When Trials Fusion was announced last year, I have to admit, I was not that excited for it. The thing is, the previous game, Trials Evolution, was pretty good. Damn good. In fact, I believe it might have been the first 5/5 score I had given on this site! With Trials Evolution, I felt that game said everything that needed to be said for the franchise, and if there was going to be another Trials game, it would need to be very different for me to get excited by it. Unfortunately, my gut instinct ended up being somewhat true.
With Trials Fusion, it is still a very good game. The unique and satisfying core gameplay from the previous games is very much still present and the level design is as brilliant as ever. However, Fusion doesn't add much that Evolution didn't already have and in some cases, takes things away unnecessarily. Hardcore Trials fans will have already bought Fusion but for the rest of us, I think Evolution is the better game.
For those who have never played a Trials game before, Trials is best described as a physics-based platformer with some puzzle elements thrown in. That might sound strange given the fact it looks like a racing game at a glance, but it definitely isn't. The only thing you will be racing against in Trials is time, which determines what medal you will earn at the end of the event.
Like with previous Trials games, Trials Fusion is easy to understand and it doesn't take long to get a solid grip on the controls. Both of the triggers on the controller allow you to accelerate and brake, while using the left analogue stick allows you to move your rider back and forth in his seat, and this effects how your bike behaves, particularly when you are either in the air or trying to go uphill. While the controls are easy enough to learn, it will take many hours of practice to learn all of the intricacies of the controls which are required when tackling the game's harder levels.
Each of the main Trials levels in the campaign have one simple goal: get to the finish line. You will be driving up and down hills, doing loops and even some good ol' fashioned platforming. However, the thing that you will learn quickly is that it is really easy to mess up. Whether you accelerated too much, accelerated too little, mistimed your brake, or whatever, it is inevitable that you will crash often.
Thankfully, all of the levels have frequent checkpoints that you can go back to whenever you crash but in order to earn the better medals, you will want to finish each track as cleanly as you can. So while most people will have no problem finishing most of the tracks in Trials Fusion, getting a gold or platinum medal on every track is a much harder challenge and it's immensely satisfying when you do accomplish such a task.
When going from level-to-level, you will appreciate how different each level feels. Even though the gameplay throughout Trials doesn't change too much, the sheer fact that the game keeps changing the aesthetic of each level helps you keep going. It makes you wonder what the next level is going to look like. Evolution was the first game to finally get out of that drab warehouse and Fusion is now the first game in the series to add a futuristic feel to some of the levels, which is welcome.
Like Evolution, Fusion does an excellent job of easing you in with simple tracks to help you understand the basics and there are even handy tutorials peppered in throughout the career mode which help teach you the game's more advanced techniques.
However, I think Trials Fusion isn't as gradual in its difficulty compared to Trials Evolution. I found the beginner, easy and medium tracks in Trials Fusion to be straightforward but then when it got to hard, it was like being punched in the face. I remember medium tracks in Trials Evolution being significantly tougher than they are here, making the jump from medium to hard not nearly as jarring. Oh and of course, the final tier where all of the extreme tracks live, are absolutely nightmarish, which is to be expected!
Aside from the standard Trials levels, there are new trick-based levels called FMX. Here the goal is to score as many points as you can and finish the track within the time limit. Finishing the track isn't the hard part here, it is making sure you are doing as many tricks as you can and making sure you can land properly to bank the most points as possible.
Performing the tricks does take a little bit of getting used to. You use the right analogue stick to move your rider in a certain direction, to perform moves like the "Superman" or the "Coffin." It sounds simple enough but given the physics based nature of the gameplay, it is hard judging how many tricks you can do before you have to worry about making sure you land properly. The FMX levels are fun, but I prefer the core Trials levels.
There are also several unique Skill games throughout the game. The Skill Game Circus from Trials Evolution is gone so instead, at the end of each tier of the career, there is one Skill game to try out. All of these are completely different and have you trying to accomplish a certain task. For example, one asks you to see how far you can get in the level without being able to lean your rider. Another one asks you to see how far you can you get, but you have to keep going fast or doing tricks otherwise your bike will explode. These Skill Games offer a good change of pace, but I thought the events featured in the previous game were goofier and more entertaining.
Trials Fusion also features one multiplayer mode, Supercross, which you can play locally with up to four players. In this mode, all four players just have to navigate the level as fast as they can, trying not to crash. If a player either crashes or fails to keep up, they will lose a point and the player with the most points is the winner. This mode was featured in Trials Evolution too but they haven't done much to change it since then. There aren't that many tracks available for this mode either, so it gets old pretty fast. Also, online play has been completely gutted for Fusion, along with the Trials multiplayer mode, which was a multiplayer twist on the standard Trials levels. So while multiplayer was a great addition in Evolution, here, it's pretty much the same with key features stripped out. No thanks.
Despite the lack of multiplayer options, Trials Fusion packs in enough replay value to keep you coming back for a while. All of the single-player events are highly replayable, even if you have already scored a gold or platinum medal. Trials has always done a brilliant job of tracking how well your friends have done in comparison to you and it is always great fun being able to beat your friends' best times. Also brand new to Fusion are level specific challenges. Each track now has three unique challenges. These can be things like, before finishing the level, you have to land 5 flips or finish the level without letting go of the accelerator. All of these challenges are tough and there isn't much reason to finish them but at least they are there! There is also a Track Editor where you can either make new levels or download new levels from other creators.
Graphically, Trials Fusion looks great throughout. I have been playing the Xbox One version, which as you would expect, is visually a step up from what Trials Evolution looked like on the Xbox 360, a superb looking game in its own right. Fusion ups the ante by providing some gorgeous lighting effects and the environments are extremely well detailed. It is amazing how much stuff is crammed into the background of all these levels and while you are probably not going to notice a lot of it, it is still looks awesome. My only complaint with the graphics is that there is some nasty looking texture pop-in that occurs when you restart levels sometimes, but it isn't the end of the world.
Sound-wise, Trials Fusion fares well there too with great squealy bike noises throughout and the comical yelps that your rider gives out when he hits a jump is always a bit of fun. The music has changed greatly from the previous games, going from raucous rock music to smooth synth/electronic music, to compliment the new futuristic styling. It all works very well. The only aspect of the sound that I am not a huge fan of is the voice acting. Yes, for the first time in the series, there is some dialogue that occurs during events from a robot lady and a robot man but they are both annoying and add absolutely nothing to the game.
Overall, Trials Fusion is still a great game. It has some issues and generally it is too similar to Trials Evolution for me. If you have never played a Trials game before, I would definitely recommend Evolution over Fusion as I think the difficulty is more balanced and there are more multiplayer options there. Evolution is also $5 cheaper, so keep that in mind. But Fusion is still a fun game with excellent gameplay, but it isn't the next big step for the franchise the way Evolution was.
Oh and there's a quad bike in it, but it really isn't a big deal. It's the same as a bike, but it is slower and a bit pointless.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
(A great game that largely succeeds, but stumbles in some notable ways.)