Buy Trials Fusion
The Trials series has seen a lot of success on consoles since Trials HD debuted on Xbox Live Arcade in 2009. Having started out as a PC title in 2000, the series has only been released on Microsoft platforms until the recent Trials Frontier for Android and iOS. Trials Fusion marks the first time the physics-driven series has seen the light of day on the PlayStation brand. This review is for the Xbox One version, but regardless of the platform, this is a great entry point for the Trials series.
In Trials Fusion, you take an unnamed rider across a series of progressively challenging tracks, gain medals based on completion times or other metrics, and unlock additional content along the way. Fusion introduces a futuristic spin, which is aided by robotic AI announcers and general aesthetics. You'll still see lush, rainforest-inspired tracks, arid deserts, and arctic winterlands, but there's a pervasive hint of future tech to just about every aspect of the game. It gives Trials Fusion a distinct identity when compared to other Trials games, and it looks pretty great on the new generation of consoles.
Trials Fusion also features the same intense difficulty of its brethren. Frustration is bound to creep in when you hit the same wall or platform over and over again, spin out of control, and crash more often than not. Thanks to the excellent controls and physics, though, you'll have little trouble figuring out where you went wrong. It might take some time for you to learn how to correct your mistakes, but there's little doubt that any error was yours, and not a shortcoming in the game design.
The only time this doesn't seem completely true is in the busier, darker stages. There are a handful of instances where I felt my view was needlessly obstructed, making it difficult to see a landing before I was already on top of it. Thankfully, restarting is a breeze, so it doesn't take a great deal of effort to learn what the course has in store and how to predict it.
While Trials Fusion feels similar to its predecessors, there are a few new elements that go further than a new coat of paint. One big addition is the introduction of tricks, which are hit-and-miss for me. You encounter FMX tracks in the campaign mode, which outfits you with a stunt bike that can achieve greater air time than other vehicles at your disposal. You run across a length of ramps, allowing you to twist and turn your rider in mid-air to perform a large variety of tricks. All of these tricks are mapped to the right analog stick, allowing you to feel out how to pull off a specific trick based on which direction you're pressing.
This sounds simple enough, but it can be frustrating to try to nail a specific trick using the analog stick. Pressing left, right, up and down generally gives you basic tricks, but more complex moves require you to position your rider and bike in a specific manner. You'll need to move deftly between both analog sticks, and it can get a little confusing and has a tendency to mess with your landings since the physics given to weight distribution are far less predictable. Considering that the gut of Trials mechanics are featured on its well-known and familiar physics, removing that predictability makes for a much tougher experience with very little fun as a trade-off.
Tricks are less problematic on the FMX courses because you can string together enough basic tricks to score a silver or gold medal without too much hassle. There are only one or two FMX tracks within most of the eight "worlds" in the campaign. The issues with tricks become more evident in the "Skill Game" events, where you'll need to pull off specific tricks in mid-air. This is where I really found the system to be unfortunately vague and not nearly as intuitive as the designers may have intended. Overall, I found the skill system to be a wash, and it's not something that I'd care to see return in future installments without some significant improvements.
One positive feather in Trials Fusion's cap comes from the extensive track editor, which allows you to use a host of tools to build your own masochistic track fantasies and share them with the community. There are already a hefty number of tracks available to download, significantly bolstering the 60+ tracks included in the campaign. You can rank player-created tracks, and Trials Fusion does a pretty great job of automatically sorting the quality tracks from the rest. You'll have a hard time running out of new content, and downloading new tracks only takes a few seconds.
If you're really interested in building tracks, I'd urge you to check out the YouTube videos posted by developer RedLynx, which offer a number of tutorials on how to get started. It would've been nice to see some in-game tutorial functions, but it takes little effort to navigate to YouTube and check them out. Even without the tutorials, I found the tools to be well organized and labeled, and they were easy enough to navigate and figure out with minimal effort. Of course, making everything come together in a fun, playable fashion is more involved, but with a few hours, you'll come up with basic building blocks of a suitable first track. Saving and uploading is simple, and there are a ton of cosmetic options to give your track some much-needed visual flair. I had a surprising amount of fun with the track editor, which I historically have trouble with, so I was certainly pleased by its ease of use.
The multiplayer portion of Trials Fusion only supports local play, and it doesn't have much in the way of significant content. You can play a number of tracks with up to four players, but I had little chance to test it out at home. I'd love to see online multiplayer patched in with a future update because I think it would work really well here. Of course, ghosts from your friends list will still appear in the campaign, and they're immensely helpful in figuring out how you can improve on a given track. Having a hefty friends list with active Trials Fusion players is a huge benefit, both in a competitive sense and in encouraging constant improvement that goes beyond securing the gold medal.
All in all, I find myself very happy with what Trials Fusion has to offer, and I think this is a fantastic first entry for the new generation of console hardware. It's a great-looking game with active background and foreground elements, fantastic track designs, an interesting future aesthetic, and some strangely appealing narrative pieces provided by the quirky AI announcer. While the general Trials mechanics are largely unchanged, outside of the misstep represented by the tricks system, I've never seen much need for improvement in the series' basic controls and physics. RedLynx certainly hasn't lost any of the ideas that make the Trials series so much fun to play and has escalated the track design in a way that makes this game feel fresh and new, despite being the 13th entry in a decade-old series.
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