Trackmania 2: Canyon Preview

Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PC exclusive
Release Date: September 2011

There’s a lot to say about Trackmania 2, the first and most important of which is exactly that – it’s Trackmania 2. Absolutely no different from any of the other free or paid-for versions of the same game, bar the usual expansions in scale, features and graphical polish, this is Trackmania as it’s always been. That alone makes it great.

It also makes it a bit mystifying for the uninitiated, however. So, it should probably be said right up front that if you’re looking for a conventional rubber-and-road racer, Trackmania isn’t for you. There’s no jostling for first place in Trackmania; no car tuning or voiceovers that give a semblance of plot. There isn't even a collision physics system.

There's just a bunch of identical cars, each capable of inhuman acceleration, and some of the most demented courses you can conceive. Loops, tunnels, corkscrews – Trackmania relegates these to the tutorial and, by the end of the second level, demands that you skim your car across water to succeed. Thanks to the brilliant map editors, which have been further enhanced with more set-pieces and tools than ever, it only escalates from there.

*Trackmania 2: Canyon Preview Trackmania 2: Canyon Preview
Click to enlarge

Trackmania 2’s main addition to the deceptively named series, which has actually spanned four core games and numerous ports, is the eponymous Canyon setting. Unlike most racing games, where the difference between an alpine or coastal level is simply a matter of a palette swap, advanced courses in Trackmania often use the terrain as an obstacle to be overcome. Canyon, with its awesome heights and sheer walls, is no different. There are plenty of levels that see you clenching as you skid close to dizzying drops, or bouncing your invulnerable car off mountain walls.

Nadeo has applied some graphical polish to Trackmania 2 as well, which is showcased brilliantly in the Canyon setting, where each crag and crevice of the sandy walls stands out with limitless clarity. It’s this visual crispness and Nadeo’s refusal to resort to motion blur to convey Trackmania’s immense speeds which has helped previous titles stand out and, again, Trackmania 2 doesn’t deviate from that winning formula.

*Trackmania 2: Canyon Preview Trackmania 2: Canyon Preview
Click to enlarge

All of which, unfortunately, makes it hard to pinpoint precisely what sets Trackmania 2 apart from its predecessors. It’s brilliant but, honestly, that’s been true for years – what sets Canyon apart from Sunrise or Original? What elevates it above the still-excellent, still-free Nations Forever?

Honestly, we’re not sure. Trackmania 2: Canyon represents an interesting and, dare-we-say essential title for new players who are intrigued by its unique racing-platforming blend, but those who’ve seen that mix before will have a conundrum on their hands. It’s one we’re facing too, and we don’t expect we’ll have the answer until we’ve immersed ourselves in the full game.

Trackmania 2: Canyons is due for release on PC in September 2011.
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