It doesn’t feel like two years ago (nearly to the day) that Trials Evolution came out. But in that time, Ubisoft have acquired RedLynx and, well, it seems they’ve pretty much let them get on with what they do best (aside from adding super long credit sequences at the end of games) and make Trials games at their own pace, with the same highly skilled track designers that make the series what it is: rewarding and highly challenging.
Only, diminishing returns means that someone who has played the last few entries in the series will race through a large portion of the tracks, getting gold medals and topping their leaderboard of friends, earning kudos and rivalries in the process. The real gold is (and probably always will) getting past the forced tutorials, accelerating through the easy tracks and unlocking the ball-bustingly hard tracks that truly challenge you.
Just as before, you’ll have to earn an increasing amount of medals to unlock the higher difficulties, only this time around, RedLynx have added challenges in an effort to make the easier tracks worth revisiting – rather successfully so. In tandem with the new challenge mode, you can now perform tricks on your bike, which is a slightly less successful addition.
While the three challenges per track offer a reason for the more hardcore players to spend more time on the easy tracks, they will frustrate the mid-level racers, because some are so obtuse, or just plain awkward, that they will only really offer end-game content – something to do when you’ve exhausted all other options. They reward you with XP, and your profile will continuously level up (at a rapid pace, to be honest with you) over three categories: single player, multiplayer, and track central. Each level goes towards an overall numerical value, and as you go through them, you’ll unlock bike upgrades or costumes. You can also do that via uPlay, if you fancy the squirrel head – and who wouldn’t?
The tricks are a nice idea, but they are tricky to perform. Put simply: when in the air, depending on which angle your bike is at, you can use the right stick to perform one of many tricks. As your bike changes angle, so does the required direction needed to perform said tricks. Due to the sheer amount of perpetual motion involved, and the physics of your rider, it takes a while to get used to sticking a landing, as a sudden violent swing of the bike’s trajectory will happen as your rider swings back onto his bike. Often, one of the challenges for a track will involve a specific trick at a specific location, while others may require ten flips while retaining a gold medal. You may love the tricks, (I didn’t) but that’s mostly because it feels as though the new trick courses (FMX-ones) take the place of more tracks, as opposed to being in addition to them.
There are a decent amount of tracks, but the presence of a “season pass” button that promises six content packs full of tracks and customisable parts advises us that there’s plenty more to come. Each region of the game has around four to five standard tracks (some more, some less) and a mini-game, and when you get a few regions into the career, there will be an FMX trick-track too.
Visually, Fusion looks great, but while the aesthetic makes sense for the futuristic angle RedLynx have gone for (even attempting some weird narrative between rider and female computer announcer), it left me a little cold. It does look very shiny and next-generation though, and even has plenty of lens flare to prove it. In fact, the character of Fusion is often hidden for you to find. For example, one challenge requires you to stop on a tennis court, whereby the camera angle switches, and you’re playing a bizarre version of Virtua Tennis against a penguin. Win the match and you complete the challenge. That’s the kind of thing that makes Trials so wonderful – the absolute madness of it all. It’s there, you just have to search for it. Oh, and yes, there are twenty squirrels to find.
The bikes themselves are varied, and the introduction of a quad bike is a fun one. It feels supremely powerful and quick, but certain bikes are only allowed on certain levels. Multiplayer is back of course, though at the time of writing it was only possible to test the local version, as RedLynx are bringing the asynchronous multiplayer mode at a later date. There are options in the menus that would appear to hint at some really interesting stuff, such as Tournaments, or Teams, but when selected they just tell us that they’re coming soon.
Of course, some will just spend hours creating their own tracks for others to enjoy, and there are lots of options to browse other people’s ideas. It looks as though RedLynx will continue to select tracks and promote them, while you can create your own “tiles” in the creation central, and pick favourites. It’s all as you’d expect, and looks very deep, if you choose it.
A lot of the smaller issues from previous titles return, including occasional texture pop-in (often at the start of races), and load times. While it doesn’t take an eternity to load a track, it does take long enough that it’s worth mentioning here. Being on PlayStation 4 this time means that you can play Fusion via remote play. It works pretty well, but if you experience even slight latency between devices, it’s going to make those harder tracks very difficult. Unfortunately the “track restart” button is mapped to the front left of the screen (pause is front right), meaning that you can (and I did, many times) accidentally restart a track I was a decent way into.
VERDICT: Even if you don’t have the skill to thrash Fusion to within an inch of it’s life, the excellent addition of challenges will mean there is always plenty to do. The hard tracks are very hard (in fact, the extreme ones are possibly the hardest I’ve ever seen in a trials game), but just as rewarding as ever. Tricks will be welcomed by some, and others will not like them, but what you can’t deny is that RedLynx really do know what they’re doing. The physics of the bikes still feel superb, and if you’ve played Trials before, you’ll happily slip right back into Fusion with ease.
Regardless of negatives, Trials Fusion is still a fun, yet hard-core twitch-based experience that will give you hours of pleasure (depending on your definition of the word), but the best part of it is still the competition it creates with your friends list, and with that in mind, I’ll see you on the leaderboards, folks.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by by publisher.