Turbo marks the first time the TrackMania franchise has appeared on either Xbox or PlayStation consoles, so it’s safe to say there’s probably a large number of people for whom this game will be their first experience of TrackMania.
While there may be more than 200 of them, most of the tracks are incredibly short, some lasting no more than 20 seconds. There are a few multi-lap tracks thrown into the mix, but nothing that takes longer than three minutes to complete.
It’s a bit of a shame as some of the tracks are very well designed and do a great job of inducing the feeling of vertigo as you fly around the more outlandish ones at high-speeds to perfectly choreographed music. Most are over all too soon though, and it can feel a little anti-climactic as a result.
The counter of this is that the bite-sized courses can be incredibly hard to master, requiring multiple runs to learn every corner and obstacle in order to earn the best time, which does help to prolong the experience somewhat. The difference between victory and defeat can be milliseconds, and even the slightest mistake such as grazing a barrier or starting a drift too early can ruin a perfect run, sending you right back to square one.
This may be the appeal of TrackMania games to many but for those who aren’t a fan of the formula, when a mistake happens just before the finish line and with progress to the next track or area blocked until a certain number of medals have been won, it can start to become a grind as you hit the B button to restart the same track again and again.
It can quickly become tiresome, especially when racing in a less favoured arena or car and the obnoxious commentary can really start to grate. Hearing “Did you mean to do that?!” or “Hey, watch the paintwork!” after every crash is a cert to get the blood pressure rising. Thankfully there is an option to turn these off in the settings.
No doubt there will be many TrackMania enthusiasts out there who will gladly gather up the 150 gold medals required to open the final set of courses locked away in the Black Series, but for many the grind and steep learning curve may be too off-putting to get further than the opening few levels.
The saving grace of Turbo’s arcade action turned out to be the multiplayer. Competing in time trials against other players is a much more enjoyable experience than riding solo or against an unfaltering AI.
The presence of other players makes it easier to forgive the flaws of the campaign, and actually gives you a reason to customise your car with the various paint jobs, emblems and numbers unlocked by earning medals.
Numerous filter options allow you to pick the race type and courses when competing online, though it’s probably a good idea to choose the lobby with the highest number of players for the best experience.
At the time of writing Turbo’s servers seem a bit sparsely populated, which is a little worrying seeing as the game was only recently released. Still, find a lobby with a decent number of people and there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Hurtling around corners with dozens of drivers (there can be up to 100 in a race) can be an exhilarating experience, especially as others start to spin wildly out of control, creating some almost set-piece like crashes. There’s no physical contact between any of the cars, so don’t expect to be able to use aggressive tactics to get ahead, it’s all about skill here.
Most efforts will end up mid-table finishes, but there will be times when for one glorious moment your name sits atop the Leaderboard. It’s not all about the glory though, and chasing the pack is by no means less enjoyable. Whittling down your time by fractions of a second to close the gap on the leaders has an “I can do better” appeal to it and will keep you coming back for more.
The local multiplayer options feel like they are catered towards a party atmosphere, something which you can enjoy with friends for a bit of couch co-op. Double Driver mode has two people controlling the same car, and numerous players can take part in arcade style time-trial competitions with limited restarts, solo or as part of a team. Turbo even features that rarest of multiplayer modes these days – split screen, for up to four players.
A custom track builder is available and allows you to come up with your own extreme designs, with a random generator for those a little more creatively challenged. It’s fun to watch the latter churning out procedurally designed courses piece by piece, but they can sometimes lack the finesse and fluidity of some of the tracks found in the main game.
There’s probably enough in Turbo to keep those who love to smash personal records or see their name climbing a Leaderboard entertained, and it could definitely work as something to have on in the background when friends are over to dip in and out of, something the game even suggests in the loading screens.
If you approach TrackMania Turbo expecting to find the core aspects of a more traditional racer in an arcade wrapping, then you’ll only end up disappointed. However, accept the game for what it is and not what you wanted it to be, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.