Game: Urban Trial Freestyle
Developer: Tate Interactive
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
No one ever said that the Trials series is a genre unto itself. RedLynx’s effort was just a modern day version of Excitebike, so why shouldn’t Tate Interactive try and bring that winning formula to the PlayStation systems and Nintendo 3DS? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, sure – yet there’s a fine line between inspiration and straight up mimicry. The Trials titles have a been a great success on Microsoft’s home console due to a number of reasons. Urban Trial Freestyle won’t be, also due to a number of reasons.
Straight out of the gate, a “story” (and I use that word in the loosest sense) is present where a generic biker-chap is on the run from the law ’cause… he drives bikes really fast? Honestly, this “arc” is referenced in the opening cinematic and never referred to again, with the exception being the main menu where police radio calls can be heard.
Even though Tate Interactive attempt to pigeon hole – and then quickly, kill – a plot, where Urban Trial Freestyle will be judged is within the gameplay and the tracks on offer. With a giant stretch and a vociferous yawn, it can be said that it’s all a bit blasé. The popular twitch-based bike game on 360 will punish you for an analog stick gone awry or a jolt forward where the player dogged the throttle, whereas the mechanics in Urban Trial Freestyle never feel quite as refined or responsive. Mistakes do happen in Tate Interactive’s jaunt, but more often than not, the player is being punished by dynamic objects being thrown in their direction. Whether that’s a shopping trolley or a set of sharply raising platforms, whenever UTF tries to be clever, it regularly fizzles out to a whimper.
Urban Trial Freestyle does attempt to strap a sense of weight-y-ness to your mount, but even with a customised ride, very little difference is felt in the acceleration, speed or handling. Players collect cash around the tracks upon which they travel, which is then used to purchase a new engine/chassis/tyres for their bike. Even though the stats on-screen are adamant that your upgrade will make your ride a better one, it never feels that way. Minimal adjustment occurs. The bland and “tough-looking” motorcycle enthusiast can also be altered in terms of appearance, but that’s purely on an aesthetic level.
One of the main issues is that finishing a track never feels like an achievement. The majority of the maps are cookie cutter creations and lack real challenge. However, every so often, some levels will contain one particular part where the difficulty spikes to an unfair degree, making the player tear their hair out for 20 or so seconds until they eventually conquer it. It’s more rare than common to encounter a piece of level design that will excite you in Urban Trial Freestyle. If you are careening to your death on the regular, there is a decent enough check point system that you needn’t worry about being penalised – which is actually another problem: even after encountering one of those tracks that I mentioned with the annoying difficulty spikes, you may still pick up a 3/5 star rating from the game. Levels are unlocked via your star count and going back to grind isn’t something you’ll have to worry about much because of how forgiving this game is.
Urban Trial Freestyle is also packing a pitiful amount of maps, which are repeated ad nauseum. Within any of the game’s 5 worlds, you’ll find yourself playing the same tracks again and again. In an attempt to mix things up, Urban Trial Freestyle does include some stunt based levels wherein, at intervals, the game judges you on how many flips you can do, how far you can jump, etc. These levels are fine without being ground-breaking. As a change to the formula it’s good to see, but the frequency at which the player navigates across the same tracks is ultimately jarring.
As the common gamer will play through the merciful campaign in a few hours, there’s a bonus mini-game that is, once again, very similar to that of Trials Evolution: Propelling your rider as far as you can by landing on a gas tank, or getting across a map whilst your petrol runs out are a few of the distractions that will entertain for mere minutes. I don’t use that term lightly, either. There is nothing within these challenges to keep you coming back for more.
Leaderboard-chasing is encouraged here, with ghost riders and all the lark you’ve seen in similar dirtbike titles on other consoles. Asynchronous multiplayer is the only kind of multiplayer you’ll be able to engage with as Urban Trial Freestyle doesn’t cater to those that are looking to race against their buddies – or anyone else, for that matter.
VERDICT: It’s near impossible to not compare this to the Trials series. Ok, so RedLynx didn’t create the genre, but they modernised it for today’s audience. In comparison, Urban Trial Freestyle feels lazy and lacks any personality whatsoever. Glimpses of mediocrity can be seen in its visuals and its stunt courses, yet it’s the mundane execution that wins out the day. The content in this game is laughable and if nothing else, Tate Interactive will learn a valuable lesson: If you come at Trials, you better not miss. This, my friends, is a swing and a very definite miss.