Trials Fusion Review (Xbox One)
Few franchises have been as incredibly frustrating and addictive as Red Lynx's Trials series. Both previous entries (Trials HD and Trials Evolution) were challenging platforming racers pitting you not just against a course, but against your friends and others from around the world. Who could best these ridiculous courses fastest and cleanest? The hours we lost trying to shave tenths of hundreths of seconds were immeasurable. With the arrival of Trials Fusion, we couldn't wait to return to the white-knuckle world Red Lynx had carefully curated. While not as impressive as its predecessor, Trials Fusion still offers a good sense of achievement, even if it is missing a lot of the fun.
The good news is, Trials Fusion is still addictive, even if it is somehow easier than earlier incarnations. We managed to clear through a huge chunk of the tracks and challenges with gold medals with just a few tries. Obviously once we reached the higher echelons of difficulty, the number of gold medals obtained with ease dropped significantly, but we still were able to record great performances with minimal effort. This is in stark contrast to the first two entries in the franchise. Both Trials HD and Evolution had us sharpening our skills well after release, with practice and patience necessary for completely clean runs worthy of gold medals.
Even with a knowledge of how Trials is played, running through Fusion felt entirely too easy. The controls are rather simple, and that's part of what makes Trials such an alluring game; anyone can play. It takes true skill and a mastery of more advanced techniques to ascend to the top of the leaderboards. For those new to the series, there's a great set of tutorials placed before each new set of tracks, offering tips on how to handle obstacles like landing on and jumping from tiny 45-degree platforms, steep vertical ascensions and bunny-hopping while climbing. The try, try again method of traversal is helped by an astute checkpoint system which keeps player momentum moving without making you feel like your progress through a difficult stage was all for naught. The accessibility appeared to be dialed up even further this iteration though, and even some of the medium and hard tracks could easily have been considered easy or medium in previous entries.
The biggest disappointment this time around lies in the removal of a great percentage of the skill games found in Trials HD and Evolution. This time, there are still a handful of skill games like Big Air (think ski jump but with a bike) and Hard Wheeling (where you have to ride as long as you can on your rear wheel only), but a bigger emphasis has been placed on freestyle tricks. Each set of tracks offers one FMX course, where you'll have to wrack up big scores by performing insane aerial stunts that many X-Gamers would likely never try. These sections would have been a great deal of fun had the controls been a tad more consistent. Trick controls are incredibly unreliable, and it's often hard to replicate the commands you know will work with any kind of regularity. Every little details alters the inputs just so slightly, and both the rider and the bike must be in the optimal position for even the simplest of tricks to work properly. When it works, it's spectacular to guide your rider through a flaming ring while gripping the seat from an inverted position. When it doesn't, you're hitting the restart button to attempt getting all the stars to line up properly. It's uneven, and as a pseudo-replacement for the skill games, it's disappointing.
Fortunately, the new creation tools have already led to some of the most inspired user tracks we've ever seen in a Trials game. The do-it-yourself track creator has been implemented before, but just under a week into its lifespan in Fusion, gamers have cobbled together a wide variety of both standard tracks and skill-based courses. New tracks are popping up with regularity, and you can earn medals and best your friends here, too. The added incentive to set some more records, and maybe even dabble a bit in track creation yourself, makes this addition well worth it and the breakdown of all the different options is clear and easy to understand.
Trials has never been a game about the story or even the most minute of voice-over, but this time Red Lynx opted to introduce both. The shoestring narrative is kind of interesting if you're willing to put in the time to fill in the holes. The voice-over however is one of the most grating things in the universe. It's no fault of the voice actors. In a game where you are restarting checkpoints over and over again to clear an obstacle cleanly or improve your time, hearing the same bit of dialogue twice, three times or even 296 times begins to get... annoying isn't quite strong enough a word. It's advisable to turn the dialogue options off once you've reached the late game and heard most of the gist.
As for multiplayer, there's a local component where up to four players can race across a custom curated list of tracks. It's not all that exciting, and what could have been a cool feature ends up being a bit of a throwaway addition. There's more action in trying to top someone's time on the leaderboard, and it's much more enjoyable to focus solely on your racer alone, rather than a crowded screen that follows the leader.
We've already spent dozens of hours with Trials games in the past, and we do like Trials Fusion quite a bit. It just doesn't seem to have that same draw that previous entries did, and the replay desire just isn't as intense as it was before. The form and function are still there, but a bit of the fun magic is missing. It's good to have Trials back, we just wish there was more to it.
This review was completed with a purchased copy of Trials Fusion for Xbox One.