Wot I Think: Trials Fusion

By Craig Pearson on April 22nd, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

I must go, my people need me.

I was ready to love Trials Fusion. Trials Evolution Gold Edition turned out to be the perfect game to play when I didn’t have much time or didn’t know what to play. It filled in the holes of a busy day or fixed a boring evening. I didn’t care that it was only on Uplay, and I didn’t suffer any the bugs that bogged it down a little in John’s review. It’s so good, so willing to be completely OTT, that it charmed the backwheel off me. Can Trials Fusion pull off the same trick? Here’s wot I think.

If Trials Evolution Gold Edition is Richard Harris, then Trials Fusion is Michael Gambon. ‘But Craig,’ you’re now asking, ‘… nope, you’re going to have to explain.’ Dumbledore, readers. Dumbledore.

I have a mental sleight of lobe that I do with movies: if someone is appalling in a role, I just imagine another actor in his place. I loved Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and I completely hated Gambon’s portrayal. His wandering accent and over-energetic wizardly ways just eviscerated the gentle and wise and twinkly Dumbledore of the first two movies. So I’ve spent six Harry Potters mentally redigitising Richard Harris back into the films. It’s a talent that’s helped me enjoy Trials Fusion, because a lot of the time I’ve been pretending it’s acting like Trials Evolution.

Richard Harris Trials Evolution began like this.

“Vroom Vroom, I’m ready to go!” Yes. YES! That is gold. When I first played Evolution, I immediately opened up an IM window to John and ordered him to download the game just to experience its glorious intro. That was before I’d even revved an engine or taken a lung full of balsa wood. But today that white square where we share gifs and opinions on American TV is blank. Why? Because John is offline, and because this is how Trials Fusions starts.

Borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring! If anything epitomises the difference between the two games, it’s that. The tone of Fusion is all wrong, flinging it into the far future where everything is just a bit more ordered and everything is commentated on by two ‘snarky’ announcers who I had to silence because each line of dialogue is hateful. There’s nothing like a track with a stone hand crawling out of the swamp, there’s no rap, no D-Day themed level. And though it’s not all sci-fi whoosh–there’s one track set in the middle of a gale that’s quite silly, and another where a plane crashes in the background and the level loops around so you’re riding across the wreckage–I spent less time marvelling at the ridiculous dioramas that RedLynx created. It turns out I really loved that aspect of Evolution.

The rest? Well, I can’t fault the riding. I’ve gotten this far without mentioning that Trials is a fun game of dirt-biking over impossible tracks. You’re riding across ramps and bumps, revving and shifting weight to keep your face away from the dirt. Thanks to a mix of ragdoll physic and low beams it has a base-level of fun, and when you start finding the thumbs to keep yourself upright and landing jumps, it’s still one of the most torturously wonderful games you’ll ever play. It’s as tightly made as Trackmania, but with added head trauma.

So it’s what goes on around all that that makes a difference. The biggest addition is a pose system, which doesn’t work very well and also shows you how rubbish RedLynx are at explaining things. When you gain sufficient air in a jump, you’re given the opportunity to pull a pose. Rather than make this a solid animation, it’s based on the angle of the bike and it throws the physics around. Pulling a pose tends to just flail things around without any hope of hitting what you’re attempting to do, and though that might fit into the game’s struggle with physics, it’s so loose and awkward that it undermines that skillset it’s attempting to build on. There are levels dedicated to this farce, allowing you freeform control over the poses so you can build up a score. They add to your overall medal pile, and medals will unlock levels, so you could be held back from advancing because of this awkward system. I actually dislike the unlock system in this sort of game: people will get stuck on certain jumps–my record for restarts is in the forties–and it’s hateful.

Why I’d want to pull specific poses ties into another criticism: there are little challenges for each level, offering up generic notes like “Do 15 backflips on a gold run”, or more specific things like “Pull a Superman over the River”. Superman is part of the pose system, and it’s offered up in an early level that comes before you’re even allowed to pull it off. I understand Trials levels are meant to be replayed and mastered, but continually suggesting I do something that the game actively disallows for the first three sets of levels made for a frustrating opening. Just track my progress so I don’t spend a lot of time hunting the menus to find out where I’m going wrong or just thinking my joypad was faulty.

I spent a fair amount of time in the menus trying to fix some performance issues. The previous game ran perfectly well for me, despite John’s troubles, but I’ve ran into some odd performance bugs that set some levels playing in slow-motion. These weren’t dropped frames, but the game would start and everything would be running at half-speed. I found dropping down to a lower resolution helped.

Wow, this is hugely negative. I do like Trials Fusion, but I don’t adore it and want to have little dirt-bike babies with it. It won’t become a game I stick on to just enjoy after this review is done (I’m redownloading Evolution as write this). What do I like? Well, it’s a cruel game, and it’s absolutely at its best like that. The hard levels, that start about 50% of the way into the career mode, really demand concentration. Until then it’s possible to just hold the throttle down and control your lean, but doing that in later levels will get you a forehead of futuristic formica. There’s a powerful interplay between the bouncy physics, the throttle and brake, and your biker’s weight. Each ramp is a physics puzzle in and of itself, and it’s unforgiving if you nudge in the wrong direction. It can be frustrating, but the fight to right yourself along a jagged ridge of ramps is still great, especially when RedLynx remembers that it can do anything with the editor: one level’s sections zooming-in and clicking into place as you progress is the best of those.

The blimp level is one of the sillier ones

Some of the levels now house alternative routes and secrets: if you stop your bike in the middle of a tennis court on one level you get to play tennis against a penguin. It’s not a good mini-game, but I’m glad it exists. There are warp pipes that take you away and into levels wholly built out of coloured blocks. It’s clearly a nod to the editor, which has returned and is as complex as ever. I won’t be using it, because I am rubbish, but I am excited about what the players can come up with. If you’ve never experienced the Trials community, they’ve remade Limbo and turned this third-person dirt-biking series into a first-person survival horror with the editor. I hope the fans can bring the spark to Fusion that’s missing. It’s almost too slick now, while at the same time being less useful: Evolution gave detailed stats about each bike’s capabilities, but Fusion explains it all in a line of text; and there’s only local multiplayer. It’s starting to feel a little like a franchise and not the labour of love it originally was. It’s more like Trials 2014 than a expansive and well-thought out sequel.

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22 Comments »

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  1. CmdrCrunchy says:

    I am a terrible person, for I wage an endless tirade about this game based solely on the lack of online multiplayer.

    The most fun I had in Evolution was in the 4p races, where quite often we’d start a race in a synchronised thwacking of heads smashing into the very first obstacle on the track, followed by bouts of laughter that would often last as long as the race, before someone finally, mercifully, managed to complete the track. What I describe could easily be happening in local multiplayer, but sadly, times have changed, and getting all of my pals in front of one screen rarely happens.

    I understand the online was often buggy and disjoined, but when it worked, it was brilliance. Simply removing it because there were issues just means I wont be buying it.

    • derbefrier says:

      I could have sworn it has online multiplayer actually……..yes it does they just delayed it. My expert googling skills tells me they are trying to iron bugs in the multiplayer still and hope to have it out relatively soon. Its even in the feature list on its steam page

    • armchaircowboys says:

      From what I have read, T:F will have online MP just not at release and it won’t be the MP that T:Evo offered. They didn’t like the last iteration of the MP so they are building a new one, which will be released some months after release as a free update.

      • CmdrCrunchy says:

        Good news all round then if that’s the case. It’ll probably be a buy for me somewhere down the line at some point, so long as we can still have our 4 player crashfests.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I found the multiplayer a very disappointing experience in Evolution. The lag was just so bad that any sense of actually “racing” was lost. You would finish the track, wait 30 seconds, then it would tell you everyone had finished and who won, you had no idea from looking at the screen because the latency between players was insanely high. Buggy mess in general.

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        kfix says:

        I played the 360 version of Evolution with my brother, who lives in a small Australian country city and therefore has to use “broadband” made from string and tin cans, and it generally played pretty well with little lag or glitching. And the single player is awesome to the point of obsessive compulsion.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the XBox version was actually working ok and the PC port poorly optimised for multiplayer in this situation, I certainly didn’t have a good experience on 30 down/6 up fibre optic that gives me fantastic performance on any other game.

  2. reggiep says:

    The Limbo level is not fan-made. It was one of the levels made by RedLynx and built into Evolution.

    I absolutely hated the rap intro from Evolution. I cringed every time I had to hear those horrendous rhymes. At least in Fusion you can skip the intro.

    The announcers definitely suck. They are trying too hard to be GLaDOS. It’s lame. And having to hear the same awful lines over and over is very annoying. I actually like the FMX tracks, but would never waste my time on them competing for scores. The new tracks are mostly well built and fun. Character customization options are weak. Notification system is good (e.g. “Your friend beat your score on this track”). It’s definitely a good game and worth the purchase in my opinion.

    • Premium User Badge

      kfix says:

      If you did not appreciate the aesthetic qualities of the fine rap rock intro to Evolution, you must be the kind of rider who is always very careful. Trust trust trust trust trust me on this.

    • The First Door says:

      Yeah, I really agree with you about the rap! I utterly and completely despised the rap from Evo. I much preferred the random silly intros from HD.

      Then again, I was sort of disappointed by Evo in general. I still enjoyed it, but I thought the tracks were much more designed around big set pieces than interesting and clever riding challenges. That, combined with the Supercross mode not getting many interesting levels (as well as the sometimes horrendously buggy community levels which would see one player end up with 200 faults in ten seconds) meant I didn’t spend as much time with it as I thought I would.

  3. Dinjoralo says:

    From what I can see, a lot of the criticism lies with disliking the new direction that the game’s going in, and in my case, I kinda like the futuristic style. Then again, I never played Trials Evolution, and Craig’s perspective would probably line up more with hardcore Trials fans. I can definitely see the announcers getting on my nerves later on, but being able to make them hush is a plus.

    Also, is anyone else irritated by the textures having to stream in whenever you reset? Stuff like that bugs the crap out of me.

  4. trjp says:

    The key thing most people will want to know is “is the PC port as shit as Trials Evo’s was” – remembering that was “almost unplayable for many people who received NO SUPPORT by the developer at all”

    The other issue from Trials Evo was that the editor on PC couldn’t use console-created tracks which meant very few decent tracks were available on PC – another case of a shitty port with shitty support – at this stage we’re a bit past caring.

    I actually can’t think of a reason to give them my money here ESPECIALLY as this is clearly being setup as a “pay once and then pay again and again for extras” – it has a Season Pass (aka a DLC extortion racket) going on even?

    It needs more than penguin tennis to rescue itself IMO – £3 in a bundle perhaps – all DLC included…

    • Dinjoralo says:

      I remember hearing that the UPlay DRM stuff allows tracks to be shared cross-platform.

    • Tinotoin says:

      Having sunk a good 10 hours into the beta I can say that the performance is MUCH better than it was for Trials Evolution. The load times for riders/bikes is quite long, but tracks not so much. I did run into the ‘half speed’ bug that Craig mentioned, but restarting the track ironed that out.

      To be honest I’m not as excited by its release tomorrow as I was for Evolution, it feels like the additions such as FMX and the quad bike are diluting the experience in an attempt to broaden the market for Trials in general.

    • iainl says:

      Mileage seems to vary, judging from Craig’s report, but from here on an NVidia card the Fusion Beta is a rock-solid 60fps without breaking a sweat, while Evo Gold continues to be utterly erratic as to whether it will run 60fps, 15fps or 120fps depending on mood. Which is a right pain when it goes loopy like that on the fifth round of a tournament and costs you a restart to fix.

  5. Tin_man_Tex says:

    Played fair bit of time of this in multiplayer last weekend, amusingly at a 100 man pc lan.
    Had an xbox hooked up to a massive projector and pretty much endless competitors.

    My conclusion, the quad bike is hax. It ruins games, it’s too stable and has not enough downsides to counter, so it ended up whoever choose it won, so other people, so every race was all quads, and a lot less interesting matches since there was much less crashes.

  6. GernauMorat says:

    I have not played either of the games mentioned, nut I have to say I like the second song much more than the first

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    strangeloup says:

    I was massively confused at first because I thought your comparison between Richard Harris and Michael Gambon somehow involved Richard Cobbet, which I’m sure you can imagine made things initially weird.

    As for the games themselves, I’ve only played a bit of Trials: Fusion: Gold Edition: Subtitle, but it pleases me endlessly that you can often get to the end of a track while constantly dry-humping the bike, even if I’m fairly certain that’s categorically Doing It Wrong.

  8. Premium User Badge

    liquidsoap89 says:

    A big part of the criticism here seems squared at the level design/ingenuity. Thankfully that’s something the community can fix. Hatfilms’ Trials Evo series has shown some incredible maps made by community members, so hopefully they migrate to this game.

  9. BebopBraunbaer says:

    does not having online multiplayer include not having online scoreboards? that would be kind of .. sad?

    • iainl says:

      Online scoreboards are absolutely there, and absolutely vital to giving Trials any kind of point, for me. Though I’m still smarting from the scoreboard reset they did the other week and so waiting until the game goes live tomorrow before I set any serious times again.

  10. Eight Rooks says:

    I see I’m not the only one who thought the same, thank God, but

    When I first played Evolution, I immediately opened up an IM window to John and ordered him to download the game just to experience its glorious intro

    has to be up quite high on the list of most mind-bogglingly wrong things I’ve ever read on the internet. The intro to Trials: Evolution was shit. It had no merit of any kind, whether as a camp classic, cause for ironic hipster smirking, genuine appreciation or anything else. It was ear-bleedingly, teeth-grindingly, staggeringly bad, and if you enjoyed it you need to be taking a good, long look at yourself in the mirror right now and thinking about where exactly you went so horribly, horribly wrong.

    I mean, jeez. I know it’s just a piece of music, but seriously, it’s one of the most ghastly things I’ve ever heard. That intro for Fusion is fairly bland, but I’d rather listen to that on a loop for all eternity than ever hear Evolution’s intro in full again, and I’m really not entirely joking.