What do you get when you create a hardcore racing game that’s not at all about the cars, with the simplest of controls, but the most complex track editor available? Trackmania. Specifically, the second installation, dubbed “Trackmania2 Canyon.”
Facing off against an already-large host of racing franchises and titles such as Need for Speed, Burnout, Flatout, Grid, etc. and fighting the core idea that having the fastest car is what it’s all about, Trackmania2: Canyon presents original ideas and gameplay. Creativity doesn’t guarantee success, of course, and such a shift in gears can be the deciding factor in whether a title burns out at the starting line or rockets through the finish (if you catch my drift).
Published by Ubisoft and developed by Nadeo, Trackmania Canyon makes several things quite clear from the get-go. Firstly, Trackmania is a complete experience. Single-player, online play, play against the “ghosts” of other players, and local play are all supported. Secondly, it cares deeply about how well you perform. In playing all game modes, you are given points based on your level of skill, and given a position on the world, continental, national, and state leaderboards (for example, I’m ranked 42 in Colorado for the single-player).
Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly: Trackmania is HARD.
There are no car upgrades, no advantages, no parts to sell or buy: Everyone has the same car, the only controls; the arrow keys, the brakes, and the restart button.
In fact, the restart button quickly becomes your best friend.
Trackmania is all about two things: Wild, difficult tracks, and laser precision. Instead of technical skill, your success in Canyon is determined by your ability to adapt to the track and learn it thoroughly – by failing to complete it several or dozens of times. Depending on the track, flying off or simply ramming into too many walls is a great way to either fail the track entirely or slow yourself down so much that you won’t receive rewards for finishing!
The delete key pops you back at the starting line with no fuss, knowing you’ll want to try again and again until you master the current track.
While the single-player tracks designed by Nadeo are made to teach you techniques and what to expect from the rest of the game, the user-created content that’s played on multiplayer servers tends to be rather evil. Sharp turns, lengthy jumps, and speed boosts everywhere are standard fare. It makes for tracks that are difficult to complete at all, let alone quickly. Such tracks tend to be terribly unwelcoming for newcomers, but once you’ve practiced on the provided solo tracks, you’ll find that you’ve already learned all you need to know to succeed online (or at least finish the tracks with moderate consistency).
Given Trackmania 2: Canyon’s ever-growing base of content and successfully addicting “one more track” atmosphere, Canyon firmly establishes itself as a solid purchase. Nadeo has changed their formula little since the original Trackmania, but it’s been expanded upon enough to easily warrant the $19.99 it costs over at Steam.com. Trackmania2: Canyon is currently only available on PC.