“Hi, my name is Greg and I’m a former Trials addict”. At the peak of my obsession, I was globally ranked 135 on Trials HD (the first Xbox title, back on the 360). I felt that compulsive need to hit the best times, pushing myself to try and try again to hit those top spots. I thought I’d left it behind, cautious of whether Rising would lure me back.
Thankfully, the abundance of so much cosmetic crap has weighed this game down with so much bloat it just sucks the fun out of it. Oh, what’s that bombarding the palace walls? It’s Genghis Coin and his horde of microtransaction invaders.
Welcome to the future, indeed
After the somewhat mild reception to Trials Fusion back in 2014, it was clear to see that the growing trend of cosmetic microtransactions was creeping its way in. Buying new gear for your riders was a nice but not hindering feature, if you wanted to use it. It didn’t add any perks or detractions, it was purely novelty clothing and items to bejazzle your rider.
The same can be applied to Rising, but by god is it heinously over the top. Whenever I hear a game has loot crate, my face cringes so hard as if someone just shoved a lemon in my mouth. It’s not that I’m against cosmetic or mild game-changing additions. I’ve bought quite a few costumes on Street Fighter IV because of the novelty.
What I am against is the constant throwing of it in your face. Every time you go up a level, or reach some other milestone, “YOU HAVE WON A CRATE DO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE OPEN CRATE SCREEN?”. Every time, and what do these chests usually contain? Stickers. A lengthy animation and reveal just to show me I’ve unlocked the letter F in a slightly different sticker font.
Or if it’s not stickers, it’s the same articles of clothing or bike part that you’ve already got five of. The bigger question, then, is why do you need six pairs of identical skinny jeans or four headlights for one particular bike? You don’t, basically.
Even better, you can sell duplicates. But for what purpose? More money. To do what with? Buy more clothes or bike parts, or even bikes themselves.
Call me old-fashioned (please, it gives me validation), but what was wrong with unlocking through progression?
Get on my level, scrub
Whilst I’m on my soapbox, let’s line something else up in my sights: the levelling system, or why there even is one.
Back in t’day, the route to progression was through medalling. New tracks and areas would be hidden behind medal progress (usually gold or above), or the completion of Gran Turismo-style teaching courses, or a combination of the two.
Instead, this time new tracks are hidden behind a levelling system. So at time of writing, I have all tracks at gold or above, but cannot unlock the new courses because I am shy two levels. How do I get more experience? Replaying the same levels again and again to shave seconds off of times for incremental amounts of experience.
It’s taken the grind of going for medals, which worked perfectly well before as a means to progress, and instead tacked the levelling system to it. I should be able to replay tracks because I want to, not because I’m stuck for experience.
Trials doesn’t need a levelling system. It’s just another pointless mechanic to tie into the microtransaction system, for every time you do level up, guess what you’re reward is: another sodding crate.
The whole thing reeks of that current trend of viral marketing and commerce that plague modern gaming, to which Ubisoft are no strangers to.
Bringing up the rear of this terribly tacky trio is the brand deals, the big corporate names attached to it. Fox and KTM are just a few of the in game “sponsors” that you find across tracks. Gone are Fusion’s individually track-based challenges, instead replaced with such generic feats like “do ten front flips and don’t fall off more than six times”, or a similar variant. Doing so nets you, christ almighty, more experience and/or crates.
Gotta win ’em all
Phew…right, I’m done. Rant over. If you’ve stuck through my spittle and rage this far, I guess I should tell you the actual gameplay part of this game.
It’s fantastic, and that’s what makes it so annoying. Had it had rubbish responses or a completely underwhelming variety of things to do, I’d have chucked this under the bus by now and been on my way.
However, it’s done away with the pseudo-floaty mechanics of Fusion and made the riding more grounded, more emphasis on hitting the right lines and not breaking that flow to keep your speed going.
A lot of the more fantastical tracks have been done away with, though. No more riding on the moon or inside a giant toy box, replaced instead with real world locations and famous tourist attractions.
This is probably due in part to the whole sponsorship deal, giving it that “real world” vibe. But it’s not to say its boring, far from it. There are still plenty of risks, red barrels strewn everywhere, and lots of dynamically changing levels that split apart or move whether you’ve caught up or not.
I’m genuinely having fun again with Trials, from a racing point of view. The response time to adjust your rider for bunny hops and leaning is pretty tight, there’s the right amount of challenge to welcome newcomers and veterans alike, as well as plenty to do.
You’ve got your global trials tracks that unlock through progression, as completely level-capped cups unlocks more around the world. Skill games make a return, albeit much more semi-grounded over the fantastical. The variety of bikes is still the similar routine though: your standard all-rounder, your heavy but quick, and you’re nimble pro bike unlocked at a higher level. You’ve also got your novelty bikes, too. The bmx makes a return, as does the miniature donkey for none other than fun purposes, and a tandem bike for your couch co-op friend to help or hinder you with.
Local and online multiplayer returns, presented as a three-heat race, nicely featuring cross play for a broader catch net of opponents.
The fabled track editor returns, for all you creative types. Personally, I lack imagination and patience to build anything more than a ramp and a finish line, but there are some corkers on there if you’re willing to broaden your mind.
Finally, instead of tacking driving lessons before each group of tracks (because there isn’t groups of tracks anymore), we have the Trials Academy. It’s an entirely optional school of lessons that start of with the basics like following lines for quickest times, to escalating in bunny hop lessons for the latter stages. There’s a grade score for each one, for trophy/achievement purposes, alongside some jovial fourth wall breaking narration to egg you on.
All in all, then, this is actually a positive review for Trials Rising. I’m sure the start of this would have suggested otherwise, but that’s not the case.
It’s a very solid and responsive racer, reminiscent of its earlier iterations that kept the racing tight and less over-the-top lunacy. It’s got its hooks back in to me, pushing me to keep getting those top times and not bogging us down with eight minute long spectacle tracks.
That being said, it’s hard to ignore the incessant use of microtransactions and what it brings with it, the in your face constant reminders about loot crates and such. It taints the experience that it’s saving grace is really in the gameplay, that all the bumf just spoils it somewhat.
However, if you’re like me and you can clench your teeth and try your best to ignore it, you will have a fantastic time with Trials Rising.
Stay for the ride, ignore the shiny crap.
Trials Rising is available now on PS4, Xbox One (reviewed on Base Xbox One), Nintendo Switch and PC
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy please go here.
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