It’s been a good week for game releases that I’m excited about, and not one of them has been on console or what I’d call a “mainstream” title — further confirmation that there’s more than enough entertainment out there for people without having to always play the “biggest” and “best” games there are. In just the last couple of days, we’ve seenMinecraft‘s official update to version 1.8, which adds some significant new content; the re-release of Wing Commander III on Good Old Games; and, of course, TrackMania 2 Canyon being unleashed on the public.
I’ve been playing it a bit tonight so I thought I’d share some observations.
First up: it’s good. It’s still recognizably TrackMania — the interface and sound effects are pretty much identical. The driving model for the cars on offer in the Canyon environment is fun, though — strongly drift-based and very reminiscent of arcade racers such asBurnout, Daytona and Ridge Racer. This is a little different from the variety of cars seen in TrackMania United, where for the most part, drifting was discouraged as it lowered your speed. In the Canyon, however, if a corner is more than a slight wiggle you’re encouraged to throw your car around it sideways. Always fun.
The potential disappointment of the game that I had on my radar was the fact that it only has a single environment — the titular Canyon. Fortunately, there are enough blocks and combinations thereof to mean that this environment offers more than enough variety to carry a whole game. And the single player campaign is nicely paced, alternating between twisty mountain roads, rollercoasteresque elevated tracks and traditional speedway circuits. Despite remaining in the same cars in the same canyon for the whole game, it’s not a worry — for now, at least, and by the time it may start feeling a bit stale, there’ll surely be some modders out there with new textures and addons to improve the game. And following that, the Valley environment will be released — and who knows what beyond that?
If you’re not a TrackMania fan then the fact the base of the game is fundamentally not that different probably won’t be enough to sway you — though the improved driving model makes it a little more accessible than the sometimes-idiosyncratic handling of United‘s lineup. Series purists are bemoaning the lack of Platform and Stunt levels in the single player campaign, though these were always lesser-played modes anyway, and Nadeo have also said that there’s the possibility of putting these modes back in through a future update — the whole point of the “ManiaPlanet” platform is to be able to evolve it on a regular basis.
A pleasing new addition is the four-player split screen mode. I haven’t tried it as yet, but if you have your PC hooked up to your TV as I do, this will make for some highly entertaining party play. The Hotseat mode of the original is present and correct, too, as is LAN play. And online is as fun as ever, with servers already offering a wide variety of creative community tracks and intense competition for up to 200 people at once.
So first impressions of the game are very good, then, and especially as it’s just £20. While the lack of other environments is a shame, with the game releasing at a lower price point I certainly won’t object to paying more for extra environments in the future — particularly if each comes with its own campaign, as is likely to happen. And the future also holds the highly intriguing possibilities offered by ShootMania and QuestMania, information on which is very limited right now. QuestMania is probably the one I’m most excited about, as I’m very interested in the implementation of user-created RPG quests. I hope it turns out to be good. We’ll see!
You can grab TrackMania 2 Canyon now from its official website, and I recommend that you do.