Evidently, the French don't hate everything united
year: 07 - review: The days of Pole Position are gone.
No longer can you loss a quarter into a machine, grab the wheel, and careen headlong into an 8-bit winner's circle. These days, the most popular racing games require you to manage everything from gear ratios to suspension tightness—and manage them well, if you hope to take that coveted champagne shower. Now, don't get me wrong: I love me some gear ratios, but even I sometimes find myself waxing reminiscent about the heady days of pick-up-and-play racing.
Enter French developer Nadeo and the latest iteration in its TrackMania series: TrackMania United, a "classic" racer in the Pole Position mold. You need little more than two buttons and a thumbstick to enjoy the hundreds of tracks United offers; the simple system is pe fect for those intimidated by Gran Turismo but still jonesing for a little velocity. Unfortunately, that velocity often hits zero as a result of United's penchant for locking up—both on the track and in the custom map editor.
And that map editor—when United maintains its stability—is undoubtedly the game's marquee feature. Although it could've used a tutorial for the more esoteric elements, with a little trying and erring you'll be laying down tracks faster than John Henry with a scorpion in his boxers. Indeed, a big part of United's entertainment value lies in spending hours tweaking every detail of your custom maps until your OCD temporarily abates. More importantly, the map editor takes United beyond its spiritual racing ancestors: Pole Position may have been white-knuckle fun, but United combines that with the sheer mad-scientist fun of building something and watching it come to life.