Back in 2016, Xbox racing fans got something a bit quirky. Trackmania Turbo released, offering something different from the majority of other racing games out there. A subsequent release under the Games with Gold banner a year later meant many gamers got to try something new. As a result, this predominantly PC only racing series did rather well. But seven years later, the follow-up has only just arrived on consoles.
Initially released in 2020, the rebooted Trackmania launched under a free-to-play model, on PC only again. As a big fan of Trackmania Turbo, this news was met with plenty of eye-rolling. But, after my time with the console version that has released three years later, I can safely say it remains a Trackmania game at heart. But there is also a lot of content gated off for premium subscribers.
Trackmania isn’t a racer in the traditional sense. It is more like a time trial game where you attempt to post the fastest time on a leaderboard. Any other drivers you see will be ghosts so those that like their racing bumper-to-bumper are better off elsewhere. Medals are awarded based on your overall time, and there is a real sense of trying to beat your personal best as you keep shaving milliseconds off your times.
This new Trackmania retains that ‘one more try’ feeling in abundance, particularly in its main single player mode. Each season, 25 new tracks are released using the same grading as before: White for the easiest tracks, Green, Blue, Red and finally Black for the ultimate challenge. Here you will compete against other players and the clock to try and post the best times. Basic users have access to the current season, but premium users can play through past seasons as well. Expect a lot more of what you can and can’t play in this review.
The beauty of Trackmania is that the courses themselves can get a bit wacky. Anything from the Blue courses onwards can at times feel like you are driving a roller coaster; there are massive jumps, banked corners and even the odd loop thrown in. Using the in-game track creator – free to access for all users – will then also allow you to create your own courses. Trying out other user courses though is – yep, you guessed it – blocked behind a subscription.
Newcomers to Trackmania can also access the full training suite to learn how the cars handle on various different surfaces and tracks. Thankfully this isn’t locked behind a paywall.
All players can access the live portion of Trackmania too. This includes the Live Campaign, where players can compete directly against other players on the same tracks in the seasonal offerings. For more traditional racing fans, this is likely where you will feel most at home.
There is also Royal mode, which if you haven’t guessed from the name is a battle royale style competition. In this you will team up with other racers and compete in shorter tracks that again follow the same colour grading. The further you progress in a round, the better your team’s chances of survival. After a couple of minutes, the lowest ranked teams are eliminated, with those surviving able to progress. Some of these tracks incorporate user generated levels, and really showcase the crazy side that Trackmania can be at times. Even during my short time in Royal I encountered levels based on Total Wipeout and Fall Guys.
That is pretty much all the content in the free-to-play side of things. I am sure there are those that will dabble in the seasonal content and get enjoyment from it. But there is a fair amount of stuffed locked away for subscribers only. I haven’t even mentioned the social aspect of Trackmania, in the form of Clubs, where you can meet like-minded players and get a real sense of the community in the game, because that is all locked away.
Note that I keep saying subscribers, because Trackmania does its premium payments a little differently. Rather than being able to buy the game outright, it almost adopts an MMO method of payment. You can purchase a one-year subscription or a three-year subscription. And even in these are different tiers: Standard and Club access. Standard access gives you the ability to play previous seasonal content, the track of the day in solo and multiplayer, the ability to join clubs and partake in their activities and submit your tracks. Club access allows for custom skins, club creation, dedicated servers and officially sanctioned esports events.
It is also worth noting that many of Trackmania’s achievements require a subscription which raises a whole load more questions. But we’ll save those for another time.
Trackmania is Trackmania in terms of content. This fun arcade racer will have you pursuing the tops of the leaderboards if you embrace it. There is just enough content here for those wanting to play for a little bit every few months or so. But there is also Trackmania Turbo, a game that does all the same as Trackmania but without locking any content off.
The Royal mode and Live Campaigns are good additions, but ultimately, Trackmania feels a bit too restrictive for those simply wanting to enjoy even just the core experience.