What's the meanest, most brutal driving game around? There was a time when, fresh from a stint in the untamable Ferrari 312 around classic Spa in Grand Prix Legends, I would have told you that it's always been Papyrus that have been the masters of cruelty, happy to nonchalantly flick you off the track should you be so absent-minded as to not get enough temperature in the brake pads. Then there have been other times when trying to duck and dive through the blandly realized British countryside that I'd tell you that it's Richard Burns Rally that's the real bastard - get a hundred yards down any of those roads without scoffing the scenery and you can consider yourself a pro.
There's only one real answer, though, and it's one that crystallized for me when soaring through drinkably blue skies for the umpteenth time at an improbable angle while trying to land an impossible jump. TrackMania always has been the toughest racing game around, and it likely always will be. Nadeo's sprawling PC odyssey punishes with beautiful skill, and it's a legacy that's carried on well by Valley, the third official expansion for 2011's TrackMania sequel.
At the heart of this expansion is the same toned arcade driving that's defined the series, and it's no less brilliant here. Valley introduces new tracks with a rally tilt, its insane ribbons of dirt and tarmac pounded by a squat car that looks like an aggressive, muscular and contemporary take on a Renault 5 Turbo. It drives as it looks, too - fast and to the point, its squat rear can be flicked out with more ease than Canyon's more pendulous motors, and when on the loose stuff all it takes is a quick lift of the throttle to get the whole thing sideways.