Trackmania, as a franchise, has been around for a lot longer than expected. Starting in 2003, the franchise was known for its easy-to-pick-up gameplay and heavy focus on track creation. Fourteen years after Trackmania Nations, Ubisoft’s Nadeo has remade the game for current generations. Not only is it bringing this to a new generation, it brings with it a subscription service. There are plenty of risks that come from such an option, so let’s find out if it’s worth joining the party.
If you’ve never played a Trackmania game, it’s a time trial series with formula 1-esque cars as you speed through challenging tracks. Controls are simple, so it’s one of those games that’s easy to pick up and difficult to master. Since its controls are basic, there’s a lot of focus on map variety. One track might be a straightforward race. Another might shut off your engine, forcing you to get to the finish line on momentum alone. Thanks to a selection of course types, power ups, and power downs, there are a lot of ways a map can twist and turn.
Trackmania Map Editor
This also means that most maps you play are generally trickier. Maps aren’t rated by difficulty, so the only way you’ll know how a map will turn out is by playing it. This makes it a game made for the fans. That isn’t to say newbies can’t get into the swing of things, but it won’t be for everyone. This isn’t helped by the game’s heavy focus on trial and error. Since the main goal is to be as fast as you can be and reach the finish line it feels more efficient to scrap a run than to respawn. I’ve pressed the “give up” button more often thanks to how tight a run can be. You’ll get racing action if you crave it, just make sure to play with a gamepad.
Alongside the actual racing is a map editor. Depending on whether you pay or not, you gain access to the Basic and/or advanced Map Editor. While I’m not the most creative individual, the Advanced editor gives you a lot of options to the point of it being overwhelming. While others might treat it as a way to brush up on their design skills, I treated it like I was doodling, making a maze of a level just to troll and mess with drivers.
If you want to share your map, however, it has to be possible to finish and you will need to finish a run first before you can share it. This makes sure that maps are possible, and forces you to playtest a map properly. I can see a lot of people having fun with it, but it has the same sort of problem any editor comes with: community. This game will live and die by the community that is created, and that will only be known a couple months after release.
Trackmania's Subscription Service
But the most important thing in this Trackmania is its new focus on a subscription-based service. Simply put, there are three services: Starter, Standard and Club. Starter is free-to-play, letting you race the available tracks of the day or month. Standard gives you access to the advanced map editor that you can share, alongside being able to fight for a place on leaderboards. Finally, Club allows you to create and join clubs, edit your car’s look, and gives access to a special grand prix. Purchasing a subscription will also allow you to keep the tracks that were released during that time alongside the map editor even when the subscription is finished.
While Standard isn’t a bad deal, Club Access adds very little in comparison. Sure, you can join clubs and customize your car’s skin, but it doesn’t feel worth the extra dosh. After all, Trackmania’s gameplay loop makes it difficult to socialize. How are you supposed to make new mates if you’re shedding seconds off your time? The subscription service for Trackmania isn’t the worst use of a subscription, but it does feel a bit tragic. It’s a stark reminder of how corporate interests have permanently changed the way fan content is created. There is an appeal to a more curated system, but it feels like being part of a country club: paying more for a prestige that never feels worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong, there are some enjoyable tracks and Trackmania races can have a zen quality while you listen to a podcast or album. If a racer all about making tracks appeals to you, you get it here. Everyone else might have their fun, but it won’t make you want to renew that subscription.
Performance & Graphics
Trackmania gets the job done efficiently. As a racer, it runs pretty smoothly (even as my GL63 8RC ages) and barely stutters. It did crash at one point, but that was the only time. The track editor was where the game would have the highest chance of stuttering, but I was joking around. Beyond that, there is the polish you would expect from a triple A publisher. It’s a game that leans towards functionality over fidelity, and that’s a plus here. This is a game that demands to be legible during higher speeds, and Nadeo knows that. If your PC can run it, it should play pretty well.
Trackmania has the time trial gameplay you expect from the series with a neat map editor, but its subscription service feels like a misstep. Rather than a social racing game, it’s a racing game with a social service built onto it. That might be enough for people, but its engagement can run thin and never feels worthy of its highest tier. While there were some good moments, there was some sense of unfulfillment every time I jumped in. There’s definitely fun to be had, but whether or not that fun will extend past a couple weeks is unlikely.
TOP GAME MOMENT
There’s a map that shuts your engine off on a track designed like a golf course (TrackGolf by Fritos34), and it was an ingenious concept.
Full of tracks
Easy to pick up
Cool map editor
Highest subscription tier is kind of lame
Easy to burnout on (pun intended)
Little Reason to Socialize
About Gavin Herman
Gavin Herman is a critic with experience in editing, journalism and video game PR. He's still too afraid to ask what this Fortnite thing is all about.