When Urban Trial Freestyle was released earlier this year for the PS Vita and PS3, we thought it was a decent attempt at the formula. It didn't do anything revolutionary or push the subgenre forward, but it was fun in its own way. Months after those releases and the release on the 3DS eShop, the game has hit the PC, home to the most updated Trials experience in the form of Trials Revolution: Gold Edition. The question is now whether the extra months of development on a more powerful platform paid off.
For those unfamiliar with the previous games or the formula, Urban Trial Freestyle is something of a physics-based platformer with a bike. The goal is to get your bike from one end of an obstacle course to another in one piece and with as few crashes as possible. The courses are purely in 2-D despite the 3-D presentation, and you only move from left to right, but everything you encounter becomes something of a balancing act. Everything you ride and jump on, from beams to stairs to trucks, has to be hit just right or you'll see a dramatic drop in speed or bail from your bike.
The levels are split into two gameplay types. Time trials entail completing the course as quickly as possible while a ghost of the best time races alongside you, sometimes showing the techniques to reach that record speed. The other gameplay type is more of a stunt track, as the game has specific stunt spots for you to score points. Whether it's in the longest jump, highest jump or trying to get as close to a target area when jumping or landing, you'll be given a score based on that performance. You'll also get your own personal record marker and the marker of the top leaderboard position for that stunt in that track, complete with Steam avatar picture on the billboard. In both cases, your finishing time/score is converted into stars, and the stars are used to access any of the 40 levels in the five worlds that comprise the campaign.
Along with the star system for level progression, players can upgrade their bike stats with cash picked up in each level. The chassis, engine and wheels can be upgraded, and all of those parts affect the acceleration, top speed and handling of the bike in both negative and positive ways. Unlike other upgrade systems that are completely positive, this one relies on a trade-off system, where an item like the engine can give you a massive boost in acceleration and top speed but at a significant handling cost.
Based on the descriptions, one can easily figure out that Urban Trial Freestyle doesn't introduce anything new. The mechanics are essentially the same as the other vehicle-based physics platform racers, and the aesthetic is also similar — right down to the rider's face never being visible. The only difference is that progression in the game is much easier. The levels are nicely designed, with a few sporting alternate paths for some variety, but the menacing obstacles don't show up until the last few levels. Even then, very few objects seem insurmountable, and the ghost riders often show you they're possible to overcome.
The physics has seen some improvement over the initial iterations on other platforms. There's much more forgiveness when it comes to landing from jumps, and the shifting of weight, while still important, doesn't have complete governance over whether you bail. Hitting objects also seems to be more forgiving, though that is all nullified if your rider hits an object — that's an instant bail. There are still instances when the physics goes awry, especially if you tap explosive canisters, which propel you in any direction. Only a few of the levels have such explosives, but with each bail deducting 50 points from your score, it can be infuriating if you lightly tap an object.
Two flaws really stand out. The first is in the use of recycled levels. While 40 levels may seem like a good number, only half that number is unique. Levels are used twice for each gameplay type, and the same event beats are still present. The layout for each level is also the same per mode, so players immediately notice the level recycling in play, dampening the excitement for the initial number of levels.
The second item that degrades the overall game quality is the lack of a level creator. To this day, only the 3DS iteration contains a level editor, and while it may have been fine to exclude on the PS3 or Vita, it makes no sense for the PC version. With both of the game's main competitors offering a creation system and with the game on Steam (giving it access to Steam Workshop), there's a prime opportunity for a near-infinite resource of levels. It's frustrating that the title isn't tapping into such a resource.
Graphically, Urban Trial Freestyle doesn't look that different from the PS3 version, with the exception of the ability to go 1080p and above. The nature of upscaled resolution means the environments look a little better, but that can also be attributed to the presence of bystanders and flying papers in the air, something that was greatly lacking in the Vita version. The particle effects from dust and explosions aren't bad, and the same goes for the lighting. The environments always remain busy, since there's always something going on, independent of your rider's actions. The frame rate is also pretty solid, and it's great to see the chaos occur at above 60 fps. Interestingly, the game still sports areas of slowdown when particles are present. Even on a very powerful machine, the frame rate takes a dip. It's unexpected for a title that looks like it was made with the home consoles in mind.
On the sound front, things have marginally improved. There is a lot more street chatter to accompany the people in the environment, and while none of it is intelligible, it enriches the environments. The rider's voice and utterances remain the same; there's no improvement in the delivery of some of his more frustrating comments, but on the default setting, his voice can sometimes be drowned out by the sound effects. The motorcycle engine buzz is the only thing you hear sometimes, but the effect is accurate, if annoying. The music is also quite generic, going for typical rap and rock beats throughout each map and menu. It does the job, and it isn't grating.
Urban Trial Freestyle isn't bad. Some players will enjoy the slightly more lax physics system compared to similar games in the subgenre, and the constant use of leaderboards and ghost riders makes for a decent substitute to actual multiplayer. However, the recycling of levels is disappointing, and the lack of any creation system really hammers home just how small the game really is. Even though it's competitively priced compared to its contemporaries, Urban Trial Freestyle can only be recommended if you've already gone through those other titles and if this game is on sale at a good discount.
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