Trials Fusion Review (PC)

Familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say. I’m not entirely sure that this well-worn phrase applies in all circumstances, but when considering a series now spanning 14 years, it’s almost certainly one developers RedLynx would have been at least mindful of whilst crafting Trials Fusion. In 2009, Trials HD set a new series standard for the motocross simulator which successor Trials Evolution somehow matched, and duly surpassed in 2012. So, just two years on, how would Trials Fusion push the series beyond what its closest predecessors had laid before it? How could it take all that was good from the critically acclaimed Evolution and build upon it, without radically altering the tried and tested formula?

The short answer? It wouldn’t. Trials Fusion is essentially just more of the same. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Multiplayer is as fun as ever

Perhaps the greatest achievement Trials Evolution managed to pull off was its expertly balanced learning curve. Newcomers were gently introduced to the game’s physics-centric mechanics early on, before having their stabilisers gradually loosened with each passing stage. Expert riders, on the other hand, would find little difficulty in earlier races, however obtaining gold medals in record time would always provide enough challenge. In Fusion, this gradual process is less forgiving, but never to the point of unfairness; in fact, it feels a great deal more challenging, therefore rewarding, as a result. With each contest littered with well-paced checkpoints, I regularly found myself retrying races just ‘one more time’, as if fueled by the addition suffered by a French electronic music duo.

This understanding of Fusion’s physics means the player must quickly learn the game’s finely tuned mechanics - mostly when to lean back or push forward on landing; or when to ease off, or accelerate full throttle as the rider traverses the peaks and troughs of each course. Each customisable dirt bike - and one ATV - has its own perks and handicaps, meaning an understanding of the right tool for the right job becomes equally as important in the process, and often shifting things up - particularly in the latter stages of the game, once more bikes have been unlocked - is key to success.

In the face of this realism, however, lies the main difference between Fusion and its fore-bearers: the game’s setting. As opposed to the manmade constructs tucked away in forests and hillsides and suburban garages - ala Trials HD and Evolution - Fusion adopts a futuristic, sci-fi-inspired world, complete with shifting mechanical assembly lines and haunting GLaDOS-esque AI narrators. Aside from its quirky nature, this setting allows Fusion to showcase its beautiful aesthetics, as a remarkable draw distance adds an incredible sense of depth to its 2.5d style, to the point where it's easy to overlook just how linear each race track actually is.

Draw distance adds remarkable depth

Fusion’s intended piece de resistance - at least as far as it perceives itself - is its newly implemented FMX mode - essentially a glorified trick system. To an extent, tricks have always been integral to the Trials series, but more from a showboating point of view; as if to exist just because they can, with no real purpose except to facilitate bragging rights when playing with friends. The only problem is, in Fusion it’s a little bit awkward to work. Aside from the renowned ‘Superman’ stunt, which is evidently the default manoeuvre, pulling off anything else proved nigh on impossible during every one of my playthroughs. This was especially frustrating during score-multiplying levels, wherein repetitive move selection lead to depreciating scores, even more so when I face-planted again, and again. And again. Which is a shame, considering how pin-point accurate Fusion’s controls are otherwise. Also, where much of the practical moves are explained by the AI - within ‘training’ stages at the beginning of each new stage - it wouldn’t have killed RedLynx to have considered adding this to the game’s trick segments.

Fan favourite features such as multiplayer - both local and online - and Create Mode return, but realistically offer little that hasn’t been done in the series before. Within Create Mode, the systems are as intricate as ever, again suggesting RedLynx could have been a little more generous in the way of tutorial systems, however herein lies a very rewarding feature for those willing to persevere and put in the time and effort. Likewise, the return of leaderboards will please those competitive fans which the series has been truly built upon, and the addition of online tournaments shows RedLynx’s ambitions for Fusion’s longevity.

Superman like Soulja Boy

With a selection of six unlockable bikes; 40 different tracks, each with four unlockable medals; a host of optional in-race challenges; and a generous helping of multiplayer action, Trials Fusion is probably the best of the series. The off-the-wall race tracks, the ludicrous death-defying jumps, the ‘how the hell do I get up there?’ moments, followed swiftly by the fabulous ‘ah, that’s how’ revelations, are all more than enough to recommend RedLynx’s latest offering. For those expecting something completely new, you’ll be disappointed - there may even be an argument to be made that this would be better served as DLC, or perhaps a ‘Trials Ultimate edition’, or something similar.

Familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say. But I don’t think this well-worn phrase applies in all circumstances. In the case of Trials Fusion, it would seem that familiarity has bred, well, simply, familiarity. Yes, it feels like we’ve been here before, partly because we have. But when it’s executed with such finesse, is that such a bad thing?

Best Game Moment: Landing a jump after 300 attempts.