RPS Verdict: Trackmania United Forever

By RPS on April 29th, 2008 at 1:19 pm.


You find our bickering crew mid-insult, as they talk bad about John’s mum and make fun of Kieron’s general confusion in the face of existence. But there’s a purpose to this gathering, and it’s to discuss the most recent Trackmania games. Let’s see how we get on.

John: We should totally print this. A verdict on how Kieron can’t do jokes.
Kieron: Kieron can’t read, Thankyou.
Jim: I have no idea what game we’re verdicting – Trackmania Unified Nations Forever United?
Kieron: United?
John: United’s a year old game.
Alec: Nations Forever is free. United Forever is the latest retail version.
Jim: Forever Nations Mania TrackNited?
Kieron: Yeah, we’re lost. Can we just have a verdict on their ludicrously stupid naming scheme?

John: Nations Forever is the new game. It’s free. It’s a standalone, or it can be added to United as a new sub-category.
Kieron: I can’t see how that confused anyone.
John: I’ve played little else for the last week.
Jim: Okay, well let’s start by pointing out that TrackMania has the worst naming system in the history of naming. Which is a long history. Kieron and I actually had to lie down after thinking about it
John: Together?
Jim: Together.
Alec: I wonder if it’s intended to be like e.g. GeForce naming systems. Deliberate obfuscation.
John: Maybe it makes sense in French.
Kieron: Au naturellment!
John: Shall I begin with a brief description of what this game is?
Jim: Yes, John, please describe this exciting new game you’ve discovered.
John: Well now. TrackMania United Forever is a repackaging of last year’s United, now with the free, standalone download, Nations Forever, as a part of it. So along with the few hundred tracks there were to play there, what we’ll call “Forever” for ease of understanding adds in a further 65 tracks for the race car. These are divided into the usual difficulty bands, and must be unlocked by successfully completing previous tracks. But unlike before, they’re in sub-categories such as ‘race’, ‘obstacle’, ‘endurance’, and ‘acrobatic’. The bigger difference is the leaderboard thangt. With United you can play privately, gloating at your own high scores in the privacy of your own disgusting room. OR you can try and go for an “official” score, which puts your result online for everyone else to laugh at. This time people with United, or the free Nations, can compete against each other’s leaderboard scores, and in the multiplayer races.

Jim: Kieron: is the best thing about Trackmania its total lack of reality?
Kieron: Trad answer would be yes. But… I dunno if it’s actually the best thing about it. Which is a tad anal, innit?
John: I can tell you the best thing about it. It’s the instant restart.
Jim: Explain why that matters, John.
Alec: I think there’s a different best thing.
John: It’s like I was saying in the Prince of Persia post yesterday: rewind means you don’t have to sit through the tedious dying and reloading to checkpoint crap that spoils fun. Trackmania, if you mess up, restarts you so instantly you’ve barely pressed the button before you’re back on the course. It means you never think, “Oh sack it.” You’re already back trying again before you get a chance
Jim: Alec, on the subject of best things?
Alec: Actually, I found that having to repeat even 20 seconds of race was unbearable after Trials, which is more to do with my horrifyingly short attention span than anything else.
Kieron: Trials really is crack to Trackmania’s Cocaine.
Alec: Best thing for me is the leaderboards though. It’s really, really good at identifying how to give you a sense of achievement. I may only be 20,000th in the world, but I’m 2000th in the UK, 300th in England, 7th in the South West of England… I narrow my focus until I find something that makes me feel like I’m awesome. There’s always a leaderboard you can appear high up on, whether it’s for a single track or the whole game.

Jim: Kieron: does Trackmania matter in the larger scheme of things? Do you care about it as a game?
Kieron: Yes. The thing with trackmania is that it’s… Well, when I started going gaga over Trials. Ste Curran noted about Trackmania. And he’s right – that’s in the same lineage. He describes Trackmania as the PC’s one good game. Because he is, of course, a terrible human being – but his point is it’s a game which went went its own way, and continues to go its own way. In that way, it’s probably more important than most of the games which are traditionally seen as important. And it’s fun, which helps.
Jim: If I could hold forth for a moment, I think the reason I enjoy it is something to do with the way you’re able to grasp it completely, instantly, and yet it’s continual exploration. I imagine that it must be something like a toddler feels once they’re up and walking: it comes naturally, it makes sense, but you’ve got to keep seeing what you can do with it, what trouble you can get into etc.
John: I can’t think of another racing game where I care about mastering the corners. But because each race is about 30 seconds long, perfecting my approach to it is not an overwhelming experience. Finally nailing a perfect route to get the Gold is so awesome.
Kieron: I’ll echo all this.
Jim: It’s ultra-speed scientific method: trial and error. If science was conducted with an instant reset button we’d all be living inside the sun.
Alec: It shows you the science at play too – that moment where the ghostly rival racer suddenly emerges from inside your own car and you think “aha!” That’s how to do this.
John: Unlike Alec, I find I rarely bother with the leaderboards though. I prefer to beat the medals on my own.
Jim: Yeah, I’ve not really looked at the leaderboard stuff much. I’ve just be using it as one of those games that is a toolbox of distractions. “Ooh, this, and now this” and it’s different enough from track to track, mode to mode.
Alec: I’ve not been actively chasing leaderboard spots, but to see myself climb by like 1000 places everytime I complete a track feels good. You know there’s some guy – possibly me – seeing your name on the board and trying to top you. In the Club or whatever, you don’t get that unless you’re Super Ultimate Guy.
Kieron: I’ll say I’m with Alec – seeing my world rating skip up is awesome. Trackmania is the game The Club would dream of being.
Jim: Which is interesting in itself, Kieron, you’re always more interested in chasing hi-scores than me. Like it’s a definite personality trait.
Kieron: And you play Eve.
Jim: I do chase kills in Eve though, which is the most abstract hi-score system available.

Kieron: Yeah – I agree it’s certainly part of my make-up as a gamer.
John: I would like to add that I’m no.1 in the SW for one race or other. Might I rant for a moment about where United failed? Sunshine had the utterly brilliant platform mode, where you had to complete a course with as few checkpoint restarts as possible. It removed the race element, and focused on hilarious leaping and BOUNCING ON WATER. But United, in an effort to make the leaderboards more meaningful, made the platform levels so STUPIDLY hard. And because you need to do well in one to unlock the next, it meant you couldn’t bloody play half of them. Forever doesn’t add any more platform levels (although the very few Acrobatic races come close). And I want more. And that makes me sad.
Alec: Presumably those are something players can make with the toolkit though. And, as it seems to have done pretty well for itself, hopefully that’ll mean a steady stream of them.
John: That’s true.
Jim: Yes, United Forever is harder, but I felt that was simply to cater for the fact that it had been around a while, and had loads of fans. But I still found plenty of scope for my lack of skills.
Alec: Which raises another point – how profitable is this for Nadeo? Do we think people are upgrading from Nations Forever to United Forever? If not, where’s the money coming from?
Jim: Well isn’t this one of those cases where a tiny team can make a game that only needs to sell a tiny number of copies? It’s incredibly solid, but the technical task of it is remarkably simple.
Kieron: You know the odd thing – we know how many people bought United Forever.
Jim: How many people was that, KG?
Kieron: Well, the number of people on the high score table, presumably.
Alec: That incorporates the people who bought United vanilla
Alec: Last year. So we don’t know how many have bought it as a result of playing Nations Forever and wanting more.
Kieron: Yes, I know.
John: We do know that Nations has been downloaded 30 million times, and four million people have created accounts.
Alec: Which is a whole lot of free, I’m genuinely surprised there aren’t ads in there.
John: Apparently it’s built to contain them.
Alec: It’s one of those cases where I’d wholeheartedly support it doing so, too, as long as it isn’t excessive.
John: So a thing that makes Nations Forever quite clever: When you play United, you tend to play the race mode in order, so you play each car type for five races, then change. And they’re so dramatically different that you have to do a very quick adjustment. With Nations, at first you feel limited with just having the Stadium car. But you quickly realise it gives you an opportunity to master it like never before. And it means that in developing the 65 new tracks, they too got better at optimising it. And soon it feels like the best car ever.
Alec: Yeah, I agree.
Jim: I’m not sure I like any other car.
Alec: Playing through United, the switch to a new car feels like a real curveball, and I found myself wishing for a few more tracks for the car I’d just gotten used to
Jim: It felt like the sensible option to reduce it to that
Alec: It’s amazing how much of the trad racing game Trackmania rips out, like unlocking new cars. And the more it reduces itself, the more compelling it is.
Alec: Racing games needed a Trackmania to dodge the same rot as flight sims suffered.
Kieron: It’s a poster-child for the thing Soren Johnson was talking about when we interviewed him – that the features-list school of design ultimately means nothing.
Jim: Yeah, where does the features list thing come from – surely it’s pure feedback loop via marketing, isn’t it?
Kieron: Yes. And the gamers, of course. Look at the noise that happens whenever a developer decides not to include something.
Alec: Civ Rev (on console, sorry), which I think will be awesome, but existing Civ fans have instantly said no because the tech tree’s smaller.
Kieron: There’s a debate on Qt3 at the moment: Gamasutra ran a Sins postmortem and in it they speculate how high the marks would be if they *did* do the campaign mode. Except the debate notes that it wouldn’t have, at least without another year in development. They’d have split their efforts and done it less well. Concentrate their attention and, by doing so, they concentrate our attention. Which is Trackmania’s lesson, really. Sins didn’t have a campaign. Many RTS people said “WANT ONE!”. In practice, not doing one allowed them to do more stuff on other elements of the game. Trackmania is the same, but more so.
Alec: Yeah, Trackmania’s strength is that it’s still the same three/four-year-old game polished and polished, rather than ever being an abrupt halt and starting anew on a sequel.
John: I also love that TrackMania is a game you *could* play for about five minutes and complete three races. Except you play it for four hours and it’s somehow 3am but there’s one more race in this list so you might as well.
Kieron: Fuck everything else – let’s just be Trackmania.
John: That’s why I reference the instant restart as most important. It captures everything that TM is about.
Jim: Would you pay money for the game? Playing the free stuff seems near mandatory.
John: I would. Would would would. Also, the 3D mode is AWESOME! It actually works! (I used the 3D glasses from my Spy Kids 3D box).
Alec: I would pay real Earth pounds for Trackmania
Jim: I would pay money for it, if just because I’ve played it every day for the past week, quite instinctually. Like it’s my default state. Not busy? Trackmania!
John: I’ve done little else with my spare time this week.
Alec: And there is a sense of fullness to United Forever that Nations Forever doesn’t quite have.
Kieron: You know, a month ago I’d have said yes. Right now… I dunno. Trials hits the same urge, but harder for me. Mind if I abstain? I’ve played it the least out of you three too, and I feel that I’m giving a verdict prematurely.


Our verdict: SALE!

Jim: Any concluding remarks?
Kieron: I’m sorry about what I said about Walker’s mum.
Alec: I worry about what I said to Walker’s mum. I should have left it at “get out of my bed”.
John: My mum says you’re all rubbish at sex.

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45 Comments »

  1. Mooey Poo says:

    Trackmania = good
    Trials 2 = boring

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Mooey Poo= WEAK.
    (Bar recognising my terrible Manics references)

    KG

  3. Sarble says:

    I’m mildly surprised no-one mentioned the other timesinks that TMxF provides – track designing and car customization. The latter tickles the same nerve that City of Heroes pinches with its character creation.

  4. Feet says:

    I completely missed the track designing bit, I was too busy pushing for medals (I have 123 in Nations Forever) and racing against friends.

    I think you can download United Forever for a period of time or something, £3 for a month I think. I would do that if I weren’t playing a certain other console game released today that I’ll be playing alot.

    Trackmania Nations Forever is wonderful, it’s my favourite free game since Enemy Territory.

  5. Chris Evans says:

    Trackmania = Awesome
    Trials 2 = Awesome in a slightly different way

  6. Alec Meer says:

    My copy of GTA4 just arrived, and yet I find myself loading up Trackmania again.

  7. Feet says:

    I think at 123 medals I’ve kinda hit my Trackmania skill wall. Every medal from this point onwards is going to require 300 retries and a great deal of cursing, trial and error. I’m not sure I want to do that. I don’t mind having to retry 20 or 30 times till I hit the next target time, but eventually even the instant restart button won’t save me from desk chewing frustration and sulking.

    Not that I’m complaining, I’ve had 15 hours of awesome fun and all for free! I’ll be buying United Forever to get more eventually, even if it is just £3 for a months worth.

  8. Rook says:

    “which went its own went”
    “Concentrate their attention and they concentration our attention.”

    Are those deliberate? Anyways, I think you could have done a better job of pointing out that Trackmania United Forever is a free update to Trackmania United.

  9. Kelduum says:

    I picked up TM United some time ago for a fiver (it was at game.co.uk I think), and if you dig around, theres an official free patch/upgrade/thingy for it to make it into TM United Forever.

    Plus, you don’t need to keep TM United installed to play it, or even have the DVD in. Plus, you can then get rid of the contentious protection with impunity.

    Edit: Yep, it was game.co.uk, and they still have it for a fiver, delivered!

  10. John Walker says:

    Sarble – I can only encourage you to check out my car design that I hope will not be censored from tomorrow’s Eurogamer review.

    Rook – TrackMania United Forever is also a new retail game. We did say that you can download it for free for a regular United, but it’s all very confusing.

  11. fluffy bunny says:

    TrackMania = Awesome for 200 hours
    Trials 2 = Awesome for 20 hours

    At least that’s my personal experience. I started playing TM in 2003 or whatever it was, and I’m still loving it. I started playing Trials 2 a month ago, and though I loved it, I’m no longer playing it.

    Also, about the cars: The desert car is the most enjoyable car in TM. Nothing else comes close. :-)

  12. M. Banana says:

    Actually, TNF does have ads.

  13. MeestaNob! says:

    As an occasional 10 minute blast that quickly becomes 3 hours, Trackmania is hard to beat.

    I got it for $30 (AUD) on Steam and don’t regret it one little bit.

    Hell, if you’re a real tight arse, buy the very oldest original one retail and just keep patching till you have the new one, but please, PLEASE, if you like this game do pay them SOME money for it.

    The free version is ludicrously generous, and well worth money itself.

    Buy. Please.

  14. Radiant says:

    Quick question before I buy this game:
    What’s better: Wheel [and pedals], Pad or Keyboard?

  15. Feet says:

    It’s arcadey, not a sim, so a wheel would probably be too much.

    I found the cursor keys worked just fine. Between pad and keyboard is probably just down to preference.

  16. Cigol says:

    Keyboard. It’s basically Micro Machines without the fun :D

  17. Kelduum says:

    Personally, I prefer the Xbox 360 pad for TMUF – works well, and give you decent analogue control, although I’m sure some purists may now try an lynch me!

  18. Rook says:

    360 pad is definitely pretty sweet, although I doubt you’re losing out over keyboard. Last time I played this at a lan, all the people using wheels gave up and went to keyboard.

  19. Jay says:

    I hit a brick wall at about 123 medals as well. After that, trying to get a perfect race is incredibly infuriating. Good game though. The earlier tracks – the ones where you cannot complete first time, but on the second or third – are great fun

    I still haven’t been able to play with propa m8s, so I’m not entirely sure what I’m missing. They all set up the servers when I’m in bed

  20. Monkfish says:

    Trackmania is one of those games where my brain somehow thinks I possess an analogue keyboard. I’m constantly finding myself almost pushing the keys through the desk in a vain attempt to attain more steering.

    ‘Tis a great game and probably the best thing you can spend absolutely no money on right now.

  21. Chris Evans says:

    Monkfish that is something I do as well…nearly end up pushing my laptop off the stool at times!

  22. itsallcrap says:

    I take it this is done using an IM conversation of some kind, then? Bit much to point out spelling errors in those.

    I would and did pay for Trackmania, BTW. Was like £20. Ages ago.

  23. Rook says:

    I’d like to think they all stood in front of a PC with Vista’s Speech to Text function active.

  24. Hypocee says:

    Kelduum: ooh, you can remove the Starforce? How, just FudgeStarforce, or never install it, or what?

  25. Riotpoll says:

    @Monkfish

    I find myself doing this too, my finger pushing the up arrow really starts hurting after extended playing!
    One of the best free games around.

  26. Sarble says:

    @Hypocee: The Starforce has been removed from the Forever version(s?) of the game(s?).

    If you go United->UF then it’s supposed to remove StarForce itself but you can uninstall vanilla United afterwards anyway (assuming you don’t install the upgrade in the same location) and then nuke SF from orbit if necessary. I should think.

  27. Sarble says:

    @Riotpoll: I’m probably showing my age but I do this too, exactly as I did when playing REVS on my BBC B. I have to decompress my fingertips after a five-minute-I-mean-three-hour session.

  28. Jonathan Burroughs says:

    A comment not in keeping with the PC sensibilities of the site, but Burnout Paradise could learn a lot from Walker’s observations on the value of the instant restart.

  29. Rook says:

    Best thing I read in Eurogamer’s Grid preview (here) was the Sands of Time like ability to undo parts of the Race. (if it has slow motion rewinding, that’d be even more awesome.

  30. Ginger Yellow says:

    I’d echo Sarble’s comment. Why no mention of Trackmania’s greatest asset – the Little-Big-Planet-years-before-Little-Big-Planet community features? Surely what makes Trackmania succeed isn’t so much the gameplay, which is ace, but the fact that Nadeo have made building and sharing tracks the very core of the game infrastructure, so there’s constantly new content and feedback on content. You never have to race the same track twice if you don’t want to.

    As for Civ Rev, I’m really looking forward to it on DS, but I really don’t see the point on console (for people who have access to a PC). But then I’ve never been into the multiplayer, so that may say more about me.

  31. popcorn says:

    If you buy Trackmania United Forever from Steam, by the way, there will be no StarForce. Zip. Nada.

  32. Radiant says:

    Hahah ok I just started and this game is fun.
    Few things though.
    A wheel on your desk turns your office into a nursery.
    My pedals don’t work :(
    People need to start putting up their times!

    First track First Course[nations]
    0.24.50
    tmtp://#score=Radiant:A01-Race:24500:B601525B

    BEAT ME!

  33. Rook says:

    The pedals should work, just make sure you bind it properly in the options screen as Trackmania has some strange default settings for most controllers. Otherwise you could always bind them to a key setting and then use them for accelerate and break (digital)

  34. Corion says:

    There are ads for the new Toyota Matrix in the game, I suspect that’s where they get some of their cash for such an awesome freebie. They’re not obnoxiously obvious, but they’re there. If you haven’t noticed them yet, your subconscious probably has.

  35. fluffy bunny says:

    popcorn: Same with all other versions of United Forever.

    BTW, I agree that the community features deserves a mention, especially the track editor. After all, the main reason I’m not playing Trials 2 anymore is that there’s nothing more to play. For a while, beating previous records and climbing the high score lists was enough, but then it reached a point where improving my records just took too much effort.

    With TrackMania, there’s always something new to do, thanks to the track editor.

    Every time I play online (where it really shines), I come across tracks that I’ve never tried before. And since there are a number of really talented people in the community, these tracks are often vastly superior to the ones included with the game.

    (in fact, that’s probably my main gripe with TMUF – the included tracks are okay, but they don’t really show the game from its best side. they feel very “standard” – I mean, not compared to the down-to-earth tracks in your average racer, but compared to the best user-created tracks)

    Also, people, PLAY TRACKMANIA ONLINE! That’s where the real fun is at.

  36. Phil H says:

    As M.Banana said, there’s definitely ads in the free version, getting sick of seeing that Toyota billboard every time I restart a track(but oh, how gleeful those Toyota marketing types must feel). Getting close to shelling out for the paid version if for no other reason than to try and get rid of it.

    Stuck at work at the moment so I can’t pull scores, but I’ve been spending a lot of time with it, somewhere close to/at the 130 medals mark, with a few where I’ve even beaten the creator times, and I’ve cracked the top 10 in Minnesota. Feeling like I might be getting close to my limit, but I’ve got to do some of their oddball stuff to unlock more tracks, like get a pile of ladder points, thankfully…

    The online component is insanely brilliant fun, “Hey, you eleventybillion guys, GO!” letting you watch everyone else race without having to worry about running into someone, watching others for spectacular failures or to pick up key hints at cracking the track. The collective WTF moments when switching to a new track, with seemingly impossible jumps/turns that you and a bunch of others haven’t played before? Completely Awesome. Trying to learn and complete said track within the 6min. rotation, let alone with the top times, makes for a constantly refreshing challenge that chews hours of time.

  37. Radiant says:

    tmtp://#score=Radiant:A01-Race:24490:129C4FFE
    024.49

    I do believe I’m not going to play anything else for the rest of my life.

  38. Radiant says:

    ^ If you’ve installed trackmania and then copy and paste that link into a browser it will start the game on the correct track with you racing my ghost.

    Well not so much ‘racing’ more like watching it slip ’round bends and scream off into the distance like it owed you money.

  39. Radiant says:

    So… none of you losers who read this site are going to beat my time before this story drops off the end of the page?
    5 euros says that none of you can do it [and link to your ghost] before the dreaded article drop.

  40. Kismet says:

    An easier way to compare times and results between us would be to have an in-game RPS group. Maybe one of the fab four could start one and post here the group login and password?

    Edit: Though I fear groups are available only for us with TMUF (the paid version, in other words). On the other side, the game is worth the expenditure, what are you waiting for? :)

  41. geoman says:

    i dont know the activation code, can anyone help me?

  42. Mister Bob says:

    aha Mr Radiant:
    there you go
    (although in the twenty days between you posting and me reading you’ve probably shaved it down to 5 seconds..:)

    tmtp://#score=MisterBob:A01-Race:25720:92C4B257

    those links work in TM’s browser by the way , not your internet one.
    Still loving TM myself , although I spend more time designing (admittedly sh!te) tracks than racing.

  43. andy m says:

    the final “your mum” stuff at the end only really works if the person who is being “offended” says “brilliant!” in response. otherwise it just looks stupid.

  44. DB says:

    That’s perfect! Trackmania is the best game in the world! Really!

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