Physics-based stunt racer Trials is back, making its first appearance on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this week, as well as PC, but has the game managed to take advantage of all that extra power and move forward from its much-loved roots, or is it a case of more of the same?
It’s a little bit of both, in truth. The previous games have all had quite a lot in common, and that’s no different here. The premise is exactly the same, and players are charged with making their way through a series of different tracks of increasing difficulty, achieving tasks along the way to boost their score, all the while fighting against the laws of the natural world as gravity tries its best to bring you down to earth with an almighty wallop.
Where Trials has always been divisive has been its difficulty level, and that’s evident here once again. The first half of the single player campaign should pose no real problems for the majority of players, with gold medals for each course easily within reach, but once you’ve passed that point and things start to get tricky, Fusion is a devilishly difficult game at times, and it’ll cause no end of frustration for players.
Mastering the basics will be absolutely essential, and even that’s a lot harder than it sounds. The game’s controls are as simple as you could ask for, through, and that certainly goes a long way towards helping players get to grips with the mechanics. You’ve got a trigger to accelerate, the left stick leans your rider forward or backward on his bike and the right stick is reserved for tricks. That’s basically all there is to the game, but pulling everything off is another matter entirely.
Trials Fusion, like its forebears, is all about balance and execution. It’ll be up to you to get your acceleration and braking just right while balancing your rider in the perfect way to ensure you can climb hills, land tricky jumps or, most frustratingly of all, bunny hop successfully over gaps that really shouldn’t be jumpable without the aid of a ramp.
As the game progresses, the stages get increasingly fiendish, while the action going on in the background becomes more and more ludicrous. As always, the successful completion of a course comes with little reward for your rider, who’ll usually end up smashing into something at high speed, falling down a distressingly high hole in the ground or finding himself buried underneath falling masonry. Such is the life of a thrill seeker.
Visually, Fusion is adequate. There are some issues with slow-to-load textures at the beginning of a course, but nothing that you’ll be too upset about. The backgrounds are kept busy where possible and there’s no slowdown to be found anywhere (at least not in the PlayStation 4 version which we reviewed). Some graphical flourishes will impress from time to time, but for the most part it’s all about being serviceable and fluid, which it manages comfortably. If it were a game on the previous generation, I’d probably be telling you how great it looks, but given the platforms that play host to it, it doesn’t really impress all that much… but then, it doesn’t need to – that’s not what the Trials experience is all about.
The game’s music, on the other hand, doesn’t quite manage to get a pass from us. Although the title track is terribly infectious its, well, terribly infectious! Don’t expect to get it out of your head any time soon, despite its incredibly clichéd Eurotrance synths and dire lyrics.
So what’s new then?
Well, there’s a semblance of an attempt to cobble together a storyline based around artificial intelligence that likes to test humans ala Portal, but despite its good intentions it tends to annoy more than a storyline should, mostly due to the fact that you’ll be hearing the same gags over and over again as you smash face first into a wall for the umpteenth time while attempting to get a clean run to nab a gold medal on the later tracks.
Also new are the game’s FMX tricks. Aside from a handful of dedicated tricking events, they’re not really all that useful, but if you’re the type that likes to show off, then you’ll probably get a kick out of them. They’re easily executed with the right stick, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on your momentum and balance if you’re going to land on two wheels (or four, if you fancy giving things a go using the quad). It could be argued that the whole FMX system is a little unnecessary, but at least it add something new to the experience.
The local multiplayer that was found in Trials Evolution makes a reappearance in Fusion, but it’s been inexplicably stripped down to just ten tracks and feels more like a missed opportunity than anything. It’ll provide some minor entertainment, but it’s just too clunk and time consuming to make your way through a full series, especially given the nature of the game.
Where the Trials series has always excelled, though, has been the track builder, and that’s back with a vengeance this time around, with the ability to create just about anything your mind can conceive using the relatively easy-to-use tools at hand. Already there are some wonderfully off-the-wall offerings available to check out, and it should just be a matter of time before Fusion surpasses Evolution’s tally of around 700,000 user creations.
Almost everything here will resonate with existing fans of the series, but some may feel that the attempt to shoehorn in new features has probably come at the expense of additional content for the tried and tested formula. We’re not going to level that criticism at RedLynx though, as we’re always encouraged to see developers trying something new, even if it’s not entirely successful.
Although Fusion’s multiplayer is a step backwards from that found in Evolution, and the FMX tricks and attempt at a narrative occasionally fall short of the mark, it’s still a fiendishly addictive game that’ll eat up countless hours of your time. It might not be pleasant going most of the time, but the feeling of relief and achievement when you finally nail a level you’ve been struggling with is second to none, and with three challenges per level in the campaign mode in addition to the three medals available, there’s definitely plenty to keep you going for quite a while – without factoring in the user generated content.
Even if it’s your first Trials game, you’ll find plenty to enjoy about Fusion.