Flipping into the Future
Part obstacle course, part time trial, with a large amount of frustration and feelings of loathing towards your friends, there is a unique recipe that forms the foundation of the Trials franchise. RedLynx managed to improve everything we knew about this formula with Trials Evolution, but with promises of tricks and a futuristic setting, is Trails Fusion breaking the mold, or just messing with a solid foundation?
First and foremost, I want to address the difficulty of Trials. Whether you’re a newcomer or a veteran, Trials Fusion (much like its predecessors) has an extremely high difficulty level throughout its last levels, and a steep learning curve on the way to getting there. While this might be a drawback for other titles, this is a core piece of the Trials design and I feel it works to the game’s advantage. Much like rhythm games, the harder levels are meant to be something that requires practice and will frustrate players until they manage to cross the finish line and feel like they’ve actually accomplished something. In comparison to previous titles, Trials Fusion is a bit easier on the learning curve, but possibly slightly harder on the hard and extreme tracks.
Now I’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about Trials Fusion. For anyone new to the franchise, Trials Fusion is the latest installment in the Trials franchise, which challenges you with getting a motocross rider to the end of a track. The track itself could simply require judging the distance of some jumps, or it could require navigating a complex course of obstacles and hazards. Your time is, of course, recorded and competing against the times of your friends is half the fun. The controls in Trials Fusion are a little hard to describe. While the actual physics and gameplay feel largely unchanged from Trials Evolution, it feels like everything is a bit more responsive (although this could be a side-effect of using newer controllers). The only major change that has been made to the controls comes as part of Trials Fusion’s largest addition to the Trials formula… FMX.
FMX brings with it 2 major changes. The ability to do tricks while in the air, and FMX events. Adding tricks to Trials isn’t actually a bad idea. While some veterans may be against the idea, it is possible to progress through and complete the game without ever needing to do a single trick beyond the FMX tutorial, if you wish. Beyond that, there is one FMX level at the end of each series of events, and tricks are required for some challenges (more on that later).
At first, I didn’t like the controls for the FMX tricks. The physics of the game, combined with the right analogue stick movements required to do tricks can make it quite hard to get a trick to lock in, or actually do the trick you had in your mind. This was until I spent some time with one of the skill games. It challenges you to complete specific tricks, and gives you images to show how each trick is done. This goes a long way in teaching specific tricks, and helps to understand how the system works. Before long, I was pulling gold medals on every FMX event, and eventually I found myself randomly throwing tricks into normal levels that I was confident on (most veterans will likely remember doing the same thing with flips in previous games). At the end of the day, FMX is a good addition, if you put the time in to learn how to do it properly.
The other main addition in Trials Fusion is Challenges. My first run through the game, I disregarded challenges as a minor distraction to encourage replayability… Never have I been so wrong. Each level in Trials fusion has 3 challenges, which are typically something simple like performing 10 flips in a 0-fault run. If you pay close attention though, most levels have at least one challenge that sounds a bit odd, such as ‘Offer at least 1 football to the god of footballs’. In this particular case, reversing from the starting line of the level attaches a trailer full of soccer balls to your bike. You then need to tow the trailer halfway through the level without losing all the balls. These challenges are amazingly fun, and give players a reason to spend a lot more time on tracks they might have otherwise never rode again. I can complete the previously mentioned track in 50 seconds, but that challenge took me over an hour (it’s harder than it sounds, I swear).
The theme for Trials Fusion seems to be ‘The Future’, based on the obligatory intro song, the smooth metal and glass surfaces and the abundance of lights found throughout the game. This generally works in the game’s favour, allowing for slick and clean menus and electronic ambient music that doesn’t feel too intrusive. What is a futuristic game with robots though? Trials Fusion gives your bike an on-board AI, as well as an announcer / PSA system that interact with each other and provide some funny one-liners while you’re riding along. Together they provide dialogue that makes a sort of story to tie everything together. It’s little more than some dialogue related to the area you’re currently riding through, but I felt it was a nice touch.
The only real downside to Trials Fusion is the performance. For a title that’s releasing on next-gen platforms, its performance feels remarkably last-gen. While there are some graphical enhancements that generally make everything that bit shinier and the lights brighter than ever, there are still a few performance issues. There’s nothing that will ruin your game, but the odd framerate drop or screen tear is present, and some loading times feel long (particularly when accessing the bike garage). It’s not major, but it just feels like it shouldn’t be struggling to run on current hardware.
Everything else Trials Fusion brings to the table is exactly what you’d expect. The tracks are excellently designed, the game is loaded with fun little secrets to be found, and Track Central is present as always. I’m personally not particularly good at creating tracks, and at the time of reviewing it’s still a bit early to tell what’s going to come out of it, but there are already a few good ideas appearing in community tracks (and a lot of mytrack4, with a start and finish line right next to each other). Multiplayer also returns, although at launch it is local multiplayer only.
If you’ve played a previous Trials game and felt like you needed more, Trials Fusion is it. Everything about it feels slightly shinier and slightly better than Trials Evolution and there’s enough content and replayability to justify the price. If you’ve never played a Trials game, start here.
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4 and PC