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Trackmania: Sunrise: Pimp My Drive

Company: Enlight Software

As demonstrated by J. Allard's GDC speech, gaming is slowly moving towards more customization of experience. Rather than simply giving the player a pre-set world to perform limited actions in, the new mindset is to let gamers leave their own personal mark on the game. In my mind, racing games are fertile ground for this type of customized gameplay. While some racing titles have moved towards giving players limited freedom in what their cars looks like, the movement is still more towards making the games more realistic. No one has really made everything come together and unlock the real potential for what could be done with a racing game.

Trackmania Sunrise, the sequel to Trackmania, is about as close to this potential as I've seen a racing game get. The actual racing action in the game is tight and functional, but tends to stick more towards old-school racing mechanics rather than trying to be an ultra-realistic sim. Its sure to disappoint more hardcore race fans, but core mechanics are solid enough (even in this early build) that the game is still a blast to play.

Customization is a big part of Sunrise. From tracks to your car, nearly everything in the game can be modified in some way. Paint jobs can be modified to suit just what you're looking for, and include both matte and shiny colors as well as various logos you can affix to your car. If you can't find a logo that you like, there's always the option of making your own logos (as demonstrated by the custom logos seen in the screen shots). A PhotoShop-style paintbrush tool, which comes with a variety of tips, is also available. The experience is so easy to use that you can easily spend just as much time modifying your car as you do actually playing the game. Making new logos is a tad more difficult, and does require some manipulation of the core game files. Hopefully an option will be included in the full version that makes this task much easier.

Track Builder is, in my mind, one of the game?s biggest draws. Think of it as an "older kids" version of those old orange Hot Wheels tracks that you used to play with when you were a kid. The entire system has been fixed up from the previous version, and is much easier to use now (thanks to the option of using the mouse to handle everything). Figuring out all the ins-and-outs of the system takes time, but once you make your first course, you?ll want to see just how far you can push things. You can start with a simple looping track, then add a few loops, a twist and even some inverted tracks. There's really no limit to what you can do if you're creative enough.

What good is making things if you can?t show other people? Everything you make in the game can be shared with others over the Internet. A built-in Campaign Editor will also let you string together a series of tracks into one circuit.

Considering all the customization options, I was disappointed that a custom soundtrack option isn?t available. Of course, I was able to make my own version with a little file tweaking, but I?ve always felt that allowing players to put their own music into racing games added just that little extra punch. Maybe in the final version?

In keeping with the game?s arcade style, car customizations are limited to look only. Everything under the hood is standard for each vehicle you use. Vehicle types are also limited to just three: roadster, sports car and SUV. Each handles about the same with slight variances in handling and speed.

Building tracks and painting cars are only part of the experience; you'll also do some racing. Basic single-player modes include Race and Puzzle. Another mode called Platform is one of the game's more unique entries, with the purpose being to get to the checkpoint in as few tries as possible. Sure it sounds easy, but once you get into things, its not as easy as it seems since you'll have to plan out how you'll take certain jumps and how much speed you'll hit ramps with so you won't overshoot your target.

I was a fan of the original Trackmania and based on the short demo, I'm pretty excited about Sunrise. Sure it may not aspire to be a realistic racer, however, the amount of customization and other options available make it feel like it could still be one of the more entertaining racing games coming out this year.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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