Anybody that’s a regular reader here at Ironhammers has probably played a Trackmania game in the past. With Trackmania Nation Forever being free-to-play and offering some of the most enjoyable multiplayer racing available, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have. I’ve consequently been looking forward to Trackmania 2: Canyon an awful lot since it was announced — and now I’ve been playing a good chunk of it, it’s time to let you know my thoughts.

At it’s heart, what we have here is certainly a Trackmania title. The basic premise, and even the menus are still very reminiscent of what we’ve seen in the past. While navigating these menus is still a little clunky, those who’ve played Nations will feel at home immediately. The same goes for the game modes; we’ve got the short single player, challenge-like circuits in there to become accustomed to the game — which I have to say, are brilliantly implemented so as to offer training for all aspects — and the multiplayer aspect, which sees you racing with other players in a bid to achieve the fastest lap times during a set time limit. Finally, there’s “official races”, which can be competed within after earning a gold medal on each single player track — these award ladder points, but can only be raced once every five minutes, so there’s no hope for repeatedly racing a track to post a best time.

The new environments are gorgeous.

All of this is what you’d expect, basically, but there are one or two really big changes to found in Trackmania 2. The first is instantly recognisable when looking at a screenshot, and that’s the visual appeal of the environments. Track and car models are a little more polished than before, but it really is the backdrop that makes a massive difference. The rather generic blue sky and solid green grass of Nations has been replaced by a wonderfully beautiful ‘canyon’ backdrop, with tracks making use of the rock as ledges for tracks and even tunnelling through them in parts. There’s also visual damage to the cars now. It’ll not affect its performance, but hit a wall and bonnets, bumpers and boots will be flying into the middle of the road.

The next big change — and probably the most significant one — is the way that cars handle. There’s still a very arcade-like feel to the cars, which is a vital component to the series success, but they aren’t just glued to the ground when turning any more. While accelerating and turning very much replicates the feel in Nations, a touch of the brake will send the car into a drift. It seems rather weird the first time it’s done, as if it’s not quite Trackmania. When you master it, however, it really adds a new dimension to the gameplay. It also makes you feel like Ken Block incarnate, and not only does it feel damn cool, but it looks it too! Die hard fans may find it a little sacrilege, but to me it’s a great addition the gameplay that adds a greater sense of overall enjoyment to the game.

Finally, we’ve got a new ‘simple’ version of the track editor. Don’t worry, the advanced one’s still in there, but with this I was able to create a basic track within a few minutes. It came complete with hairpins, boosts and even a big jump to the finish line, and was actually rather fun to race through. I have a few gripes about both the track editor and the car editor, though. There’s several buttons or clickable icons of which you’re just unsure of their function without actually clicking them. It’s a similar flaw to the convoluted menu screens, and is cured with experience, but I yearned for an explanation to pop-up when I hovered my cursor over certain things, but it just wasn’t there.

As a massive Trackmania fan, however, the tiny little flaws in the menus are neither here nor there. Trackmania 2: Canyon is altogether a package that manages to add to and improve the recipe, without making the resulting taste so different that I want to spit it out. In fact, it tastes a whole lot nicer. It’s an amazing racer, that anybody can pick up and enjoy. You can also spend hours upon hours perfecting every track, achieving lap times that others deem impossible. When you jump into a server with a group of friends, there is simply no other racing game available that can provide such an exciting and enjoyable experience. Add in an endless supply of user-generated content, and you’ve got something that’ll last for years to come.