Trackmania is a confusing game.
The latest in a long line of over-the-top racing games developed by Nadeo, technically it’s a remake of Trackmania Nations released in 2006. And like that title, it’s also free-to-play. Well, unless you want access to certain features.
Download Trackmania right now via either Ubisoft’s Uplay or the Epic Games Store, and you’ll find that you can jump into a generous amount of content without having to pay a thing. There’s a tutorial series that’s essentially a range of mini challenges to get you up to speed, and once you’re ready to enter the world of Trackmania proper, the Summer 2020 campaign awaits.
With 25 tracks for you to master, the Summer 2020 campaign gives you taste of what Trackmania has to offer going forward. Alongside the standard track surface, there’s dirt and ice, dramatically changing how your vehicle controls, all well as ridged pieces of track that are both a help and a hindrance. There are liberally placed effect pads, too, either slowing your vehicle down, boosting it to insane speeds, or resetting any effects on your car instantly.
Many of Trackmania‘s Summer 2020 campaign tracks are more like puzzles, however. You’ll fail them on your first attempt, or cross the finish line in a time that’s laughable, simply because you won’t know where the hell you’ve got to go; or you’ll get caught out by a hazard that you couldn’t possibly be previously aware of. As such, there’s a lot of trial and error involved as you first try to work out how you get to the finish line, then work out how to do so in the fastest time. Thankfully you can restart events instantly, so it doesn’t feel like a hassle.
Overcoming each track is reward enough, but you’re also graded with medals according to your performance. Truly competitive players, however, will be more concerned with how they place on the local or worldwide online leaderboards, and that’s where Trackmania truly comes into its own. Hours can be spent mastering each track, shaving off fractions of a second while climbing up the rankings. For some, it will become an obsession.
A new campaign is set to be available in Trackmania every season, which lasts three months. For many players that will be enough, but those who want to play Trackmania avidly all year round will probably want to pay some money to gain Standard Access to the game, or even Club Access.
While those with free Starter Access to Trackmania can try out various features such as the game’s track editor, it’s only with Standard Access that they become fully available. With Standard Access, players also get to keep access to every Track of the Day, as well as campaigns from past seasons. For £8.59/$9.99 it’s not bad at all – but it’s a yearly cost, not a one-off purchase.
And then there’s Club Access. Unsurprisingly it allows players join and create clubs, enabling them to take part in special campaigns, competitions and other activities. Though of course, much of the content found in clubs is user created, so varies in quality. One year of Club Access is £25.99/$29.99, though players can save money by buying three years for £49.99/$59.99. It also allows players to participate in the Open Grand League organised by Nadeo. Perform well enough in that, and players can qualify for the Trackmania Grand League.
Basically then, if you just want to dip your toes into Trackmania now and again, which is certainly worth doing, the free Starter Access is all you need. If you really like it and want access to more tracks, however, then it’s well worth forking out for Standard Access. Unless you’re an avid player who’s very social and competitive, Club Access seems a bit unnecessary. At least for the moment, anyway. Most of the custom campaigns and tracks we’ve played aren’t great.
That the core of Trackmania is very enjoyable makes it a success. Its visuals are nice and its handling is unique but fun. It’s arcadey, but not at the expense of being mechanically tight, allowing fair and intense competition. Give it a download today and try it for yourself; thanks to free Starter Access you’ve got nothing to lose. But chances are you’ll have a hard time putting it down once you’ve got started.