my face while I’m trying to drive. Well, not in video games anyway. 😉

I was surprised to find full support for the Xbox 360 controller. I was able to use it, triggers and all, without any third party software. They even went as far as to include in-game deadzone preferences. The only thing lacking was rumble.

There isn’t one thing that makes TM Nations so great. It’s the entire package – the way everything compliments each other. I was actually turned off when I watched the trailer and saw cars flying through the air on ridiculous tracks. But after 10 minutes of racing, I was fully addicted and I knew it. Yes, there’s tons of jumps and you do spend a lot of time with your wheels off the ground. But the physics engine behind the game helps to ground it and it really doesn’t feel like an over-exaggerated arcade racer as it might appear at first. Your car definitely feels like it has some weight to it and after a short while you know what to expect from it and how it will react in different situations.

If I haven’t already named off enough amazing features of this game, here’s a couple more; It comes with a track editor so you can build and race your own crazy tracks online. They give you everything that you’ll find in the official tracks in an easy-to-use package. It’s built right into the game and you can drop your car anywhere on the track at any time while you’re building to test it out. Unlike other editors I’ve used where you have to actually load the map/track and do it from the beginning. Very cool. You can also customize your car. Each Country that’s represented (there are 53 of them) in the game has it’s own custom design. While I liked the design of the Canada car, I had to create my own. I’m currently rocking a radass, black and hot pink car. Bet you didn’t see that coming!

I’m going to have to encourage each and every PC gamer out there, regardless of your preferred game types, to go and download Trackmania Nations ESWC and try it out. It’s free, it’s awesome and it’s free! Did I mention… it’s free? Do it! Go get it! And if you’re worried that your PC might not run it, don’t fret. Nadeo has done an amazing job of making the game very scalable. You can roll the shader model right back to 1.1 and disable virtually every visual feature the game offers. So no excuses for you!

4/ 5
TrackMania Nations ESWC


How did you customize your car? I couldn’t firgure out how to paint the different parts. And can you play online?

@Josh: When you’re in the Paint section, there’s two little icons above the main icons on the left hand side. One is to make whatever you do symmetrical, the other is to select individual parts. See this screenshot. You have to pick a brush first, then you can paint the different parts of the car.

And yeah, it’s made for online. I should have mentioned that, eh? It has a global ranking system where each player earns points for doing well in races. Player points are pooled together to generate a score for each country. When you fire up the game, it shows you the country ladder. Pretty cool!

I downloaded it the other night, but couldn’t manage to get online – kept getting a "bad proxy" message. 🙁

TBH the lack of collisions sounds like it would make the competitive racing a bit pointless – it all comes down to who can memorise each track the best.

I love trackmania. I’ve got both of the games, and when I saw this I wanted to buy it, but it’s FREE! Yey. Hey Matt did you mention it’s free?

This free version seems to only have one style of cars and tracks whereas the other versions have three different styles. The paid games also have a couple of different modes (especially Sunrise) including Puzzle, Race, Platform and Crazy!! Which definitely add longevity to the game.

The jumps are fun, but can be annoying sometimes, because you have to get them perfect to get gold.

Will try this out tonght. Matt, wanna race?

Just watched your video. Wow, it does look a lot more polished compared to the others. Those annoying holes and pipes in the road are fun, when you’re not expecting them. The loops aren’t bad, but the vertical walls (near the end of the video) are insane, heh!

Nice drivin’

(BTW, the videos title still says F.E.A.R.)

Trackmania Sunrise is an amazing game, you should be able to pick it up for next to nothing these days. Plus Nadeo released the Extreme pack for free, which was basically a whole new game!

If you really want total control of customising your car you can actually get the templates and edit them in Photoshop!

You need to get a free nVidia plugin that decodes the files from the game and imports them directly into PS. There’s a big community out there for it… htough a lot of it is French.

@Matthew Pennell: I was having the same problem, actually. The first day I played it, all of the ladders were disabled. Then on Saturday I couldn’t connect at all for a few hours. They’re probably seeing pretty big traffic spikes on the weekends.

@Trovster: I had seen video of TM Sunrise and thought it looked a little too stunty for me but I’m kicking myself for not giving it a shot earlier. I’ll definitely try it out now though.

Thanks for the heads up on the title of the pop-up. Will fix.

@Anthony: That’s amazing! Didn’t know you could do that. Man, looks like I’ll be spending a lot of time playing this game.

We should get a server going and name it MattBrett, and pass word protect it so only we can play. Eh? Eh?

@Josh: Heh, not a bad idea! Maybe we could set something up for this weekend?

Anyone interested, or is gonna be just me and Josh?

I have been to the ESWC grand finals a couple of times (my wife actually won gold, and 60.000$, in the female Counter-Strike competition back in 2004).

I think its an amazingly smart move of them to get involved in the creation of a free competition platform, and use it for their tournaments. Even more so, when I see that it gets positive reviews. 🙂

Brett, you really did it this time. I was reading your review and glanced across to your "gameplay clip" link and decided to check it out as the screen-capture looked snazzy. I was hooked right away but wasn’t sure whether to download it. But since you mentioned it was well adjusted for a variety of perfomance in pcs i decided to anyways.

This game is amazing! It rocks big time.

There were some problems with the ladder in the beginning, but lately it has been running smoothly.

I would definitely approve your recommendation!

I have had TM nations for a good few weeks now and am obviously hooked. Also that by downloading East TM you can download your skins far easier than without.

My only problem is i cant create a ladder for me and my new mates can you give me some advice on this.

Ps have followed the manual but no one else can join as it comes up as a private game