Ascaron Trackmania United Forever review
This arcade-style racer is a dramatic change from most PC driving games.
It may not do anything especially different to its three predecessors (and is available as a free expansion pack for Trackmania United owners), but it's still a breath of fresh air. Like a classic arcade game, it's free from any of the attempts at technical accuracy you find in racing simulations. Its indestructible, toy-like cars and 200m jumps scoff at the laws of physics.
This is not its main charm, though. Instead it's the constant drive for improvement that will keep you playing. As most races are over in less than 90 seconds, you find yourself missing out on a gold medal by milliseconds. So, of course, you try again, as the goal seems eminently achievable. It's very hard to leave a track until you've beaten it, and Trackmania's wonderfully simple controls give you the sense that you are brilliant at the game.
On top of that, every medal you win contributes to your online ranking. Win a race and you'll jump several thousand places up the leader-board, which never fails to make you feel better about yourself. And while a placing of 200,000th worldwide may not seem much of an achievement, Trackmania will cheerfully inform you that you're 8,000th in the UK, perhaps 4,000th in England or even 224th in the South West.
As well as races, the game offers an excellent puzzle mode, a sort of platform game with cars, and the infinite delights of the track- design tool. It's perfect for newcomers, and the upgraded graphics and bevy of new courses make it a worthy pursuit for series veterans. If you're not convinced, the free (if confusingly named) Trackmania Nations Forever is on this month's cover DVD. Supported by in-game ads, it's a generous enough offering that you may never need to splash out on United.