TrackMania 2 Canyon was the latest  game to release under Nadeo’s brand; I reviewed it here on Ironhammers, and really liked it, but now the original TM is back — and this time I’m here with a Trackmania 2 Stadium preview.

trackmania2-stadium

TrackMania 2 Stadium is the latest addition to Nadeo’s own growing content hub known as ManiaPlanet. When Canyon came out over a year ago, it was unclear where the TrackMania series was headed. With Stadium and ShootMania Storm beta’s landing in ManiaPlanet — and the recent announcement of TrackMania Valley — we start to see what the fleshed out ManiaPlanet will look like: a collection of games, all with both Nadeo and user-created content as part of their offerings.

Within 30 seconds I was right back into to that ultra competitive mindset that occurs when your lap time must be the fastest.

Stadium is probably the easiest of these to tell you about, as in this case it’s a return to the old TrackMania that we all came to love so much. Long before this elaborate plan for a ManiaPlanet was ever even an idea in Nadeo’s minds. Everything about it — from the handling of the cars, to the stadium environment, to the ever-so-slightly clunky menu screens — is essentially exactly how we remember it before Canyon came along with its power-sliding and picturesque scenery.

The stadium feels like home

From a gameplay perspective, everything is so completely untouched that you’ll barely notice it’s not one of the old games. Nadeo have vowed to ensure that this aspect remains just how it used to be. Tracks are made from a lot of the same pieces, so you’ll instantly recognise the various segments of any given map. The cars drive exactly the same; speed, acceleration and handling are all 100% unchanged. The flag-inspired paint jobs even appear to be exactly the same.

trackmania 2 stadium screenshot

You’ve done this before, haven’t you?

But that’s not a bad thing. Nadeo have identified what made the series great, and by not adjusting those things are ensuring that the exact experience that kept us playing is replicated. I first jumped in to the beta wondering what would be different, but within 30 seconds of logging in and joining a multiplayer server, I was right back into to that ultra competitive mindset that occurs when your lap time must be the fastest. Every little trick I’d ever learned playing Trackmania Nations Forever applied here, and I had to be top of that leaderboard when the time was up.

If you weren’t keen on Canyon, then this is the ManiaPlanet game that you’ll be instantly familiar with. I’ve also no doubt that it’ll bring in a bunch of newcomers that, for whatever reason, weren’t playing games on there computers whilst we were speeding towards a ramp on a lengthy boost strip, praying that if we made the jump to that tiny piece of track in the distance, that the car would at the very least land the right way up.

But it’s not all the same

The first small, but massively more convenient, thing that I noticed when starting up the beta was that it instantly recognised my Xbox 360 controller and assigned the appropriate controls to the expected buttons. Anybody who’s spent time assigning this stuff each time they installed TrackMania Nations Forever will know how much of a relief I found this to be.

A new single player campaign is also available. There’s currently 15 tracks on show, but 65 will be the total when the game releases fully. As in previous games, these make for a nice introduction to the game, but won’t hold you away from multiplayer for a massive amount of time.

trackmania 2 stadium brazil car

Then, of course, you get all the things that come as part of ManiaPlanet. Improved graphics, particularly the new lighting effects, are the first thing that you’ll notice. Everything just looks a little more crisp and shiny, despite the graphical style being identical. You also get an improved track editor with an easy method to add your own 3D models and upload your creations, and competitive features such as official player rankings, a team feature, and player-created competitions.

Another great feature that comes bundled in is the ability to stream your gameplay on the Twitch.tv live-streaming service. There’s several tools out there that have made streaming your playtime easier, but this is literally as easy as it comes. You just go into the game’s options screen, enter your Twitch user-name and password, select from a couple of quality options (your choice of which will vary depending on your PC’s power), and then press ‘start broadcast’. Your game’s video and audio (as well as your microphone’s audio if you wish) will immediately begin playing on your channel for anybody to watch. It even adjusts your channel’s options to ensure you show up under the right category in the website’s game list.

A group of friends shouting at each other as they lose vital seconds on each others’ lap times will probably make for some entertaining moments, and the simplicity of getting it all up running means some hilarious moments will most definitely be captured for eternity on the internet. I’d bet we’ll see some awesome tutorials on track-building being recorded too, as the editor will stream to Twitch in exactly the same manner.

Did I already mention that TrackMania is back?

TrackMania has offered us one of the most entertaining — and certainly the most varied — multiplayer racing experiences there is to be had over the years, and TrackMania 2 Stadium is just going to make it bigger. It’s currently in open beta, and there’s already a bunch of people playing, with plenty of servers to join and maps to play. As it moves on into a full release, I’ve no doubt you’ll see a massive resurgence in IMs from your friends that read, “fancy a game of TrackMania?”

They payment model seems familiar too, where anybody can play for free with a few limitations. You get no official replays on the single-player tracks, your custom car skins won’t be viewable to other players in-game, and you won’t earn any of ManiaPlanet‘s virtual currency, known as ‘Planets’. Somebody at Nadeo also made a great decision, considering the familiarities of Stadium, when it comes to the price you’ll pay to unlock this extra stuff. It’s a one-time purchase of £7.99 GBP, a tiny price to pay for the enjoyment TrackMania 2 Stadium will offer in return.

TrackMania 2 Stadium is currently in open beta, so anybody can play immediately. Details on how to download the client can be found on the official website. Once you’ve played, be sure to come back and share your thoughts in the comments below.