Well, I was knocked out of the tournament on Friday night; coming in with rank #372... not too shabby considering I only had 2-3 hours per track and those hours were scattered. For not having as much time as I'd have liked to get the groove I wanted, I feel pretty good about how I did.
Despite my grumblings about how it was a persistence contest where he/she who had the most time on their hands wins, the tournament was still an awful lot of fun to be a part of.
Every night at 10:00pm my time, qualified racers from around the world all jumped into the PlayLinc server lobby and eagerly awaited the new track meant to torture with technicalities. What I loved is that playing in the tournament wasn't much different than playing on my two favorite USA servers for all my TrackMania Career... "KOFS 440 (the server formerly known as 440 Mods and Boost)" and "Air Time."
Those servers always kept fresh, new and challenging tracks; which attracted some of the best racers around the world constantly. The thing that makes online play in TrackMania so special is the camaraderie between racers. Whenever a new track is encountered on these servers, the racers all anxiously try to be the first one to "solve" the track. Then it's a race to see who can get the best time.
As the racers figure out parts of the track, they openly share information with each other on how to better take the track. It was no different with this tournament. Mind you, there was $40,000 in cash prizes hanging in the balance; but the contestants still shared tips and tricks they'd find on the tracks through the rounds of competition I participated in. It truly is a wonderful community in the world of TrackMania.
Needless to say, my heart wasn't broken as bad as it could've been when I didn't make it past Friday night in the competition. You see, TrackMania United was released to the public Friday (well in France and some other French speaking countries...) but as mentioned previously, 10,000 copies were sold online and myself (That One Guy), Dan (Tsam314) and Jarin (Thundr) all scored copies; and were more than eager to take it for a test-drive.
And that's just what we did. Three-and-half adrenaline-filled turbo-boosted dirt-spewing hours of pure pleasure. United combines all the previous goodness packed into the existing TrackMania games and steps it up a notch.
One of my favorite parts is the new track block we lovingly call "The Engine Killer." This is a red-block of doom that when driven over, causes you to coast to the next checkpoint. As if it were only that easy. No, curves and other things that cause you to lose momentum stand between the Engine Killer and the next Checkpoint.
We played this really awesome track that has two Engine Killers... one that happens just before a huge run of turbo pads that launch you off a platform over a huge pool of water that you must skip your car like a stone over to a grassy area, navigate a sharp turn and still make it to the finish gate. (Video and screenshots to come...)
The new scenery is awesome, the improved Stadium environment (from Nations) is insanely cool (especially the dynamic lighting) and the game is just too much fun.
I recommend anyone that hasn't tasted the goodness of all things TrackMania, try TrackMania Nations. You'll be hooked too, and find yourself purchasing them all. (You'll have to wait for United in the USA until February or March, unless they have some of the 10,000 copies left -- personally speaking, I think they won't stop with 10,000 but we'll see.)