Trackmania Nations was specially developed for the Electronic Sports World Cup, and is available for free, a download away, for all gamers to have fun and compete online. Different countries compete for the top spot, and as of this writing, France is in the lead with the highest score. The game is sponsored by NVIDIA, and as a result, you can expect to see some quality graphics in this game. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scale well, because it does. Even old, low-end computers can run this game, you’ll just have to sacrifice visual quality for performance, and Trackmania Nations is flexible enough to give you that option.
Here’s the kicker; The Grand Final of ESWC will be held in Paris from June 28th to July the 2nd , in front of 40,000 people, where the best players from each country will battle it out for a prize of $400,000. If that isn’t an incentive to grab this free game, I don’t know what is. The beauty of Trackmania Nations is that anyone can pick it up, and go. The control of your race car is tight and intuitive. There’s some excellent use of physics in the game; you can easily flip your car based on how you hit certain curves and inclinations. Racing in Trackmania Nations feels just right, and with racing games these days, that’s a very good thing. The way the camera moves in a subtle manner, based on how fast you’re going, or how you fly through the air, which may sound cheesy as a gameplay mechanic, but it works in the game real well.
You can practice offline in Solo mode, trying to beat your own best scores. Tracks in Solo mode are divided up into three different section; Beginner, Advanced, and Expert. Each section features 30 tracks, making 90 tracks overall for you to practice on (excluding downloaded tracks, more on that later.) This allows you to hone your skills, and learn the ropes of the game.
Each race awards you 3 medals for each track based on your performance; Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Obviously a gold medal means you’ve aced the track, silver means you’ve done well, and bronze means you barely passed. It’s a worthy goal to try and get gold medals for all 90 tracks, which I’m currently working on.
There’s also the Hotseat mode, where you can go up against a friend without going online, using the same computer. It works by having the two of you take turns trying to get the best score. After you’ve raced, your every move is recorded, and then your friend can race against your ghost car to see if he can beat your time.
For multiplayer, you have the option of playing on a LAN, or online via the internets. Once you go online, you’re presented with your rank for your specified nation, and a very simple server browser. No information overload frying your brain here. Pick the name of the server you want to join, and that’s it. Nadeo even suggests some servers you should join, which I assume takes into account ping time, however you don’t have to worry about ping too much with this game, due to how the game works. You’re not racing against other players, but against their best times in a given lap. It works out very nice, and it’s a thrill to see you at the top of list when you post a really good lap time. Addictive? Absolutely. Did I mention the game is free to download?
To add longetivity and replay value to the game, it comes with it’s own track editor. It’s really simple, no level-building, programming, rocket scientist degree required. You simply go in, place down tracks, loops, obstacles, boosters, whatever your heart desires. Then you test it out to see if you can complete laps, make the jumps properly, and see if it’s fun — all within the game. I’ve spent untold hours creating my own maps (granted, some aren’t that great, but I’m learning!) You can also download tracks from other people, share your’s, and try each others hand-crafted adrenaline-inducing maps. Maps I’ve downloaded ranged from the stupendously ridiculous to absolutely brilliant. Everytime I download one, I’m like a kid in a candy store, I can’t get my sugar-coated hands off the goods.
My Logitech Cordless Rumblepad, which was fairly new and in pristine condition before the installation of Trackmania Nations now sports scuff marks, smudges, dents (Rawr! How did I miss that jump!?!?), and dried drool. It looks like it has literally been through a war zone. Not to mention my poor, blistered thumb.
Visually, the game is stunning, likely due to Nadeo working closely with NVIDIA. High-end technology like bump-mapping, pixel shaders, and more are present (and can easily be disabled if you don’t have a high-end rig.) The tracks in Nations actually looks good, and I can’t say that much for most racing games out there; most are too blurry. Everything in the game is bright and vivid, even the shadows look glorious, and I really do mean glorious. Lastly, the textures feel sharp and crisp.
Sound effects are solid, and the music are driving and not too annoying. I really couldn’t find much to complain about this game, other than that there’s not much variety in music, but that’s a minor nitpick. Trackmania Nations is free, looks good, is addictive beyond expectation, and has a competitive edge to it, I’d have to say this is the best free game I can ever recall playing. I believe this move has firmly put Nadeo on the map for gamers everywhere. Seriously, have you downloaded the game yet?
As a final note, if you haven’t tried Trackmania Sunrise, you owe yourself to try the demo (go to your favorite demo downloading site.) Once you’ve tried the demo, and you’ve enjoy it, purchase the game. It has so many levels, and replay value, that you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of it. There’s even an expansion pack to the game that is completely free which adds a ton of new content, too.