Inside Pulse 12

Review: Trials Fusion (Microsoft Xbox 360)

fusionboxTrials Fusion
Genre: Platform/Speed Run
Developer: RedLynx
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: 4/16/2014

When you boot up Trials Fusion it begins with a song which will crawl in your brain and live there for awhile that includes the following lyrics:

“Welcome to the future
Man, machine – the fusion
Welcome to the future
Lightyears ahead of evolution”

While I liked the corny rock-rap of the prior game there’s something about this song that worms it’s way into your ear. I’ll be sitting there doing nothing then I’ll catch myself singing “Welcome to the future…” under my breath. Still the song lyrics are a bold statement. Trials Fusion is the sequel to Trials Evolution, my favorite game of 2012 and a game I’ve invested an embarrassing amount of hours in, so the opening track claiming this game is ‘lightyears ahead of evolution’ sets a high bar for the game to try and bunny hop over.

Unfortunately the game tries to make that jump in quality but end up failing more often than it succeeds.

For the uninitiated the Trials series of video games are a kind of side scrolling platform jumping game, only instead of a plumber jumping from pipe to pipe you control a man riding a motorcycle. It’s almost too simple of a comparison to say it is a platform game though, the Trials series have a much greater reliance on a precise physics engine. Being able to navigate the harder levels means having a mastery of shifting the riders weight on the bike, careful adjustments to the velocity you are traveling at, the angle you land at, along with managing momentum, which wheel lands first, etc. It would be play playing a Mario game where you have to quickly determine how much power you’re jumping with in each leg and how his body was angled all to get the most out of a jump. And I love it.

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After being very excited about the release of the game I downloaded it off of the Xbox Live Marketplace and fired it up. It told me that the Ubisoft uPlay servers were unavailable. I thought it might be because they were getting overwhelmed like many games do on the first day and clicked okay. Only problem was that the game said due to not being able to connect to uPlay I would not have access to the leaderboards, being able to save my track times, see friends ghosts in game or access Track Central. Considering that the game is mostly about not just beating a track, but slicing off a few second of time and no faulting it just to beat the person on the leaderboard above you, that removes a considerable reason for replaying tracks. Or playing them at all once you realize the time you beat the track at didn’t matter because it didn’t record it. Track Central is where I spent a majority of my time in Evolution as there was always a lot of great new user created tracks to play with. Being locked out of it for one day however wasn’t that big of a deal, not much user content on the first day anyway.

Oddly enough, my wife without a uPlay account had access to all of these features. I couldn’t choose to not log into uPlay, it attempts to auto-connect, and once that fails you can’t access these features. Turns out I wasn’t the only one and there is an issue with linked accounts in uPlay. Attempting to link my Xbox Live account on their website, as they suggested, wouldn’t work for me or others either. So a fairly significant portion of the game for me because I’d used uPlay before, but not for customers who had never use uPlay before. This problem exists across all platforms and a week later isn’t resolved. I managed to eventually get it to work by grabbing an older Ubisoft game and adding a non-uPlay account email address to the settings which I brought up on their support forums and is now the official 360 work around to the Xbox 360 problem until they get it fixed.

I prefered how Trials Evolution didn’t have this uPlay garbage since it added nothing of value and is having a very negative impact on the game for many people. Oddly this is the same issue Assassin’s Creed IV had so you’d think it would’ve been fixed since then. Telling people they need an older game from the same publisher to fix a current game is a whole new level of bullshit.

It should be noted that there are several other issues with the game. The Xbox One/PS4 physical copies come with a Season Pass code, on the PS4 there are massive issues with it apparently not working. On the Xbox 360 my game crashed multiple times and the forums have seen people with similar problems on all platforms. Some people have lost all saved data due to a profile issue on the Xbox One or the game crashing when trying to auto-save on the PS4. I know they did a Beta for the PC version, maybe they should’ve done one for the consoles as well as the number of technical issues are annoying.

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Once I got the game going it works mostly fine on the 360. Graphically the game looks a little worse somehow than Evolution did. There’s more going on in the background but the tracks in the foreground have this futuristic aesthetic that after a couple of levels feels bland. In Evolution the tracks were made up of a lot of regular objects but they fit better with the background environments. Maybe it’s because there are more effects going on in the background but the 360 version of the game seems to be less detailed than I remember Evolution to be, which may not be a problem on the PS4 or Xbox One. Texture pop-in is everywhere with the texture of some objects loading right as you’re driving past them. It’s worse on some tracks more than others. The shadows are funky on the 360 version, especially of the rider and bike.

On the audio side the background music provides a great counterpoint to the action though it gets repetitive quickly. The same whoops and yells of the rider and the guttural vroom of the engine are all accounted for. The game attempts to add a story, sort of, through the use of in game narration that plays along while you are riding. Occasionally it’s funny, but it’s mostly just distracting and super annoying later on when you’re replaying a track for the tenth time to move up the leaderboards. There is an option to turn it off and I did so within the first hour I played and I haven’t missed it.

The structure of the game is different with a greater focus on obtaining medals through the different difficulty blocks of levels. In the past skill games were a separate mode and now they’ve been folded into the different sets of levels you progress through. Playing online multiplayer with other players on 4-player simultaneous tracks are gone, though it still remains as a local multiplayer option. Tournaments aren’t available yet though may be added through the Pyrosequencing option on the menu that currently does nothing. The game has been streamlined more to focus on just the Career mode, Garage and Track Central.

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Career mode I felt was less impressive than Evolution. It’s really hard to tell since I’ve played so much of the previous title, but it feels like the tracks in this one are much easier. In Evolution there would be one or two harder obstacles to work around that could catch you off guard but also helped you learn better bike control for the more difficult tracks. In Fusion the design stays at a consistent gradual increase in difficulty that will be easy for prior Trials players to get gold medals on the first time they play. Then the difficulty in obstacles spikes at the second set of hard tracks. Fusion’s track design doesn’t do much to prepare players for those levels and overall feels uninspired compared to Evolution or even compared to some of the amazing user created tracks from the past.

The skill games are certainly less imaginative. The biggest addition is Freestyle Motorcross or FMX events. They’ve added the ability to do tricks in Trials by holding the right joystick in a direction which will pull off different tricks depending on the position of the bike, though this ability has to be unlocked. The FMX tracks are designed for big air with the goal of doing tricks for score. The problem is, it kind of sucks. For a series that is known for requiring precise movements, the FMX tricks are difficult to pull off with any kind of accuracy or precision. I’ve found that holding the stick in one direction might pull that trick off once, but then when I’m in the same position again a different trick might result or my rider might just fail around for a second. The game at no point attempts to explain how to pull of specific tricks yet has a skill game where it asks you to do so.

I think even the developers must’ve realize this was wonky since it’s unimportant through most of the game and the skill games with it in you can reach the gold medal score by just driving carefully and doing only a couple of tricks. The skill game where you need to pull of specific tricks one after the other has a very low bar set for getting the silver medal. In the end the FMX stuff doesn’t really add anything to the base game but also is easy enough that it doesn’t interfere with the ability to progress in it. It’s just a curiosity that feels under-developed in an otherwise tightly developed game. The other skill games are the typical ones, hard far can you fling the rider, how far can you scale a difficult climb, and so on, that kind of feel like they’re there because they’re expected to be.

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It feels like some of the creativity that used to go into the skill games instead went into the Challenges that are present in each track. Three per track and each one, even the ones in the beginning of the game, can be difficult to accomplish. Some require doing things like no faulting a track while never letting go of the throttle, or no faulting a track without leaning. Some might use the FMX stuff and require a specific trick at a point in the map. Others require you to explore the map in ways you might have never considered and open up interesting mini-skill games within the levels. Like for one my bike was set on fire and could fly and I had to try and maneuver through rings of fire. Or you might have to lug a trailer full of soccer balls. There are also warp zone challenges hidden within a couple of levels.

The challenges are the single best addition to Trials Fusion. They fit with the tracks and provide a reason aside from chasing medals or a lower time for replaying tracks, and encourage exploring the tracks a little more than a player might normally do. Plus with how crazy hard some of them are they are an additional challenge that’s a bit different than the usual platform obstacles.

I know it might sound like I disliked the game based off of what I’ve written so far, but I still like Trials Fusion. It’s more Trials. Meaning that the game delivers more of the motorcycle/platform game I love with great physics and challenging tracks that make you want to rage quit before crawling back to them again. I’ve played and reviewed other games that have tried to enter the very specific genre that Trials fills and none have come close to being able to deliver the same kind of experience.

Part if that is how well the game controls. If you’ve never played a Trials game the controls are deceptively simple. Right trigger to accelerate, left trigger to brake, B button to restart the last checkpoint, select to start the track all over from the beginning, left joystick to lean and right joystick for tricks. That sounds simple however there’s a number of techniques that need to be learned to play the game well, like leaning back then forward again to do a bunny hop with the bike. Mastering these techniques and learning to control momentum, weight and angle that your bike lands at are all a part of what separates a new Trials player from those at the top of the leaderboards. It’s also what will make you want to throw a controller across a room the 400th time you attempt a jump and fail because it seems impossible. At the same time it feels good to go back to tracks you had problems with before and breeze through them.

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The level of control, the level design and physics engine combine to one of the most satisfying games I’ve ever played, even with my complaints about uPlay and some of the questionable additions to the game. They’re so far ahead of any competitor in this area that I can’t see anyone challenging RedLynx’s superiority of this niche.

Between challenges, hidden squirrels, trying to get better times, platinum medals, and even ninja difficulty versions of the extreme tracks to play there is a ton of challenge and replayability to Trials Fusion. While I mentioned being disappointed by how easy many of the tracks are compared to Evolution I found myself going back to platinum those tracks and do the challenges and realized doing so required a high level of skill. So even if the tracks aren’t difficult for a veteran of the series to get a gold medal on, mastering the track will take a lot more time to complete. From the first track to the credit screen that comes up at the end of the hard tracks it took me about 4 hours. I’ve spend about 12 since then between the extreme tracks and trying to get better times and platinum trophies on the prior tracks and completing challenges. Even then I’m still not very close to completing even half of the challenges. Then there are the user created tracks, a number of which where surprisingly well made even on the second day of release. RedLynx also often adds new tracks on Track Central, and currently have added a number of medium tracks already.

With the sheer amount of things to do and additional tracks being added by the community daily there’s a lot to do with the game. I sunk about 70 hours alone into Trials Evolution and that game didn’t have the challenges to complete like Fusion does. The only concern I have is that as an exclusive Xbox Live arcade title Evolution had a central location for all users to share tracks and compare times. With the addition of PS4 and Xbox One versions this community is split. User created tracks for one do not carry over to other versions of the game, which is understandable however frustrating if the friends you used to compete against or share content with are not on different platforms than you.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Trials Fusion adds a futuristic aesthetic, more uPlay integration and a new FMX mode, none of which do anything to improve the game and in some ways are a step back. The game feels oddly unbalanced with many of the tracks not needing any further skill than the basic bunny hop to get gold medals in before a large jump in difficult obstacles towards the end. Aside from all of that the game still delivers on more of the Trials game I know and love. If you love Trials, you’ll love Fusion. If you have never played a Trials game before and have the ability to do so, buy Trials Evolution first since it still remains the best Trials game and a better overall value.