Trials Fusion Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360, PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Trials Fusion is the latest in a long line of Trials games dating back to the year 2000. Since those early days on PC via the magic of Java, and more prominently since 2009’s Trials HD made its way to the Xbox 360, RedLynx has evolved and moulded the same gameplay into something which largely remains today in this latest iteration. That is, a wonderful physics game centered around Trials biking. It’s so well done that the fact you’re on a bike is pretty much irrelevant as it’s all about the physics. In the main part of the game, anyway. What Trials Fusion does is try to improve on what was there and bring new things into play to differentiate it from its previous outings. In this success is varied but at least it doesn’t come at the cost of that central tenet.
Trials Fusion is set in the future and on loading the game up for the first time you’re presented with a rather wonderful song welcoming you to the future. When we say wonderful we mean of course that at first you’ll find it wistfully reminiscent of the Eighties and at times painfully irritating but soon enough you’ll be singing along to it whilst you go around that hard course for the gazillionth time and manage just thirty-three faults. The audio design is not limited to this one song, either. We have two guides on our journey through the career mode - one female (and distinctly GlaDOS-like) and one male, the former loving you and the latter very much not. Funny at first, though you can turn them off should you be wincing at hearing their words repeated for the gazillionth time, too.
Graphically the game excels. With a wide variety of track locales from skyscrapers at night to community areas at day and forests, snow levels and everything in-between there is something for everyone and lots of stuff hidden in the tracks like penguins or squirrels depending on what you can spot and whether you as the player can actually take your eyes off your avatar and the forthcoming obstacles. The game plays out solely in 2D but is built in a 3D world. The ultimate effect is a 2.5D-type affair, similar to Street Fighter IV where you see yourself moving in 3D but you can only actually go back and forth. It all, combined with the high resolution (1080p on PS4; 900p on Xbox One) and rock solid 60fps, ensures the visual smorgasbord on display never leaves you wanting more.
In terms of gameplay, all will seem very familiar to a Trials’ veteran. To the newcomers (this is the first time this series has been available on PlayStation) things start off a little tediously. You control a biker from A to Z on a given track where the aim is to complete the course without faulting, and in return gain a shiny medal of varied colours depending how well you do in achieving the initial goal. As you play more tracks and become more familiar with the physics engine something starts to whirr through in the mind; you see the next obstacle, the next landing spot and you calculate which direction you need to lean and by how much to land successfully. Then when you ace the landing you start to think about how to land safely and carry all your momentum forwards. Soon enough you’re finishing every track with a gold medal (or platinum if you’re really far through the game) and getting really irritated when you land and lose just a little bit of that speed because your angle was slightly off coming down. It’s good then that right around this time is when you unlock the harder tracks and pretty much everything you have learnt is out of the window as the sheer number and variety of obstacles is increased tenfold leaving you with a severe case of inability without pretty much relearning how to ride. It’s not a case of A to B over the jumps now; bunnyhopping will need to be mastered, as well as eking out the maximum impetus from the smallest of spaces and over many high-angled, small jumps.
Fortunately the game has periodic tutorials which talk you through - and make you practice - how to do the various techniques you’ll be forced to use as you continue to progress. It doesn’t hide the fact though that there is a significant jump in difficulty from intermediate to expert that many will never quite manage successfully. Sure, you’ll be able to finish the career mode and complete all the tracks but you’ll be embarrassed in so doing when you have forty-one faults over three minutes compared to the global leaderboard topper’s zero and fifty-eight seconds. Still, in a skill-based game this is natural. Everything of a similar ilk which has come before is the same (e.g. Rock Band). For those who love it and have the time (or have been trialling since the early days) the reward is here.
If you are a newcomer or have never quite worked out how to make that final step-up then Trials Fusion has much more to keep you occupied. In each level once you have the top medals you can look to complete one of three challenges which will vary from a zero-fault run with the accelerator always on to performing five stunts in a row before the level’s end. You’ll have friend’s ghosts to compete against and the global leaderboard to try and tame. If you can’t quite work out how someone did what they did you can download a replay of their run to see if you can mimic them. Most excitingly there are certain trick-based events where the intent is to max out scores via executing various stunts, or FMX moves. Carried out by directing the two analogue sticks in the appropriate directions (left to orient the bike; right to make the pose needed) these levels are scattered throughout the career mode and offer something different, if somewhat underwhelming. Doing a specific stunt requires you to remember the moveset and for the engine to pick it up correctly, which given we’re talking about directing the sticks in unison is pretty difficult, and then landing rather than crashing out. Each stunt track is a series of jumps and loops and whilst different the whole experience is underdone. Joe Danger here is a much better bet.
There is plenty more to occupy whilst stumbling through the final levels. You can deck your rider out in various sets of gear and try out different bikes - including quads this time out; for certain levels only, alas. You don’t get to see the two in combo in the menus though as it never seems to actually load the images before it’s moved onto the level itself. You can try out the very many user-created tracks and you can make your own using the powerful but unsurprisingly cumbersome editing toolset provided on console. You can play multiplayer if you’re lucky enough to have people over and one day might even get to do it via the wonders of the world-wide web. Currently online multiplayer is not available but has been promised as free DLC in the near-future. All the while you can marvel at your career level going up thanks to the multitude of XP you generate on career and user-made tracks.
Ultimately what RedLynx has done here is create Trials for the current generation, and brought it to more folks than ever before given the cross-platform availability. They’ve managed to retain the brilliant physics-based gaming we’ve seen before and ensure it’s possible for newcomers and old pros alike to succeed - to some extent, at least. Where they’ve brought new elements into play the results are mixed. Quad bikes are great fun but stunt-based tracks are less exciting than they should be. Regardless there’s a lot to do, a lot of ways to do it and it can all be done in a pretty and entertaining ecosystem. Whilst it’s not going to wow anyone familiar or otherwise with the series, it’s going to keep most happy for a pretty long time.