If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing a Trials game before, you’re in for a treat with Trials Fusion.
Trials is a physics-based, side-scrolling motorcycle racing game, with an emphasis on tactile gameplay and user-content creation. If you’re the type of person who likes specific game examples, think Joe Danger crossed with Little Big Planet. Or, if you’re over 30, perhaps Excitebike mixed with Loderunner.
Trials Fusion also marks the first time that the series has been available for a non-Microsoft console. In fact, the most recent games were published by Microsoft and Ubisoft across Xbox 360 and PC, respectively. However, that all changed when Ubisoft bought developer RedLynx in late 2011, which of course led to the series going multi-platform. As such, it’s time to learn what you’ve been missing, Sony fans.
The goal of most levels in Trials Fusion is to simply race to the finish line as quickly as possible. Doing so will earn you a bronze, silver, or gold medal, and between one and three points. Earn enough points and you’ll open up the next set of stages.
Between some sets of levels, you’ll need to pass a license test before you can continue. These will teach you how to perform some increasingly advanced techniques that are required to complete the latter, more difficult tracks. Whether it’s shifting your weight to get a longer jump, climbing a steep hill without falling, or landing properly after an ostentatious flip, your skills will surely be put to the test as you wean your way through the game’s stages.
In terms of new content, Trials Fusion introduces the FMX stunt mode, which means that, for the first time ever in the series, getting to the finish line as quickly as possible isn’t the only goal. These new levels task players with performing a series of stunts in order to reach the highest score that you can. Essentially, this is accomplished simply by shifting the right analog stick in various directions, which in turn causes your rider to perform a stunt in that direction. The longer you hold the trick, the more points you’ll get, and, if you’re feeling up to the task, you can also combine tricks by doing more than one stunt during the same jump.
It’s pretty standard fare for games that include a trick system — not unlike the Tony Hawk or SSX games, for example — but it’s a nice addition to the series, and it can be a good deal of fun. It’s also worth noting that although the trick system is only required for the handful of FMX levels in the game, once you pass the FMX license test, tricks can even be performed in the standard racing levels. The points system doesn’t appear in racing levels, though, but I have a feeling that many Trials experts will end up throwing stunts into their runs anyway, just to give that extra level of showmanship. It’s especially entertaining to watch experts play the games, so it’s nice that the leaderboard replay feature allows you to watch the best players in the world.
Speaking of Trials experts, this series has a somewhat intimidating reputation for being extremely difficult, but that’s more than a bit misleading. Despite this perception, Trials Fusion is a game that can be enjoyed by players of all skill levels. While it’s true that the end-game content is notoriously severe, things only reach the point of controller-throwing frustration after the credits have rolled, which unlocks an optional set of levels. These extreme levels represent Trials at its most sadistic, and will require a lot of effort from highly-dedicated players.
If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, thankfully Trials Fusion offers several other ways to enjoy the game after you’ve completed the campaign. You can go back to levels and try to earn a better medal, you can compete against your friends’ best times, and you can also attempt the three optional goals that appear in each individual stage. Examples range from finding hidden areas of a level, doing a specific stunt at a certain point in a level, activating a hidden Easter egg, not allowing your front tire to touch a specific part of a level, or performing a certain number of flips during a flawless run. Some of these optional goals are considerably more challenging than anything you’ll see before you finish the game, which should give veterans that added incentive.
But to be honest, as nice of an addition as these additional targets are, they’re nothing when compared to the true source of Trials Fusion‘s longevity, as it would be hard to overstate just how much the game’s content editor brings to the table. Going far beyond simply creating a series of ramps and checkpoints, the editor in Trials Fusion is so powerful that it allows users to make rudimentary games in completely different genres. For an idea of just how powerful such an editor can be, take a look at the video below. It’s a rather impressive compilation of many user-generated creations that were made in Trials Evolution, the series’ previous installment.
As you can see, there exists endless replay value, and each track and game type seen in this video has its own leaderboard. Thanks to smart and accessible search features, Trials Evolution also grants players several ways of finding new content to download, and Trials Fusion is set to make that process even more user friendly.
The new message feed feature just might be my favorite addition. While in most menus, you’ll be able to see when you have a message waiting for you. These can notify you of many different in-game achievements and announcements, from unlocking a new cosmetic bike upgrade, to a friend beating your time on a particular track. But perhaps most important, the notification system can also let you know when one of your favorite content designers has released a new track.
In terms of visual, the presentation in Trials Fusion is a bit hit or miss. In truth, I really enjoyed the new art direction, and the game’s focus on the futuristic, so, with that in mind, I can honestly say that Trials has never looked better. During my time with it, the PlayStation 4 version ran in full 1080p at 60 frames per second, and was every bit as sharp and fluid as those statistics suggest. The Xbox One version also runs at 60 fps, but at a resolution of 900p. Yes, Trials has not only gone multi-platform, but the PlayStation 4 now has the definitive console version.
I’m also happy to report that during my time with the game, I didn’t notice any frame-rate drops or screen-tearing. Aside from a bit of texture pop-in when loading, and some effects such as lacklustre water splashes and explosions, Trials Fusion does a good job with its visuals.
The audio is less successful, but far from disappointing. While music is a very subjective topic, I can say that I liked the game’s electronic/dubstep vibe more than Evolution‘s mix of rap and rock. Fusion also features somewhat dynamic music, with different parts of the compositions playing during different sections of each level. This can be a fun addition when you’re playing well, but it was considerably less enjoyable when I found myself stuck at the same checkpoint, listening to the same five second loop ad nauseam. If it bothers you enough, you can always switch it off and use a different source of music.
Another thing you can turn off is the announcers. Rather than commentating on your skills, the commentators are there to create some semblance of a story in Trials Fusion. There’s an encouraging female announcer who also guides you through the tutorials, and a disparaging male counterpart who always sounds upset. It’s an interesting concept, but it never really feels like it goes anywhere. Without spoiling anything, there’s not much closure or explanation to the game’s ending, which I was sorry to see.
But as far as I’m concerned, the largest fault with Trials Fusion is the absence of online multiplayer. There are several things wrong with the fact that RedLynx decided not to include online multiplayer in its latest series release. The first, obviously, is the basic loss of a feature. Sequels aren’t supposed to remove features, they’re supposed to add them. Then there’s the reasoning involved, which I believe to be at least somewhat faulty, even when given the benefit of doubt. The claim is that after looking at Trials Evolution user statistics, most players ignored online multiplayer after trying it once or twice, so why spend time on a feature that most people don’t seem to use? And while it’s true that the vast majority of my Trials Evolution time was spent outside of multiplayer, the reasons for me doing so are far removed from, “I didn’t like it.”
Even though I loved Trials Evolution‘s online multiplayer, it was — and still is — kind of a mess. There are no track sorting options, so you can’t search levels by user rating, your personal rating, or even creator, and, without the inclusion of preview pictures, finding the track you’re searching for can be more hassle than it’s worth. You also can’t play skill games online, which eliminates the possibility of playing anything with friends other than standard racing tracks. And perhaps worst of all, every track you download is automatically added to your console, and presented in the multiplayer menus in a single alphabetical list. So yeah, have fun scrolling through several hundred titles to get to a track named “Yeti.”
Lastly, even if you don’t care about multiplayer yourself, it not being included in Trials Fusion is still a huge loss for the track editing community. Much of the best user-crafted content in Trials Evolution was made by getting a lot of feedback from other players before it was actually published. Some of the best tracks were even designed and created by a group of players, and this type of communal design — or testing tracks with other people at all — is only possible through multiplayer.
There are many aspects of the Trials Evolution multiplayer experience that could have been improved with Trials Fusion, and instead RedLynx decided to remove online multiplayer altogether. This is by far the most disappointing aspect of this game, and something that I can only hope is rectified by the developer in a future update.
RedLynx has confirmed that a new type of online multiplayer will be coming to Trials Fusion sometime after release. While I do look forward to that, the vagueness of that statement does not fill me with confidence. Perhaps it’s just a problem with messaging, but you can’t remove a major feature from your game, gloss over it by saying not enough people liked it in the first place, and then make an ambiguous promise to include something like it in the future.
Four player local multiplayer is included, but after Trials Evolution, it feels like a consolation prize, though it is still a fun variation on the standard gameplay, as long as you have enough local friends with extra controllers and an interest in playing. The new stunt events are also available in local multiplayer, which was nice to see.
Trials Fusion may not offer the massive leap in features and improvements that the last game did, but it would be ridiculous to expect it to. Evolution was truly worthy of its title; while Trials Fusion is less of an evolution, and more of a refinement. That’s not a slight against this latest release, though, so much as praise for its console predecessor. Still, it is a shame that Trials Fusion doesn’t include everything that made its Evolution so great, but I remain hopeful that will change in time.
If you’re an Xbox 360 owner or a PC gamer, consider this more of a good thing, even if it does have its ups and downs. If you’re an Xbox One owner, be thankful you have a Trials game to play on your new console. And if you’re exclusively a Sony fan, get down on your knees and thank Ubisoft for letting you play this great series.
Between its superb content editor, the six episodes of DLC included with its retail/digital Deluxe Edition, and the endless competition it promotes, Trials Fusion won’t be leaving my “recently played” list for a long, long time.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us.
The depressing omission of online multiplayer aside, Trials Fusion is a worthy follow-up to one of the best downloadable titles of the last console generation.