Prior to mentioning anything else about the premise of this game, let me draw your attention to the fact this game is completely free. Trackmania Nations Forever, or TMNF for short, could be described as one huge "demo" for its commercial bigger brother, Trackmania United Forever, TMUF. But to call it a demo would be extremely unfair. Within the freely available 500mb download is what could easily be described as a full game, with an entertainment value millions of players have already experienced. Not only does this ingeniously advertise the Trackmania series, but it's also part of the popular Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) competition.
Hurtling round your newly created track, face gleaming
Trackmania is, as one might assume, all about the tracks. It's not just "another" racing game either. It's something which should be taken as an example of a how a relatively small developer can successfully deliver a brand new and genuinely unique concept. The idea being that you can easily create and play your very own tracks, which look and feel professional, while being of little effort to your brain cells. The tracks can be designed to be as extreme or calm as you like, with a huge host of "blocks" on hand. These range from loops to half pipes to speed booster blocks. The variation and diversity of these gives an end product which is often breathtaking.
While TMNF only contains one of the seven "environments" seen in TMUF, the Stadium scene included is arguably the most popular one, although that's probably down to it's free factor. The Stadium environment involves racing in a stadium no less, in what looks like a Formula 1 car. The handling couldn't be more different however, with the cars bouncing around, defying gravity with their air brakes. This makes a refreshing pleasure, as you can enjoyably throw these cars around corners, trying to pick off seconds off your best lap. While there is no contact with other cars, there is always a competitive edge in battling it out for the fastest time.
The greatest aspect for many will be the online multiplayer racing. Here you can race against players from all over the world on a thriving assortment of servers, each with a wide choice of different tracks and special features, like track records. To compliment the pure elation of racing is an official ladder, which sees you ranked in your nation and also globally. This gives you something to work towards, and you have to try hard not to get addicted in trying to better your pride rank.
In addition to the online scene, there is a lengthy solo campaign, which is composed of a pleasantly varied 65 tracks for those who fancy a more laid-back drive. I say varied not only because of the selection of tracks available, but because there are a range of differently designed races, from multiple lap endurances to high speed races. The tracks get progressively harder, but since there are four difficulty levels or "medals" to aim for, they all remain attainable. Each medal is represented by the car which set the time you need to beat in order to win the medal, so you never need to feel entirely alone either. As an added incentive to win as many medals as you can there is an official medal ladder, which, although isn't in-depth as the multiplayer one, makes a nice addition.
If somehow you do managed to get bored of all the tracks online and off, you can easily create your own. The track editor is incredibly easy to use, and can result in high quality tracks with an exciting level of polish, achievable by anyone with enough creative talent. Before long you can find yourself hurtling round your newly created track, face gleaming at what you've just created. It's the fact that within seconds of pressing of the "enter" key you find yourself fluently transported to your car which is so superb.
Something of great significance is the "Forever" suffix, which the veterans of the series would have noticed. Simply put it is a recently released free upgrade for what is already a free game, and brings with it a new set of content and changes, designed to bring new life to the Trackmania series. Florent Castelnérac, Director of Nadeo, sums up the idea nicely: "Instead of making it again bigger, we have decided to make it much stronger".
The biggest new feature in this upgrade you will probably notice is the ability to race online with players from TMUF, which creates the possibility for races where hundreds of other players race on the same server, and ultimately, the same track. While this brings lag and slowdown for those less equipped, the jubilation of beating over a hundred players is something everyone should aim to experience at least once. There are plenty of bug fixes and improved features too, all of which is a nice gesture considering what they have done free of charge already.
The excitement in seeing what could possibly come next
I'm pleased to say Nadeo have excelled with the visuals of the game too, doing a grand job rendering the range and styles of tracks with great beauty. Sparkling real time reflections and roads shimmering in sun are all brought to life with new technology to make the whole experience look aesthetically pleasing. While this is no Crysis, the weaving curves and meandering track possibilities make it exciting in seeing what could possibly come next. It takes good design and use of scenery to bring out such looks in a track, but rarely does it disappoint. The flaw with having such gorgeous surroundings in a racing game is that I often find myself staring at the scenery, which inevitably results in my car hurtling off the racetrack.
The audio aspect, while not as special as the rest of the game, does little to harm the splendour of the game. The in-game music is a little too ordinary, and the atmosphere at times is somewhat underwhelming. Did I mention this game is free?
Considering the non-existent price tag, this is one grand achievement
If I haven't at least convinced you to at least try this free game, then I have more than likely failed as a reviewer. That is unless you are on a 56kb modem and a 500mb download is out of the question. Seldom do you find a developer generous enough to give away countless hours of hard work, and it would be unfair to not at least take a look into their unpaid labour.
If you thoroughly enjoy the experience, then I can happily tell you TMUF is much more of the same, but expanded in more ways than one. This is without doubt well worth the upgrade; just check out my TMUF review for more info. While I have had a few minor criticisms with TMNF, it isn't enough to tarnish this well deserved effort. Considering the non-existent price tag, this is one grand achievement, and shows that some of the best things in life are usually free.
TrackMania Nations Forever (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Prior to mentioning anything else about the premise of this game, let me draw your attention to the fact this game is completely free. Trackmania Nations Forever, or TMNF for short, could be described as one huge "demo" for its commercial bigger brother, Trackmania United Forever, TMUF. But to call it a demo would be extremely unfair.