It’s hard to believe that the once flash-based game Trials has bloomed into a successful and highly popular franchise, but here we are today, sitting with the fourth major installment ready to ship on a new set of consoles. The team at RedLynx took the simple idea of a 2D motorbike game and converted it into a trial-and-error experience. Even though the formula hasn’t change drastically in the last ten years, it’s a well-conceived set of mechanics that will have anyone and everyone addicted. Having produced enclosed and nature-based tracks in past titles, the Finnish developer sets their eyes to a clean futuristic aesthetic.
The gameplay is easy to grasp; you either let off the throttle or go full blast. On rare occasions reverse will be needed, but otherwise, it’s all about holding down R2 (or RT) and hoping the unfortunate biker can make it on the other side of the map as quick as possible and unscathed. It’s all about angles during a jump as, depending where the custom-built avatar may land, he will have either a smooth recovery or a terrible one. This leads to the main goal of shaving as much time as you can off the end results to place on the furiously competitive leaderboards or just earn a better medal. There are new objective-based tasks for each stage, ranging from flipping a number of times without faulting to wheeling a lengthy platform. These are interesting ways to approach a level instead of trying to best a time, but the reward and gratification is not worth it, especially considering most of them are can be incredible difficult.
This gameplay structure hasn’t changed much from past installments with controls and mechanics more or less the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s an addictive and enjoyable formula, but it feels like a shinier skin on top of something we’ve already become accustom to for many years now. The visual aesthetic is by far the biggest change as, instead of maneuvering through warehouses and the wilderness, Fusion now takes place in a futuristic utopia where everything is simplistically vibrant. This means no more riding over flaming canisters and giant logs, but instead they are replaced with clean white or black ramps. There are some sections of the game that will have the player driving across more nature-rich environments, but they are too few and far between. There’s just has a lavish look to the game, with a setting of animating platforms that build the track right in front of you.
This is more than likely determinate on whether or not players are familiar with the series, but I feel as if the levels are far less challenging. In past installments, it didn’t take long before the tracks became difficult enough where settling with a silver was recommended, whereas in Fusion, it will have fans breezing through anything that isn’t categorized as “hard.” With that said, compared to the last two games, the beginner levels do feel a little more evened out, not necessarily easing in newcomers to the experience. This means that for five of the eight themes, the difference in challenge is minimal, whereas past that the difficulty spikes fast.
Other than two different stages (Cactus Challenge and Rainforest Rumble), most of the environments have a similar clean futuristic template that it’s a little hard to differentiate from time to time. There are small alterations such as snow starting to pileup or having a more metropolitan setting, but really most of the game’s art feels way too similar. Fortunately, players will more than likely be driving so fast that they’ll only catch a glimpse of the backgrounds around them. It’s also a nice change of pace compared to the rather drab colors of Trials HD and nature-focused Evolution, but it’s as if they only looked outside of the box in the later levels. It certainly doesn’t help that there’s some serious pop-in issues that plague the game. These generally popup right at the beginning of a track and will even occur when you press the left side of the touchpad to restart a race. Sometimes high-resolution textures won’t load until you’re well past the first part of the course, making a cringe-worthy first impression.
The series is also very well known for its level creation and sharing capabilities, and they’re all here. If you have the time and dedication to do so, you’re able to craft tracks of epic proportions. The idea behind this new futuristic world is that, as much as each track is segmented, it’s all a part of one giant world. The editor certainly shows this off as the player is able to go from the snowy mountains in the north to the desolate deserts in the south. This is a complete editor, almost too powerful, allowing players to place and modify existing models in the environment. The problem here stems from no real instructions. It’s incredibly intimidating going into the editor, especially to anyone who hasn’t messed around with something like a game engine or 3D modeling program, yet all potential tutorials are recommended in a buried menu asking you to go to their YouTube channel. Outside of sharing your homemade tracks, there’s also a somewhat strong multiplayer component originally introduced in Trials Evolution. Here, players compete with three others in an all-for-one race against the clock in upwards of ten different levels organized by the host. Unfortunately, while this is an incredibly enjoyable part of the game, there’s no online capabilities. It’s a couch-only experience, letting only a few experience its true potential.
Another downside is that Trials Fusion suffers from an unfortunate case of long load times, not necessarily bordering on the levels of Joe Danger, but it can become an issue for those wishing to get right into a race. As a game that’s all about constantly replaying levels to the point you’re shaving off tenths of a second to ensure you’re ahead of competition and friends, it sure has excruciating long waits before jumping right back in. Restarting in the middle of a track when faulting is almost instantaneous, but if you get to the end of the track and view the results, for whatever reason, Fusion needs to reload the entire stage over again. This can take fifteen to twenty extra seconds each time, forcing you to look at a logo for far longer. This really interrupts the flow of the addictive racer, discouraging those who play to do better when they get to the results screen. This also applies to viewing which bike will be used on the course and getting into your garage.
Trials Fusion is basically what we’ve come to expect from the series, just with a shinier new coat of paint. It’s still the incredibly addictive racer that we’ve come to love, but unfortunately it has a few screws loose. With an editor that lacks the essentials of instructions, a gripping multiplayer experience that’s limited to offline play, a campaign that only gets good in the later second half, and discouraging load times, Trials Fusion is far from perfect. Fortunately for fans, there’s a lot of meat on this bone and should subside your hunger for another Trials game.
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4