Speed with plenty of crazy? It can only be TrackMania
There is an old saying that everybody knows, yet no-one is aware of exactly where it came from: 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it'. This saying is applied to the world of video games constantly, be it the latest Modern Warfare or Uncharted - but it's arguable that it's no more true than in racing games.
To the average gamer, there is no discernible difference between Forza 2 and Forza 3, apart from the visuals perhaps. Of course, to the hardcore driving fan, all those little tweaks and additions will scream out, but the more casual player will have a hard time spotting that new drifting mechanic, or that extra option in the customization menu.
It may not be a 'serious' racer, but Trackmania 2's looks easily rival the big boys
Trackmania is a hardcore racer - but in a different way entirely. Realism is replaced with arcade madness, as you fling your car through half-pipes and launch off jumps at break-neck speed. Online highscore tables attract hundreds of thousands of players, all competing to top the charts in their own specific region, and many will play for days, weeks, months at a time to register themselves as the best in the world.
Trackmania 2: Canyon is also your typical racing series. To the casual player, there really isn't much difference between number 1 and number 2 at all, apart from the insanely gorgeous visuals. Over a series of short tracks, you're looking to get to the finish in time to bag the bronze, silver and gold awards - and perhaps some hidden extra medals if you're good enough.
The original Trackmania was loved for its utter ridiculousness, as you pounded around loop-de-loops, surrounded by dozens of other players online who are simultaneously blasting around the track, looking to finish a lap in a shorter time than everyone else. It was possible to spend hours online at a time, and by the end of it find yourself wondering where the time went to.
Number 2 doesn't break from the tried and tested formula. From the moment you boot the game up, everything feels so very similar. The menus, the set-up, joining an online game, collecting medals, climbing the ranks - it's all the very same, and some may feel a slight twinge of disappointment that it's not really a brand new experience.
Racing along an invisible sheet of glass. Probably
More hardcore Trackmania players, however, will instantly feel the different weight behind the cars. There's a definite heavy feel to the way the vehicles control, which makes for far tighter corners around the tracks.
Of course, hardcore players won't like it at first - no-one is happy when their favourite game is messed with. However, with time it becomes obvious that these are, in fact, wonderfully designed controls, and that so much more is possible with them. Casual players will also feel themselves bonding with the feel of the game, and it may even pick up a few more hardcores as a result.
Apart from these new controls, however, it's rather evident that Trackmania 2 isn't really offering much else that is unique. Sure, it has a bundle of new tracks - but the original already had the level editor, and hence thousands to play through. Trackmania players won't encounter anything they haven't seen before.
The other big selling point for Trackmania 2 is the 200-player multiplayer. While this sounds incredible - and the videos definitely painted a fantastic picturte of it - in reality, you're not often going to actually see that many players.
In our time online, we rarely saw even 100 players, especially in servers that had relatively good ping for us. Of course, the Trackmania 2 community is yet to build up, and no doubt there will be more players in the coming months, ready to top these totals up. But it's a delicate balance - will current players have left and gone back to the original Trackmania by the time new players come around?
TRACKMANIA 2: CANYON VERDICT
Either way, Trackmania 2 is great fun, if not exactly the step forward we were hoping for. New players will have a fantastic time gunning for best times and whizzing through the air, while old Trackmania legends will either take to the new challenge, or wonder why it’s just the very same experience all over again. Only time will tell whether or not Trackmania 2 can be a worthy successor.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The later, sillier tracks that see you zipping through the air and passing through the tiniest of cracks.