For as long as I can remember, at any given time, I've always had a preferred arcade racer I'll fire up every so often to get my fix. Whether it was a Death Rally, a Need For Speed, a Ridge Racer, or a Burnout, no-nonsense arcade racing always seemed like a genre well attended to throughout the years. In recent times though, there doesn't seem to be quite the same sort of attention given to arcade racers, at least not in the mainstream. There are still obviously some gems
out there, but they are getting a little harder to find. Take the TrackMania series, for instance. While this series enjoys a huge following in the largely PC [img]trackmaniauf_pc_1[/img]focused European market, throughout other locations in the world like the US and here in Australia it isn't quite as well known. French based developers Nadeo have just released a brand new addition to the series in TrackMania United Forever, although this doesn't appear to be as much a sequel as it is a 'collection' for those
yet to play the series.
For those not in the know, let me break down TrackMania for you. When you were a kid, do you remember playing around with Hot Wheels and other similar toys, building custom tracks out of pieces and letting the cars loose to see what happened? Nadeo have taken this concept and packaged it into computer game form, dubbing it TrackMania. Of course, being a computer game, there are far fewer boundaries and far more possibilities, but the same basic formula remains - you can build tracks, race
tracks, and even share tracks to other gamers worldwide, all across multiple modes of play.
[img]trackmaniauf_pc_2[/img]The 'Race' mode is exactly as it sounds - so I won't bother delving any deeper there. The other modes are a little less self explanatory though. First you have 'Platform', and this mode tasks you with navigating a track not against the clock, but rather against the 'respawn' count. Or, in other words, you must try and finish typically 'high in the sky' tracks with falling off and requiring a respawn as few times as possible. Next up you have 'Stunts', which is actually pretty much just as self explanatory
as 'Race' now I think about it, but it's worthy of extra mention as it is a new mode in a retail TrackMania and it does expand on the gameplay some more with its jumps and tricks focused tracks. Finally you have 'Puzzle', which is a mode that gives you a starting and finishing point, along with a certain amount and type of track pieces, requiring you to build the quickest track you can as you race against three preset times, naturally represented by bronze, silver and gold medals, which represent
your performance in all the game's modes and tracks.
All these modes compliment the gameplay rather well, and all modes offer a unique approach to the game of TrackMania. In a game like this, usually you can say "Mode X is definitely the game's best mode", but in United Forever, I'm not sure any specific mode stands out, which is a good thing, as they are all enjoyable and challenging in their own ways. You'll likely have a personal favourite - I quite like Platform myself - but the game does a good job of focusing on all modes equally,
with plenty of included tracks for all four. In fact, there are 265 tracks included.
Of course, the game isn't restricted by the included tracks, as you're more than welcome to hop on in to the game's track editor and make your own. Like all the titles previously in the series, the track editor is a block-by-block editor that lets you choose a theme, and simply build a track how you like, with a few restrictions of course. The most evident restriction is the fact the blocks are limited to four directions. While it might make track building a little less user friendly, I've always believed
more control on how and where you can place your blocks would be worth exploring for TrackMania, but alas it wasn't to be in this release as outside of a few extra track blocks and other goodies, the track editor in United Forever remains mostly the same as before.
That's not really a bad thing in itself though, as the track editor has still been versatile enough to spearhead a huge community with this series based around sharing tracks, as well as car textures and the likes. Originally you needed to join an independent community to share and download user made content however, since United, Nadeo have adopted an in-game community aspect with the series and this continues with United Forever. From the main menu, you can click the 'Explorer' option
which will allow you to browse a community of creations from other users like you were on an intranet, which really makes acquiring new content easy, and even though I'm sure a lot of users will still prefer to use an independent website as their track exchange, it's nonetheless a cool feature of the game.