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.
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!