Trials Evolution Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Xbox 360
Release date:
April 18, 2012
1 - 4 local and online

Trials Evolution

Out of the warehouse and into the world.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
May 2nd 2012

Trials HD was a lovely game of simplicity and evil. The controls involved leaning forward and back, analog acceleration, plus a very weak brake/reverse. The Trials series is basically a 2D sidescrolling motorcycle racing/platformer, requiring you to perform dark magics of control on obstacle courses ranging from training levels to insane stunt sequences. Even the easy runs need maddening precision if you want a decent spot on the leaderboards, and just getting through the expert courses is reason enough to brag even if it required one hundred or more checkpoint resets.

There's potentially no end to the trials.

Still, the endless warehouses of Trials HD got old fast and multiplayer options were a bit weak. Fixing issues like that are why we have sequels, though, and Trials Evolution escapes the warehouse with dozens of tracks set in a huge variety of locations. The docks, industrial complexes, castles, and back country all keep the challenge of not falling over visually fresh - and occasionally stunning, when you drop from the upper atmosphere to the ground hundreds of feet below.

The mutliplayer also gets a thorough upgrade, with several new modes of play. Racing on the standard tracks against player ghosts is nice enough, but the motocross tracks are the clear star of the show. These are unique tracks four lanes wide, with all players visible as they race, jump, and frantically control spin and posture to keep their wheels on the ground and bike at the head of the pack.

As nice as racing friends is, it's their ghosts in single-player that will really keep you replaying for a better time. Every friend who's played a track has a little dot with his name above it showing his position on the track, and the first few times on a course will have him zipping away appearing to run magically perfect lines. Whether the results are obtained by practice or luck, those dots imply that your friends are better than you, and the urge to prove them wrong can inspire some heavy replay far beyond what the usual leaderboard scoring would do.

All that practice is going to lead to recognizing some faults that might otherwise have slipped under the radar, though. There are only two issues to contend with, and the minor one is the motorcycle selection. There are four bikes to choose among, but once you've earned the Phoenix it's the only one that gets any use. The Micro Donkey technically counts as a fifth choice, but it only unlocks if you have Trials HD and it's more of a joke ride than a contender. If the Phoenix's handling is a bit too light and twitchy, you're just going to have to get used to it, because there's no other motorcycle for leaderboard competition.

The other issue is a long-running series staple, which is the lack of analog leaning. You've got very precise control over acceleration, which is great when you need to carefully control thrust on a steep hill so the front wheel doesn't go flying into the air. Shifting the rider's weight, on the other hand, means jerking the motorcycle around, which is maddening when you just want to reposition to lean forward without having the rear wheel leave the ground. It makes the hardest obstacles a matter of rote memorization rather than reflexive adaptation, because once the slightest flaw enters the process any attempt at recovery will end with the bike sitting on your face.

By the time you've got a handle on the Phoenix and accepted the handling quirks, however, you'll have seen the most insane tracks and maybe even completed one or two. The learning curve is more gentle in Trials Evolution than its prequels, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easier when Hard and Extreme tracks finally show up. The number of falls can be measured in the hundreds in the completion of one track, but only a few obstacles will inspire controller-crushing frustration. Each crash tends to feel like another lesson in how to fail less, with only a few sections ending up as near-impossible achievements.

This easily leads to multi-hour play sessions as the addiction painlessly sinks its claws into your brain, quietly encouraging another round, a better run now that you understand the track just a little bit better. Trials Evolution is an unforgivingly tough task-master, especially when trying for the perfect run, but the precise controls, ridiculous course design, and insane challenges can eventually be tamed. And after that, once you've got a sense of how everything fits together, you can build your own with the editor or download as many user-created tracks as your heart desires. There's potentially no end to the trials, and when it feels this good to race, jump, flip, and stunt to the finish line, that becomes a challenge to look forward to.

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