Free Stuff: Trackmania Nations Forever – the world’s best multiplayer racing game

Free stuff is great. Great free stuff is even better.

A couple of years ago Nadeo released an Nvidia / Electronic Sports World Cup-sponsored version of it’s TrackMania series called TrackMania Nations EWSC Edition. What was surprising was that it featured an entirely new and brilliant environment and a super new car and was also completely fully featured with all the gameplay of its retail daddy Trackmania Sunrise. I spent an awful lot of time on Nations and really enjoyed designing tracks for it and playing online.

My best track is SuperModel which is just one block wide, awesome in multiplayer, requires a little thought to conquer and master, but because I neglected to take a screenshot, it didn’t get downloaded too much. Stupid lazy me.

So it is with genuine delight that I greet Nadeo’s Trackmania Nations Forever. This is a fully featured game again, this time spawned from TrackMania United (which also receives a free 900Mb update!). It features an upgraded version of the Nations environment (a really smart stadium), lots of new tracks and brings along the online enhancements delivered in United. Yay!

You can get TrackMania Nations Forever direct from Nadeo or, better, from Steam. Why better from Steam? The TrackMania Nations Forever page on Nadeo sucks up 100% CPU on my Opera browser and batters a huge chunk of CPU on Internet Explorer. It’s really really bad. So use Steam.

It should also be noted that are currently selling TrackMania United itself for a measly £4.99.


Free Stuff: Unlocker – Delete stuff even when Windows gets huffy

Free stuff is great. Useful free stuff is even better.

Even seen any of the following messages from Windows when you try to delete something?

  • Cannot delete Folder: It is being used by another person or program.
  • Cannot delete file: Access is denied.
  • There has been a sharing violation.
  • The source or destination file may be in use.
  • The file is in use by another program or user.
  • Make sure the disk is not full or write-protected and that the file is not currently in use.

Yes? Irritating isn’t it, especially when you know you’ve finished with the file and Explorer doesn’t.

Unlocker adds an option to the right-click that allows you to see directly which programs are holding locks on that file and gives you the option of forcibly unlocking the file allowing you to delete it.

I have used this a lot myself, it is a great utility. You can download the latest version and see more information on the author’s Unlocker page.

Free Stuff: SnagIt 7.2.5

TechSmith no longer offer this but it was cool while it lasted.

Free stuff rules. TechSmith are offering a free, uncrippled version of their generously featured SnagIt screen and web image capture software.

Ostensibly, this is only for readers of the UK .NET magazine who received the trial version of SnagIt 7.2.5 on the cover disc and can then request an unlock key. However, the 7.2.5 setup is still available on TechSmith’s FTP servers and so anyone can download the 7.2.5 demo and unlock it using the .NET magazine code request page.

  1. Download one of the following 7.2.5 setup files.

  2. Visit the unlock code request page.
  3. Run the 7.2.5 setup and when SnagIt first runs, select the Unlock option.
  4. Enter your unlock code.
  5. Optionally, register your software with TechSmith. You can initiate this when you’ve entered your unlock code.
  6. Optionally, you can upgrade to SnagIt 8.2 for half-price.

Free Stuff: Carcassonne

To celebrate five years and over eight million accounts activated on their Xbox Live service, Microsoft have gone the extra mile and, instead of just issuing a press release bigging themselves up, will be allowing everyone a free copy of Xbox Live Arcade title Carcassonne. It will be available tomorrow, 15th November for, according to the US website, for two days.

While the official UK Xbox site doesn’t mention it this news was also posted on Eurogamer, so Europeans will presumably be able to benefit from this altruism. In times past, free stuff tended to be only available on the US service (for example, Looney Tunes cartoons and free games). Free stuff is always welcome and this is an outstanding gesture from Microsoft. Well done!

Completely free complete games: Far Cry, Prince of Persia: Sands of Times and Rayman Raving Rabbids

Free stuff is great. Free games are great. Great free games are amazing!

FilePlanet are offering its members three Ubisoft games for free. The games are ad-supported. Once downloaded, the only hoop you have to jump through is that you need to register with Ubisoft first and you need to tell them you live in the United States.

The games are:

Now I can heartily recommend the first two from personal experience. Far Cry, especially, is a great game.

Some people moan about ad-supported software but I’ve never understood that. You have an extremely minor inconvenience for a great reward.

I use the ad-supported version of Download Accelerator Plus, for example, and am happy that some of the DAP window is taken up with an advert I completely ignore.

With these games you get a short ad (currently for McDonalds) in the menus and every time the game loads a new level. It’s a minor inconvenience and it does spoil the ambience of the game slightly but you are getting quality games for free!

In fact, I think most games would be well advised if they used their level loading time to display adverts. An advert wouldn’t take you out of the experience any more than the “Please wait, loading” screen does.

People who moan about ad-supported games are simply suffering from a mass hysteria knee-jerk reaction. I suspect a large number of them have never even played an ad-supported game (you know, on principle). The reality is that the pros far outweigh the cons.

Free Bioshock orchestral score

Download the orchestra score

Free stuff is great. It makes for a great ad for a game but this is another of those items which seems rather difficult to find unless you know where to look or discover it on a helpful blog. Not quite sure why a web site administrator would make sure that a download never appears in any download section on any of their sites but it seems pretty common.

Game (and movie) sites are typically shockingly awful pieces of over designed rubbish, usually cursed with teeny tiny fonts and interminable Flash animation. While Bioshock the game has been given outstanding reviews and the atmospheric demo concurs with that, the Bioshock web presence is as terrible as any game site ever and is not worth wasting your time visiting.

So, where is the soundtrack hidden?

You won’t find it on the official Bioshock site.

You won’t find it on 2K Games Bioshock media page.

Go back to the landing page for official Bioshock site. One of the links further down the page that you never read allows you to enter the Cult of Rapture site. The soundtrack is in there but, just to be helpful, you won’t find it in the Downloads section!

It’s posted on the Home page on August 24, 2007 under the heading “Introducing the Bioshock Orchestral Score”. The download link allows you to download the zip linked above containing the score without registration or any of that malarkey.

Free PaRappa the Rapper stuff from Sony


PSP Fanboy link

PSP Fanboy has posted a freebie from Sony in the shape of a partial PaRappa the Rapper soundtrack available for download. There’s no registration, no FileFront, no ‘wait 45 seconds’, just a straight-forward zip file containing eight music files (though the GameTrailers PaRappa review states that there are only six songs in the game). The music files are 128Kbps mp3s.

I wonder how much we can read into the following snippet (italics mine):

Here’s the tracks we have for you today

Will there be further releases?

While this is clearly an advertising gimmick (here in the UK PaRappa the Rapper was released for Sony PlayStation Portable one week ago), this is a good gimmick. It clearly advertises the product. It isn’t offensive or baffling. It might make you purchase PaRappa for PSP. If you have already purchased PaRappa it means you can listen to some tracks on your iPod or PC. And the above-quoted phraseology means that it may incentivise you to visit the PSP Fanboy blog again under the PaRappa tag to see if there will be more releases.

While Sony are not managing their PlayStation 3 PlayStation Store very well at the moment in comparison to Microsoft Xbox 360’s Live Marketplace (particularly over the recent E3 event period), this release reflects a kind of thinking that bodes well for the future.

Updated 26 July 2007 with GameTrailers reference.