Trials Fusion is precisely as simple and addictive and infuriating as each of its recent predecessors. The intrepid Fins at RedLynx have delivered another experience built around pursuing a simple goal: ride a motorcycle through an obstacle course and don’t fall. Most of the time, that’s a really hard thing to pull off. Do it well, and you open another obstacle course. Do it really fast, and you earn special medals. Strip away Fusion‘s bananas sci-fi motif – the theme song hilariously, repeatedly says, “WELCOME TO THE FUTURE!” – and the casual observer would be forgiven for mistaking this for any other Trials game.
Dismissing Fusion as a prettier version the same old thing is a mistake, though. This is a fine effort from RedLynx, one that builds on the tradition of technologically impressive motorcross games (see also: Excitebike, MotorStorm) by injecting some fresh complexity into Trials’ basic challenges.
Dismissing Fusion as a prettier version the same old thing is a mistake.
For Trials neophytes, there’s a good reason why completing Fusion‘s obstacle gauntlets is so dang hard. Motorcycles and all of the many fixtures of these courses feature dynamic physics, which is a fancy way of saying everything has realistic weight and balance. Lay on the gas pedal too hard while climbing up a steep ramp on the light-bodied Roach bike, and that rear-wheel drive will flip your vehicle right over, just like in the real world.
Realism isn’t the rule, though. You can ride through a gigantic exploding future mall filled with wildly shifting platforms on loan from Tron, then launch into a 500-hundred foot drop that ends with you landing safely in a decorative fountain. RedLynx applies a selective touch to the fantasy-reality divide in Fusion, emphasizing the former’s presentational value while leaning on the latter’s groundedness for gameplay. Warp zones exist! Not real. Land on a crumbling cliff edge with just your back wheel and you’ll crash. Pretty real.
The challenge comes then from mastering balance and control of your bike. Knowing how far to lean back or forward on your bike, shift your rider’s weight, and manage your acceleration are the essential skills, and learning them is deeply rewarding. Finally figuring out how to tilt the bike just right after failing to land a massive jump feels great.
Just as importantly, Trials Fusion teaches these skills to you at just the right pace across its campaign. Only a handful of the eight levels – each one broken up into a bunch of smaller challenges – start with tutorials for bike techniques, but the courses themselves are object lessons. It never wants for variety either. By the time you reach the mid-point of the campaign and you feel confident in your bike skills, Fusion throws in the TKO-Panda four-wheeler, which controls identically to bikes except for being way heavier. Suddenly you need to rethink all of those skills.
Wholly new to Trials are Fusion‘s tricks. While airborne, manipulating the right stick lets you shift your rider into a variety of trick positions. Hold left while keeping your bike level, for example, and your rider rock a Superman pose, holding onto the back of the bike. Letting the right stick go slack will put you right back onto the bike. You play with this new mechanic in both trick-centric stages and to complete sub-challenges in more traditional Trials courses, but the new feature doesn’t seem to add much to the game’s core. As stated, however, first impressions of Fusion can be misleading.
The versatility of the editor tools is amazing if you can get used to the awkward gamepad execution.
The key is getting a sense of how these added elements can be used to create all new types of games in Trials. As in Evolution, Fusion includes a track editor in addition to its campaign and multiplayer modes, and it’s the very same toolset used to build the game’s campaign. The campaign even lays out hints on how far you can push things.
How about a level where you have to go really fast to keep a meter full while you also try to finish the course without falling? That’s in there, but it works as a jumping off point for the editor. Maybe a level where you have to constantly pull off tricks to reach the next checkpoint? Or a game where bailing out is the whole point? Tricks and the sci-fi trappings enhance Trials Fusion‘s editor beyond Evolution‘s, and its potential is limited only by imagination and skill with the editor.
Unfortunately, that track editor is not user friendly on a PlayStation 4 controller. Selecting start and end points for making a course by looking at a pulled out view of the game’s eight main environments is simple, but scrolling through menus and picking out objects to actually fill up the space is cumbersome. The game is incredibly considerate of the player on the play side – you can restart a race instantaneously by tapping a button, for example – but the editor is the exact opposite. Newborn designers will struggle to see their work realized, certainly, but the versatility of the tools is amazing if you can get used to the awkward gamepad execution.
Fusion‘s most serious flaws are ultimately only skin deep. The game looks gorgeous in 1080p running at 60 frames per second, though the constant barrage of lights and explosions born of the sci-fi setting can sometimes obscure what you’re actually trying to do. Missing a landing because you messed up your balance is one thing, but it’s frustrating to miss out on a gold medal because you’re distracted by some insane thing happening in the background. Fusion’s sound production is even worse. The yelping driver, booming explosions and alarms, and other background noises in the stages, not to mention the game’s butt rock soundtrack, are downright grating. Some people may like it, but Trials is at its most playable when it reverts to natural settings with dirt trails, with the sound turned off.
At heart, Trials Fusion is an old game, even older than the other Trials games. Excitebike on the NES shared the same basic premise of controlling balance to move a motorcycle across a series of ramps and jumps. It even had a track editor all the way back in 1985! In the pantheon of motocross games, Fusion isn’t even the grandest technological leap; MotorStorm set a more profound graphical benchmark and the original Trials continues to stand as a revelation for interactive physics. As a marvelously tactile, enjoyable, and multipurpose game with few blemishes, however, Trials Fusion earns its place as a highlight in that pantheon.
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 using a code provided by Ubisoft.)
- Easy to try, difficult to master, super satisfying motocross.
- Insane versatility and variety accessible through the level editor.
- Lengthy, well-paced campaign supported by downloadable tracks in the coming months.
- Level editor is forbiddingly complex.
- Sci-fi themed levels can be visually overwhelming.
- Grating audio and soundtrack