Trials Fusion (PC) Review: Back From the Future

trials-fusion-headerAs I mentioned in the last Trials game review, this is a game that’s been around since Miniclip was one of the top sites in the world for gaming. The series has evolved since the original Trials game. It’s gone from Java to a proper standalone release.

With that change, so did the tone of the series. It went from a slightly over the top recreation of professional trials competition to a cartoony extreme sports arcade game.

Trials Fusion is the first Trials game released on next-gen consoles but despite the game being set in the future and the evolution of consoles and the evolution of the game’s graphics, Red Lynx didn’t really do much to evolve the gameplay.

If you’ve played a recent Trials game, chances are that you’ll be very familiar with Trials Fusion. The premise of the game is still to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible while faulting (falling or crashing) as few times as possible. The better you do, the better you score which allows you to unlock more levels.

The game certainly has a difficulty curve as you progress. The early levels are fairly easy to get through without a fault unless you’re like me and do stupid things to liven the game up a bit and end up faulting as a result. By the time you get to the fourth or so set of levels, it gets so painfully hard that you’ll never see the full $20 worth of content.

While I say that the game hasn’t really changed much, there are a couple of additions to the game. The game added an ATV to the vehicle lineup. It, like all the bikes in the game, has a different feel from the rest of the vehicle inventory. It’s a bit easier to ride, I’ve found. It’s a bit more forgiving on landings and has just the right amount of torque so you can gun the engine without ending up on your head. It’s just too bad you can only use it on a handful of levels because I’d like to have unlocked it for all levels.

What I’d imagine would be classified as the big addition is the new trick system. Tied to the right stick of your controller (I don’t know where it is on the keyboard controls) is the ability to pull off tricks in mid-air.

trials-fusion-screenshot-01While it’s nice that the trick system is fairly basic in that you push a direction on the right thumbstick and you do a trick in that direction of the bike, it doesn’t always seem to trigger scoring. Coming from the Tony Hawk scoring of points for doing a trick with some immediate feedback, it feels odd to flick my thumb stick, watch my character do his thing and wait three-quarters of my air time for the game to register the trick.

Of course, I should note that the trick system is really only used in a handful of levels. With all the time that you’d imagine was spent on developing the trick system, you’d think that they would find some way for it to benefit gamers outside the trick levels. A boost on landing if you trick during a jump or something like that. Instead, it’s a little add-on that has limited benefit.

Speaking of useless, those random skill games at the end of every level set are beyond useless. With little explanation as to how they work or feedback on how to improve, they tend to be an exercise in frustration. If it wasn’t for the fact that these skill games awarded medals and those are required for progression, I wouldn’t play them, let alone mention them.

I mentioned it off the top but it bears repeated that there is a reason why I played controller-only. Controlling your bike is hard with the controller and I’d imagine that it would be nearly impossible with the keyboard. The amount of precision that Trials Fusion requires at times is cripplingly frustrating at times. For a game that wears arcadey clothing and relishes in it, Fusion certainly tries very hard to be a physics sim. The game makes your eyes think one thing while your brain is trying to override and do something else.

trials-fusion-screenshot-02On the plus side, Red Lynx has put a lot of work into the graphics. The dirt mounds and construction zones of older games has been replaced with a futuristic design motif. Everything looks very clean and polished. The bikes look like modern bikes but everything else has been hit with a coating of cyberpunk. Even if the environments don’t seem to have a lot of variety, the design is fresh enough that I like it.

Of note is the particle effects. You have to look for it but the exhaust and other particle effects off your bike look very sharp. In addition to the nicer textures and lovely lighting engine, the visuals aren’t mindblowingly next-gen but they’ve certainly improved over Evolution.

Now, I can’t do a review without mentioning some issues. Even though I’m using a controller, the mouse pointer is permanently on the screen. I don’t know why but it won’t go away. I’ve also noted some texture pop-in when restarting levels and going back to some checkpoints. The textures are loaded ahead but seem to be dropped from whatever tech thing the textures are loaded into when gaming when you drive by that point of the track.

As was the case last time, the Steam forums for this game are littered with NVIDIA users noting that the experience is terrible. Red Lynx seems to have a problem developing for the green brand’s GPUs and that’s going to hurt most of your PC market since they’re the leading gaming GPU. There are reports of framerate chugging and slow motion gameplay if you can’t keep a certain framerate (likely 60 FPS).

Also, the online multiplayer isn’t ready yet. It’s coming but won’t be out for a while. Ubisoft says it’s because it wasn’t popular in Trials Evolution. If you were hoping to play online with your friends, wait until that feature comes out. By that point, you might be able to catch it on a Steam sale.

By the way, I think the game is trying some sort of GLaDOS thing with the disembodied computer voice that keeps talking to you during the game. I got to the second or third to last section of the game so maybe the story, if you want to call it that, reaches a conclusion. I wasn’t a fan of the fact that all dialogue was triggered at a certain location in a level so it played every time you passed it. Heard dialogue and start from a checkpoint behind where it started? You’ve got to hear it again. That’s not particularly good programming.

Conclusion

trials-fusion-promo-01If you’re a Trials fan, you’re still going to love it. I don’t think anyone will change your mind on that even with the aforementioned issues and a price point to content ratio that I find a little lacking compared to Trials Evolution.

If you’re not a Trials fan or are uncertain about it, there’s nothing new to really recommend it to you. It’s a good game for what it is but it’s not a good game that you’ll insist your friends have to play or will see on the long list for year-end awards.

Trials Fusion won’t greatly disappoint but it won’t astound either. It’s not a step forward but it’s not a step back. It’s just steady as she goes. I would have hoped that jumping to a new generation of gaming would open up the creative taps but changing the setting and adding tricks in a limited number of levels isn’t moving forward. It’s just the status quo. It really can’t be more than okay if it doesn’t aspire to something more.

Rating: 6.5/10

Trial Fusion was reviewed on Windows PC but is also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Your impressions of the game may differ depending on the platform played on, PC specs and whether you actually want your games to try rather than being a jumped up cash-in.

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