Funny story: I almost never got into Trials. I stumbled upon the demo for Trials HD on the Xbox Live Marketplace in 2010, and played it for several hours over a few weeks. But I doubted if I should buy the full game for a long time. Why? Because it cost 800 Microsoft Points, equivalent to €10, but I could get ‘only’ 200 gamerscore for it. Yes, I actually thought like that back then. Luckily though, I eventually decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. One of my best gaming decisions ever.
Ever since I bought Trials HD in 2010, Trials has become one of my favorite videogame series in the world. Simultaneously, it’s the only game that managed to keep me hooked to improve myself. As a result, Trials is the only game in the world of which I can say I’m pretty damn good at it.
So, it won’t be a surprise that I was very excited when Trials Rising was announced during Ubisoft’s E3 press conference. Heck, I missed half the presentation because I was busy signing up for the closed beta. But as if the game itself wasn’t awesome enough yet, developer RedLynx upped the ante; creative director Antti Ilvessuo suddenly called Brad ‘Professor FatShady’ Hill to the stage. One of the most well-known figures in the Trials-community, Professor FatShady is the founder of the University of Trials, where he dedicates his time and energy to help others improve their skills with in-depth tutorials. He does this through YouTube videos and Twitch streams, which I highly recommend if you’re new to the series. For Rising, RedLynx has invited the Professor to make the ingame tutorials.
Trials is back
First of all; Trials Rising plays amazing. Gameplay didn’t change that much from Fusion, but it didn’t need to. It was pretty much flawless already, and I honestly don’t know how RedLynx could improve it further. The various bikes are each a joy to control, and the visual feedback when you fault remains superb.
When you first launch Trials Rising you’re tasked with completing a simple track, after which you’re being informed about the ingame Trials Rising Championship. This sends you through to an application screen, which is really just a simple character creator. You can pick a male or female rider, each with three different voices, and a whole bunch of different skin colors. It really is only the tip of the iceberg of Rising’s ridiculousness.
After you’ve made your rider, it’s time to ride. Beginner track ‘Braking Bad’ is the first track to play. Once you finish it, the earlier mentioned University of Trials is revealed as the game’s first sponsor, which I’ll dive deeper into in a bit. Simultaneously, Professor FatShady informs you about Trials 101; the first set of tutorial levels covering the basic skills of Trials; throttle control, leaning, in-air rotation and flow. Each tutorial begins with the Professor explaining what he’s going to teach you, including the topic’s ‘theory’, if you will. While he talks, some gameplay complementing his tips plays on screen.
University of Trials: A+
As one would expect from a University, you receive a grade based on your performance. For the first four tutorials, your grade is based on how fast you reach the finish line. As you progress through the game, tutorials covering more advanced and in-depth techniques unlock when you reach the required level. These include transitions, uphill obstacles and the bunny hop, each crucial to learn for higher difficulty tracks. But this time, you’re not graded based on time, but rather on how far you get. Reach the end for an A+, or end the lesson halfway for a lower grade.
Professor FatShady hasn’t just put his own knowledge into Trials Rising though, he’s also included a nice bit of humor. If you skip his explanation voice-over, you hear one of several funny remarks in response to you not being willing to listen to his lesson. Being a seasoned Trials-rider myself, I skipped almost every one (sorry Professor), but couldn’t suppress a smile hearing his response.
What I didn’t expect however, is that I would actually need his lessons in the later tutorials. As I got into the harder tutorials, I noticed myself actually having a bit of trouble. The ‘Flat Obstacles’, ‘Consecutive Bunny Hops’ and ‘Rear Wheel Bounce’ were all pretty difficult, but with the Professor’s tips I did get myself the A+.
Overall, the University’s tutorials are an excellent piece of work. FatShady doesn’t just tell you what to do and how to do it, he goes in-depth on the physics of the bike and what certain movements will result into. Tutorials in previous Trials-games were fairly straightforward, but the University of Trials goes the extra mile. At the same time, the tutorial tracks provide an excellent place to practise the very techniques they’re trying to learn you. This gives both experienced players and newcomers an amazing hub to improve their technique. For new players, I also believe it’s now easier and more accessible to improve their skills.
With Trials 101 done, it’s time to get back to the tracks. Track selection has changed in Rising. In previous Trials installments, tracks were divided into Events, which would in turn list all included tracks, making track selection easy. In Rising it works different, and honestly it’s worse.
Tracks are divided into Leagues this time around, matching the Championship-setting. Instead of a track list however, the tracks appear on a World Map, from which you can select the one you wish to play. Not only is it slower when you have to slide the cursor halfway across the map, it also gets quite cluttered as you progress and unlock more leagues. There is an option to filter on a specific League, Difficulty, Activity or Mode, but you can only activate one filter at the same time. So if you’d only want to see Hard and Extreme tracks on the map for example, you can’t, which is a shame.
The tracks themself make up for a lot though. Their design is nothing short of incredible, and it’s super satisfying when you manage to hit the right driving line. Rising has a lot more moving obstacles than earlier titles had however, which I am not really a fan of. But despite this, pretty much all tracks remain a joy to play. Newcomers will struggle on the Hard tracks, and even more so with Extremes. But hey, that’s the challenge; improve until you can finish them. That being said, I wish everyone the best of luck with Inferno V, the hardest track in the game. That one is brutally difficult.
Unlocking new tracks takes a bit of time and effort. Unlike previous installments, where new Events were unlocked based on your medal count, Rising’s progression system is level-based. In other words, you have to earn XP and level up to unlock new tracks. This adds a bit of a grind to the game, which many players, including myself, don’t really like. Completing a track gives you a bit of XP, but the main source are Contracts. Remember how the University of Trials is introduced as the first sponsor? Several sponsors are unlocked as you progress, and they offer you Contracts; complete a track fulfilling specific requirements for XP and cosmetic rewards.
One issue with Contracts is that they get repetitive very fast. Goals usually consist of doing flips, beating a certain time or making no more than X faults. Occasionally you get something like going full gas, spending time in the air, or driving on one wheel. Another issue is that contracts essentially disregard one of Trials’ core concepts; keep playing until you improve. In previous games, you unlocked new tracks based on your medal count. In other words, you had to be good enough at the game to earn enough medals, otherwise you had to improve. The new system is not based on skills, it’s based on time. It’s a poor design choice really, which many longtime fans are disappointed with or even frustrated by.
Another new feature are the Stadiums. Each League ends with a Stadium, which are also unlocked based on level. Each stadium consists of four races; the X-Cross, Supercross, Duel and Finals. In the first three, you play a single track in which you have to reach the top 4, top 2 and top 1 respectively to progress. Once you’ve managed to do that, you have to repeat the entire process in the Finals, only this time in a row.
The Stadium Finals can be quite annoying. The game doesn’t really allowed any mistakes, as each fault adds 5 seconds to your time, making it impossible to catch up with the AI riders. The frustrating thing is that you can’t restart a single track during Stadium Finals. They work just like Tournaments from previous Trials games. Your time and faults are added up across all tracks, and if you want to restart, you have to restart the whole thing. Meaning that if you slip up during the third race, you have to start all over again from the first race.
There is one major issue with Stadium Final races at this moment though; many people report that after they’ve beaten the AI races (which is sometimes unreasonably difficult on its own), they’re being pitted against the ghosts of riders with world records. Since these races don’t save your time if you don’t reach the required spot, many are locked out of getting a higher medal for now, including myself. The same issue was present in the game’s open beta, and back then RedLynx claimed it had been fixed for the full game. Turns out they haven’t.
The customization of both rider and bike has been completely overhauled. In Fusion, it was ‘limited’ to different costumes and body kits, which many players still got quite creative with. With Rising, RedLynx is taking customization to the next level.
Both the rider’s outfit and the bikes are divided into various parts, for which you can get clothing items or bike parts respectively. These can be gained through Contracts, from Gear Crates, or be bought with ingame (premium) currency. Additionally, each item or part can be customized with a maximum of 200 stickers. And there’s a lot of stickers in the game, which you can unlock through progression, get from Crates or buy with ingame currency. It’s yet another way for the Trials community to display their creativity. For example, see the following creations from KALzzone8.
Additionally, players can also share their creations with the world through the Rider Store and Bike Store. Others can then choose to purchase such a creation, which in turn gives the original creator a small amount of ingame-currency to spend. You can also purchase designs from RedLynx themselves, as well as specific clothing items that are otherwise attainable in Gear Creates.
Right now, there’s two types of Gear Crates in the game; Gear Crates and Challenger Crates. You get a Gear Crate each time you level up. Challenger Crates are earned by completing Challenger challenges (try saying that ten times real quick). Beat three other players’ times on the same track in a row, and you’ll get three Challenger Crates, which contain more rare items. There’s two more empty squares in the Gear Crate section however, so there’s likely more types coming in the future.
Customization is also held back by a bug, however. Several people, including yours truly, have reported a ‘spinning wheel’ loading icon appearing over certain clothing items. Which in turn can no longer be equipped or customized. And if the spinning wheel appears on an item your rider is wearing, all customization you might’ve already done disappears. Other players have also reported customizations suddenly being messed up or even completely disappearing.
Like previous installments of Trials, multiplayer, the Track Editor and Track Central also return. The multiplayer seems to be somewhat disappointing for now, as only a handful of Easy tracks are available. It’s possible that more difficult tracks are added in the future, but for now the multiplayer seems limited.
Track Central is the place where you can download and play tracks created by other players. It’s Track Central that gives Trials most of its longevity and new content. The community is filled with incredibly creative track builders. Some of them could easily work for RedLynx as track builders, honestly. Its hub could use improvement, though. For example, once you’ve played a track, you’re sent back to the main Track Central menu, instead of the menu where you found the track. This makes it unnecessarily difficult to favorite custom tracks.
The Track Editor is the very same that RedLynx developers themselves use to build tracks for the game. Now I’ve already seen the community go ham with the Track Editor in both Trials Evolution and Trials Fusion, so I can guarantee you that thousands of incredible tracks will see the light in the future. Heck, the Track Editor and the incredibly creative community ensure basically infinite replay value; there’s pretty much always a new track available to play.
Another new feature in Trials Rising is the tandem bike, which requires two players to control it and is for local co-op only. As a result, I am unfortunately unable to try it out for myself, as I lack a second Playstation-controller to test it. So instead, I’ll give you the next best thing to get an impression: an almost hour long stream from Professor FatShady
One area where I feel Trials Rising is quite a letdown, is the technical aspect. I’m playing the game on a regular PS4 (the original one), and I really feel the loading times should’ve been a lot better. I’ve had to wait 20 to even roughly 30 seconds before a track was loaded on numerous occasions, which I feel is simply too long for a game like Trials. Additionally, restarting a track is too slow too often; the game regularly ‘froze’ for a split second before resetting the track. Very annoying when you’re constantly restarting during a Platinum grind.
Track Central also has loading issues, demonstrated by the comparison picture below. The top is what the hub looks like for the first 10 seconds or so. The bottom what it looks like once it has properly loaded.
Beside the loading times, I also encountered a very strange bug one time. On Hard track ‘UK Upper’, I restarted a checkpoint after faulting, and suddenly noticed the game would enter a weird slow-mo state whenever I jumped with my bike. Additionally, the track’s background was… messed up. It was super weird. Check the comparison image below. Left is what I saw that one time, right is what it’s supposed to be. Luckily it just happened the one time, but it was still very strange.
It’s Trials time baby
Overall, Trials Rising is still a fantastic game held back by some hiccups and flaws. The new progression system is poor, Track Central is worse than its predecessor for now, and there’s some strange issues that need to be fixed.
But beyond that, Trials Rising is a superb package with over 100 amazing tracks to keep you hooked for weeks, or even months. DLC is already confirmed, so there’s even more goodness coming. And beside that, the community itself will definitely keep new content coming to Track Central until the next Trials game releases. While the game has some unfortunate downsides for now, I will be playing this for a long time without question.
It’s Trials time baby. Let’s ride.