Urban Trial Freestyle is a digital download title released for PSN and available across both Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita platforms, along with a 3DS version. Developed by Tate Interactive, it's essentially a take on the popular Trials HD and Trials Evolution, both of which are exclusive to Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade and PC platforms. If you're a PS3 owner jealous of this fact, Urban Trial Freestyle is certainly a fun enough experience to satiate some desire for a Trials game. However, it's also clearly trying to copy the formula, and the lack of innovation and unique features really hampers the overall enjoyment, especially if you've played through the superior Trials releases.
In Urban Trial Freestyle, you take control of an unnamed motorcycle rider across a series of tracks, modeled in 3-D but with a 2-D path from point A to point B. The difficulty stems from not crashing, as each track is filled with hazards, tricky jumps, steep inclines and other obstacles. Occasionally, the world interacts with your path in interesting ways, via explosions, oncoming traffic, helicopters buzzing overhead, and more. These elements lend themselves well to the urban environments, but sections that are focused on underground areas and construction locations aren't as cohesive to the overall theme.
There are about 40 stages to complete, but they're not entirely unique. Most tracks are repeated multiple times and are divided into five sections comprised of a number of tracks. Stages are locked behind star requirements, which are earned when completing tracks based on how quickly you finished the track for time trial events or how well you performed a certain number of tricks. These are the only two event types throughout the game, so there isn't much in-game variety —another area where Trials HD trumps Urban Trial Freestyle.
There are some customization options available for your bike and your character. Rider customization offers visual changes in the form of helmet types and outfits, and they're solely for fun. Motorcycle customization has some effect on the gameplay. You have three categories to buy parts for, and they can increase or decrease stats like acceleration, handling and top speed. There aren't enough parts available to make interesting custom builds, as there are only three tire types, chassis, and motors in addition to the starting build. You can tell there's an intent for players to switch parts for different events, but the lack of event and track variety means you'll rarely need to mess with customization. Money is scattered liberally throughout each track, and you'll find up to $5,000 in each. Locating all of them for the trophy can be a challenge, but if you're content to find enough to outfit your bike properly, you'll be fine.
On the plus side, the overall track difficulty is well paced. Once you clear the two tutorial missions, which do a decent job of explaining the physics and movement tricks, you'll briskly clear stage after stage. You never really hit a wall in your progress, but you'll definitely notice an increase in challenge after you clear the first set of tracks. The star progression system is smartly used, and as you advance through the later track sets, you'll unlock new content as you collect stars. You'll move through new content and track selections almost constantly, assuming you clear most tracks with a three- or four-star rating. Toward the end of the game, you'll revisit some tracks to earn five-star rankings, so you can see the final content. By this time, you'll be fully upgraded and can easily clear those requirements.
As you clear track lists, you'll unlock special challenge levels that are accessible through the main menu. There's not much point to completing the stages beyond of a single trophy unlock, but some of the challenge stages are quite fun. The final one has you controlling the world using the Six-Axis feature of the DualShock while also controlling your bike, and I certainly wouldn't have minded seeing more levels like this. Other stages, like one that tasks you with bumping a large ball toward a goal, requires a different approach to the gameplay. All in all, the five challenge stages are fun, but they definitely feel limited.
Beyond the main mode and challenge mode, there's not much more content in Urban Trial Freestyle. There are standard leaderboard options, where you can compare your scores with the rest of the world or your friends list. You can race against ghost data in tracks, and you can narrow down that data to the top of the overall leaderboards and friends, or you can race against your own times.
One negative is that the overall leaderboards seem to be filled with cheaters or those who have exploited glitches to achieve ridiculous times. This is more evident when racing against their ghost data, which often disappears from the track at various points or is within viewing distance when you clear the finish line, despite their recorded clear time showing a 20-second (or more) lead. Considering that the game has been out for a little while, it feels safe to say that there's no interest in patching recorded scores for cheaters, making the leaderboard pretty meaningless.
Visually, Urban Trial Freestyle is a far cry from ugly, and while a greater track selection would have been nice, the areas you get are rendered well. You won't have trouble spotting your bike or rider even when debris or other items are flying across the screen. Beyond a few jumps where your view is obscured, I'd hardly label the interactive environment as being too busy. On the audio side, there's little to note. The scant few musical tracks are repeated constantly, and they'll likely be tuned out mentally or physically.
All in all, Urban Trial Freestyle feels like a middling attempt to bring a Trials HD experience to platforms that don't have other alternatives. It's fun enough to play through, but there aren't enough bells and whistles to stand out among its competition on other consoles. Physics and controls feel very similar to Trials HD, if slightly loose in midair. It would have been really nice to see this experience fleshed out a bit more. The cheater-filled leaderboards are really disappointing and remove a major source of fun from the game. I wouldn't classify this as a must-play title, but if you're starved for a Trials HD experience on a non-Microsoft platform, Urban Trial Freestyle does just enough to do the trick.
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