Tri­als Fu­sion

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Ubisoft De­vel­oper RedL­ynx For­mat 360, PC, PS4, Xbox One (PC, PS4 and Xbox One ver­sions tested) Out now

360, PC, PS4, Xbox One

The Tri­als se­ries isn’t re­ally suited to sequels. DLC, sure, and per­haps the oc­ca­sional re­boot to freshen up those vi­su­als, but RedL­ynx pulled off such a per­fect land­ing with Tri­als HD back in 2009 that each at­tempt to bet­ter it is in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous, and Fu­sion comes per­ilously close to los­ing its bal­ance.

Tam­per­ing with the core bike rid­ing in any new it­er­a­tion is out of the ques­tion, which leaves RedL­ynx with two op­tions: re­lease more of the same, or re­lease more of the same with new things bolted on. Evo­lu­tion leant to­wards the for­mer, sharp­en­ing up HD’s clunky level edi­tor, pol­ish­ing the vi­su­als, and in­tro­duc­ing more var­ied en­vi­ron­ments and lo­cal mul­ti­player. Fu­sion also adds lac­quer, but is a good deal braver, ex­per­i­ment­ing with four-wheel-drive quad bikes and a physics-based trick sys­tem. The re­sult, sadly, is that it feels frac­tured.

Thank­fully, the Tri­als game at the cen­tre of all this in­no­va­tion is as good, and as vi­ciously chal­leng­ing, as it’s ever been. Fu­sion’s tracks are some of RedL­ynx’s best yet, and se­ries fans will feel at home in­stantly as they shift their rider’s weight to keep that back wheel planted. New­com­ers are well looked af­ter, too, and each tier of the ca­reer mode opens with a clear and con­cise tu­to­rial that talks rid­ers through the ba­sics as well as more ad­vanced tech­niques. There should be no ex­cuse for not know­ing how to bun­ny­hop this time around.

It’s also the best-look­ing Tri­als yet. While the se­ries’ aes­thetic has pre­vi­ously been some­what util­i­tar­ian, Fu­sion’s fu­tur­is­tic set­ting proves its most suc­cess­ful and con­sis­tent look to date. Tracks blend daz­zling metal­lic ar­chi­tec­ture with the or­ganic mud, dirt and rock struc­tures of Evo­lu­tion. The huge draw dis­tances and in­creased ge­om­e­try ap­pear to be weigh­ing heav­ily on the en­gine, though, and there’s an alarm­ing amount of tex­ture pop-in when you be­gin a race, or restart it af­ter mak­ing some progress, as well as some mi­graine-in­duc­ing poly­gon strob­ing in places. Your bike se­lec­tion will have been made long be­fore the model loads in on the menu, too, which is a shame given that your rides – as well as your rider – are fully cus­tomis­able, with body kits, wheels and new out­fits to pur­chase with your race earn­ings. Xbox One own­ers will once again have to set­tle for a much lower res­o­lu­tion than those play­ing on PS4, but at least that trade-off en­sures that Fu­sion is in no dan­ger of be­com­ing the first con­sole Tri­als game to dip be­low 60fps.

Fu­sion’s head­line ad­di­tion is its new FMX trick sys­tem, which is in­tro­duced early on in spe­cial events that take place on pur­pose-built tracks. Rather than rely on but­ton presses or com­bi­na­tions, RedL­ynx has opted for an or­ganic con­trol scheme that loosely re­sem­bles Skate’s Flick-It sys­tem. Your rider’s pose is con­trolled with the right stick, so you push left to do a Su­per­man, for ex­am­ple, or trace an arc from left to right to lie flat in front of the han­dle­bars for a dead body. The longer you hold each trick, the more points you ac­crue, and these scores can be fur­ther in­creased by adding fron­tor back­flips into the mix, or even sim­ply per­form­ing wheel­ies and en­dos be­tween jumps.

It’s pleas­ing enough at first, but while the FMX con­trols are in­tu­itive, they’re rarely pre­cise. In­puts are rel­a­tive to the bike’s ori­en­ta­tion – pulling the stick down when the bike is level makes your rider stand proudly on top of his ride, but do so with the bike point­ing up and he’ll hang down from the han­dle­bars. Given Tri­als’ trade­mark in­er­tia, ori­ent­ing your bike cor­rectly is fid­dly and it’s easy to fluff the move you were go­ing for and do some­thing else en­tirely. That’s es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic if it hap­pens to be a re­peat of an ear­lier trick (which harms your score), or you fail to achieve any­thing more than briefly writhing limbs. It’s telling that the score thresh­olds for gold and plat­inum medals for FMX events are the low­est in the game.

An­other new ad­di­tion is the all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle (ATV), a lumpen, brutish ma­chine that es­chews the bikes’ nim­ble grace for pow­er­ful four-wheel drive. Quads feel per­fectly suited to the Tri­als be­gin­ner, pro­vid­ing a low-risk op­tion for hill climbs and land­ing jumps, but they turn up half­way through the cam­paign. They’re nei­ther as re­spon­sive nor as sat­is­fy­ing as even the least pow­er­ful tri­als bike, and feel ex­trin­sic to the pack­age. The tracks given over to the quads can’t be at­tempted with a bike, ei­ther, and Tri­als purists may find them­selves re­sent­ing the re­sources that were ded­i­cated to ATVs rather than additional bike cour­ses. Lo­cal mul­ti­player is un­der-re­sourced, too. With only ten race tracks, rep­e­ti­tion soon leads to fa­tigue, and while Evo­lu­tion’s equiv­a­lent felt com­pa­ra­ble to the main game, the pace of Fu­sion’s mul­ti­player is in­ex­pli­ca­bly hob­bled to the point that your bike han­dles like it’s mov­ing through syrup. Those choos­ing an ATV will find them­selves at an ad­van­tage as well, with ramps eas­ily de­mol­ished and land­ings al­most im­pos­si­ble to get wrong when four wheels are de­liv­er­ing power. It all feels like it was in­cluded out of a sense of obli­ga­tion rather than any real de­sire to raise a smile, let alone the pulse.

Head-to-head on­line mul­ti­player and live ghost rac­ing aren’t avail­able at launch, but will be added in a free up­date down the line, along with what RedL­ynx prom­ises is a com­pletely new type of mul­ti­player for the se­ries. A yet-to-be-ac­ti­vated Tour­na­ments tab on the menu screen prom­ises be­spoke on­line events and leagues. Post-re­lease DLC is also promised – we’re still hold­ing out hope for a lo­cal turn-based Skill Games league – but what­ever con­tent RedL­ynx adds to the game in the weeks and months fol­low­ing re­lease is cer­tain to be dwarfed by the con­tri­bu­tions of its fan­base. Over 700,000 tracks and minigames were made us­ing Evo­lu­tion’s edi­tor, af­ter all.

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