Ubisoft has firmly dated Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 and R.U.S.E. in an updated schedule.
Ubisoft has bought Parisian developer Nadeo, known best for the car-jumping and route-planning TrackMania series of games.
Nothing has any right to run at 60 frames-per-second on the Nintendo DS, let alone a racing game, and even more let alone a racing game that puts as much emphasis on speed and scale as TrackMania, so it should be no surprise to learn that Firebrand's DS conversion only rarely does. What is surprising is that it gets so close to a constant 60fps, and remains thoroughly playable throughout.
It's not for a lack of detail, either. Most 3D racing games on the DS look and feel like you're skating on fuzzy Duplo in an earthquake, but TrackMania DS is crisp, with only a few blocky textures and a slightly dodgy skymap to complain about and excellent collision detection. The draw distance is immense, even by home console standards, but there's almost no texture pop-in or geometric pop-up on the horizon. It's the best 3D engine we've ever seen on the DS.
As important as the graphics, though, is simple and lag-free control, and Firebrand gets that right as well. There's no stylus nonsense here, just A to go, B to brake and the d-pad to turn. This makes the cars, of which the Scottish developer grabs three of the PC series' best, feel exactly right, whether it's the silly, understeering open-wheel racers, the lurching rally Beetles or the wobbly middle-ground desert saloon. Each one has a particular environment: the open-wheel has stadium courses, rally cars zoom around castle battlements leaping between drawbridges and scooting across hilly greenspace, and the desert car runs along tarmac roads pocked unsympathetically with massive holes, in amongst lazy brown mountains.
It's been announced that the first DS instalment in the TrackMania series will be released on 21st November.
TrackMania DS will feature more than a hundred circuits, three single-player modes and three types of environment. Rally tracks require you to handle dirt paths and winding tracks in ultra-light vehicles. In the Desert it's all about giant potholes and chain bridges. Power-slides and skidding skills will be needed for the Stadium circuits, where you'll get to race stylised F1 vehicles.
"Words don't do the game justice... Literally," said Alan Wild of developer Ascaron (our italics, his use of the word "literally"). "Play it, and you'll be hooked. Therein lies the TrackMania ethos. This is gaming as it's meant to be."
On the journey to Glasgow to visit TrackMania DS's development team, Firebrand, I couldn't see how it was going to work. TrackMania - until now an exclusively PC game - is reliant on a couple of key features: speed and immediacy. The DS just didn't seem like it could be a natural home for this.
Focus Home Interactive plans to release TrackMania on DS at the end of the year.