Monday, August 01, 2005

Trackmania Sunrise Review

Trackmania Sunrise PC, developed by Nadeo and published by Enlight.
The Good: Fun to drive, robust track editor, different modes of play
The Not So Good: Unlockables, poor game browser, can become difficult/frustrating
What say you? Awesome stunt driving and custom tracks make this a great arcade racer: 6/8

Most racing games on the PC today strive to emulate all the realistic aspects of common racing series, whether they be NASCAR, F1, or touring cars. Trackmania Sunrise is not one of these games. Rather, Trackmania Sunrise is all about over-the-top arcade racing, with high speeds, high jumps, and stunts galore. This game could be considered a stand-alone expansion of the original Trackmania, now available in North America.

The graphics of Trackmania Sunrise have greatly improved since the original game. The environments are very bright and colorful, and well-designed tracks do not seem like a puzzle piece editor created them. The textures on most objects are sharp and detailed, or at least detailed enough with you whizzing by at 500 miles per hour. There are three different environments present in the game: the fast Island paradise, crowded Bay city center, and Mediterranean road course Coast. Each of these is different with no recycled textures and their own personality. Tracks can also take place during different times of the day (dawn, day, dusk, and night) to add ambiance. The sound essentially consists of engine noises and background techno music (the European influence is readily apparent). The sounds are by no means spectacular, but only provide for something coming out of your speakers.

Trackmania Sunrise can be played in solo and multiplayer modes. There are four types of races available in solo mode: standard checkpoint races, stunt-heavy platforms, track building puzzles, and elimination crazy mode. These modes demonstrate the primary ways to enjoy Trackmania Sunrise: building strange, garish tracks and then racing on them. There are goals to meet for each of the provided tracks, and placing better results in having more credits to spend in the track editor. Multiplayer modes are all based on the race solo mode, in that all the drivers compete rally-style to finish the tracks in the shortest amount of time. Since there is no collision detection with other cars, you are simply racing against the clock. Most multiplayer games involve time attack mode, where the fastest completion time during a set time period wins. Also, round mode is available, which has a points system. All racers start at the same time, and the first player to reach the finish line gets 10 points, 8 for second, and so on. The races repeat until one player reaches the pre-determined maximum. During multiplayer races, you can enter official mode, which records your finished and ranks you on a worldwide ladder. Trackmania Sunrise includes an in-game multiplayer browser that is very rudimentary. You cannot sort the games by ping, so finding a low ping server requires clicking on every server in the random order it appears and remembering which was the best. There are several editors in the game, the most important being the track editor. This powerful but slightly unwieldy tool is where you can design the track of your dreams, assuming that you’ve unlocked enough coppers (credits) in solo mode. The track editor is fairly easy to use considering how flexible it is. There are also ghost, campaign, replay, and skin editors available.

Each environment has a specific car associated with it, so all drivers are in the same machine; there is no advantage to be gained through setups or the like. The Island cars are very fast, the Bay SUVs have tight cornering, and the Coast GT cars are road racers. The Coast cars are very annoying to drive, as they have very little downforce and cannot corner nearly as well as the other two car types. Because of the nature of the game, the driving model is all the way arcade in nature, since you will be performing large jumps, full pipe maneuvers, and driving at insane speeds. Overall, the game is very fun to play, with relatively easy to drive cars. You constantly try to improve at each track, observing places where time can be gained, much like a technical racer. It’s nice to see a game where the winner is the best driver, and not the best mechanic, like NASCAR and its setup-determined racing. Some people have created some really inventive tracks, but you’ll occasionally find one that is pure frustration due to poor design. Or that you just suck at the game. Whichever.

Trackmania Sunrise could be classified as an arcade racer with a simplified driving model. But it’s slightly deeper than that: driving the tracks to their absolute best requires skill, and not just reflexes. There are few problems with the game (multiplayer game browser limitations and the initial difficulty of using the track editor), but overall it’s a very pleasing experience for gamers who want to drive fast and perform outrageous stunts while doing so.