Full disclosure: TrackMania is one of my favorite gaming series of all time. It's one of the only games that I will regularly play online with complete strangers and always have a brilliant time in the process. Its blend of challenging gameplay and yet-to-be-bettered customization options put it atop my list of favorite arcade racers, despite a few flaws here and there. Now the latest installment is officially available.
In case you're unfamiliar with TrackMania as a series, it's several things in a single package: you can race time trials in single player, online multiplayer and hotseat same-room multiplayer; you can build your own courses from the very same building blocks the developers used to assemble the single player campaign, then share them online; you can design your own cars; you can edit replays to make car-heavy machinima; and, if you have the technical chops, you can tweak, customize and mod the game to your heart's content with new game modes, "house rules" and strange new ways to play. The games' enormous flexibility has made them an eSports favorite for years, particularly in their native Europe.
Past TrackMania games typically incorporated a number of disparate environments and vehicles into a single package, with 2007's TrackMania United effectively acting as a "best of" compilation of the previous games. Developer Nadeo and publisher Ubisoft changed direction with 2011's TrackMania 2, however: from this point on, each environment would be sold separately, but with each standalone game costing significantly less than a "full-price" (i.e. $60) new game. TrackMania 2 Canyon launched first and was well-received thanks to its impressive graphics, sublime drift-heavy handling and demanding tracks. It was originally set to be followed up by the rally-themed TrackMania 2 Valley, but somewhere in between someone at either Nadeo or Ubisoft decided it'd be good to revisit the classic Stadium environment in the new engine, and development on Valley has gone a bit quiet.
The Stadium environment puts you in small buggies that race on both dirt tracks and elevated courses, and is one of the best-known, most-played TrackMania environments due to the fact that it's the one that was featured in the completely free standalone TrackMania Nations, which released shortly before United. The Stadium vehicles are easy to handle and the course-building blocks are very flexible, so it made a lot of sense for this popular environment to be brought up to date in line with the new things the game was doing.
TrackMania 2 Stadium has been undergoing beta testing under a pre-purchase program for some time now, but today, it seems, the full standalone product has been officially launched, complete with single player campaign as well as the previously provided multiplayer mode. It'll set you back a very reasonable $9.99 on Steam -- or alternatively, if you want to share the fun with friends, three- and five-packs are also available.
See you on the circuit. Probably upside-down and on fire.
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