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Trials Fusion - Review
How do you improve on a game like Trials Evolution? Simple, have Ubisoft throw a lot more money at it.
That's the general impression you get when you first boot up Trials Fusion, the third instalment in developer RedLynx's biking series. The flashy menus, bigger production values and even a cheesy electronic soundtrack with booming vocals are all there to greet you on the main menu, along with persistent requests to log into your Uplay account...
While the aesthetics might have had an overhaul, the gameplay remains essentially the same. For those new to the series, Trials Fusion has you driving a back along a 2D track, with the only controls being the ability to lean back and forth and hit the gas pedal. It's deliciously simple, but tucked away behind this basic control scheme is an incredibly challenging game. As with the previous two titles, early tracks may seem easy, but once you've hit the halfway mark and the game wants you to repeatedly pull off bunny hops, then the difficulty kicks in.
Despite the genuine difficulty, Trials has always been a series that's great even for people that don't play games. There's an incredibly moreish feel to Trials' gameplay, with "just one more go" being uttered numerous times as you just try to correct that one jump that you've missed for the past twenty minutes. It's one hell of an addictive game, and there's few titles that come close to its ability to just be picked up and played instantly.
So what's different this time around? Honestly, not a whole lot, and that's where the game's draw begins to wane somewhat, especially for long-term fans. The main campaigns is divided into eight progressively harder selections of tracks, most being simple race challenges but there's a smattering of other objectives thrown in there to keep things from becoming too stale.
One of the major new additions is the ability to use the right analogue stick to perform different stunts on your bike. Hold the stick to the left for example, and your rider will grab on to the back of the bike, netting you points all while you still have airtime. Fail to correct yourself before a landing however and it'll all be for nothing; injecting an interesting risk versus reward dynamic into the Trials gameplay. Do you play it safe and boring, or do you risk that double front flip into three different stunts that'll net you a ton of style points?
Unfortunately, the stunts themselves haven't been handled all that well. It's not so much of a problem in more basic challenges, but when the game asks you to pull off specific stunts, it can be difficult to register the right one. Moving the right analogue stick is likely to have your poor ragdoll driver flipping about in 360 degree chaos, as his body flails about pulling off all kinds of contortions except the one you actually want.
The selection of bikes also seems a little lacklustre. In addition to few bike variants - some better at stunts, others at racing - there's also an ATV to try to mix things up a little. It's somewhat disappointing though, there's very few customization options between the different vehicles which would have helped add a little depth to the pre-race selection. Biker customization is also a little simple, with only a few different styles to mix and match like you're crafting a little Lego character.
Speaking of crafting, track maker returns and is now even more impressive. It's definitely the game's saving grace, with the single player tracks being crafted by the developer using the same tools available to players. It's by no means an easy feat though; creating your own track that's on par with the ones already in the game isn't going to be done overnight. It's a powerful level editor and adds a lot of long-term value to a game that's rather simple on the surface but you'll need to do your homework to use it effectively.
At the time of reviewing there were already around 12,000 user-created tracks available and keep in mind this was in the game's first month of release. Players have already been busy at work and already there's some impressive levels to show for it. Driving through a track version of Arkham Asylum was something of a high point, with the level even having the little green question marks slapped all over it, courtesy of the Riddler. One player had even made an entire level take place in the middle of a tornado, with the track being formed out of chunks of road blown about by the wind.
The level editor, along with a handful of multiplayer modes, are easily the best elements of a game that was at risk of being too similar to what had come before it. It's still difficult to see who Trials Fusion is actually aimed at; hardcore Trials fans are going to struggle to see all that many differences, even the Xbox One/PS4 versions only look slightly better than the 360 version, giving the impression this game was designed to sucker in new fans to the series.
As an example of what can be done with such a simple set of mechanics, Trials Fusion is up there with the best. But as an example of what can be done with what's now a five year old series, the game's signature gameplay is beginning to wane a little.
Trials Fusion was released on April 16th for the 360, Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
This review was based on the Xbox One version.
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