TrackMania Nations Forever (PC)

OS: Windows 2000/XP/XP-x64/Vista
CPU: Pentium IV 1.6GHz / AthlonXP 1600+
RAM: 256 MB (512 MB with Vista)
Video card memory: 3D accelerator 16 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible
Disk space required : 1.5 GB
DirectX®: 9.0c or more

TrackMania Nations Forever is a completely free 3D racing game. There\'s a worldwide ranking database that keeps track of your skills globally, as well as your rank by country and state! Don\'t worry; I won\'t threaten anybody\'s rank since I\'m in the top 3,000 in my state and top 1.8 million worldwide. There\'s a built in track editor that allows you to create and share your tracks with the massive online community. There are over four million players! You can also custom paint race cars and share those, too. Each country has their own unique race car.

You can play TrackMania Nations Forever by yourself, online, or in a LAN party mode. The solo mode has sixty five tracks that get progressively harder. Not all of the tracks are available at once, so you have to unlock tracks by earning bronze, silver and gold medals. The medals are earned by how fast you can complete each track. The tracks are separated by five difficulties: White, Green, Blue, Red and Black. You cannot play any of the tracks in Black until you do well on all the other tracks. The tracks are classified by type: Race, Obstacle, Endurance, Speed, and Acrobatic. By the way, this is not a realistic racing game. The acrobatic tracks are just plain crazy at times. Some of the acrobatic stunts will have you doing loops and jumping from one end of the track to the other. In both of those scenarios you need a lot of speed to complete the maneuver. Endurance tracks are lengthy tracks and land over a minute or so to complete. Speed tracks are shorter and often less than 20 seconds to complete. Race courses are in between those two and obstacle courses have columns and holes on the tracks that you have to avoid. If you do strike an obstacle, you can respawn at your last check point.

When playing in solo mode you have to choose which medal (time) you want to aim for. As you race you\'ll see your competition or even a shadow of your last performance to race against. When playing online there are so many race cars on the track that it\'s hard to see what is actually on the track. You can drive through your opponents so you don\'t have to worry about crashing into them, just the obstacles on the race car. If you press "O" it will remove your opponents so you don\'t have to see them.  Given the nature and speed of racing games you could notice the server lag as it was displaying the other race cars but the performance on my end was fine.

There are plenty of active servers and finding an online match to join was pretty easy to do. I was a minority as many of the online racers I played were European. I couldn\'t understand what they were typing. They seemed friendly enough and said gg (good game) after every match. :)

Graphically this game is beautiful. The tracks vary with time of day, road, grass, and mud surfaces. The race cars all look unique and the lighting and shadows look great too. If you own a pair of 3D glasses you can play this game in 3D. Painting cars and creating tracks was pretty easy to do.  In the free version if you paint your car you will see it but other players will see the paint job for your country instead. The track creator has a simple and an advanced mode. The advanced has a lot more to it and is still drag and drop so I recommend playing with that setting.

The camera is normally behind your race car, but when you are doing loops, the camera view will sometimes automatically change to first person view. A takes a little getting used to but it is a little annoying. Fortunately, it does change back after the loop is completed. There are three camera views the default is behind the car, another is farther away and there is a cockpit view.

The sound effects will not disappoint. The race car and crash sounds are pretty spot on. The background music is peppy and pleasant to listen to.

For controls you can use your keyboard or a racing wheel/joystick. The later is far more accurate. Force feedback is supported which is nice.

When it comes to appropriateness issues there is nothing to worry about here. No bikini babes at the finish line or anything like that. The standard online game warning applies: you never know what other people will say online but you can\'t fault the game for that, only the players.  As with all online games, some people you race with may have potty mouths.

Overall this is a great free game that I would recommend to any race game lover. The only catch is that you\'ll see ads for the complete version of the game (United Forever) and Valvoline oil banners (& others). If you do decide to upgrade you will retain your rankings and have the option to upgrade your car and get access to many more tracks and new game modes. If you\'re cheap like me, you can expand your track library at http://www.tm-exchange.com/ Cars can be found here.

Game Play : 19/20
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Controls: 5/5
Stability: 4/5
Game Score: 86%

Appropriateness Score: 100%

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Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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