Ready your engines and loosen up those shoulders, perhaps even have a little something on hand to take the edge off because Trials Fusion is here and it’s fully prepared to tear you a new one. Game-rage guaranteed.
Originating as a Java-based browser game, Red Lynx has taken the Trials series on quite a journey, its transition to consoles beginning with Trials HD on Xbox 360 and followed by Trials Revolution. Though its guise has changed and evolved over the years, the basic concept now fleshed out with full 3D graphics and community integration remains much the same and as much a recipe for frustration as ever.
With such a basic gameplay mechanic, Red Lynx have here been blessed with the opportunity to focus on innovating on Trials’ auxiliary features. The title’s community aspects are clearly notched up, with the usual leaderboard gubbins made clearly accessible from various points as you and your chosen metal steed progress from track to track. By default, the names of Fusion players on your friends list will appear as a ghost overlay as you navigate each track for instantaneous and effortless comparison, leaving the window wide open for one-upmanship. As the competition between you and your rivals intensifies, those extra milliseconds will come to mean everything.
The relentless grind of puzzling out the best line through a track is broken up by the stunt levels, especially the particularly exuberant FMX tricks which make for great party games. These serve well to neutralise the pent up frustration which mounts in the timed tracks.
Visually, the shift from slum like, DIY shantytown tracks to sci-fi futurism complements the higher-resolution graphics that the new generation of consoles are capable of. The rendering is of a good standard and as the levels become more and more complex, it becomes evident that where the basics remain the same as in past iterations, Fusion is relying on increased bombast in its visual stimuli to set itself apart from its predecessors.
Offering up the usual package of extreme sports backdrops from industrial to arctic via desert and so on (a tried-and-tested extreme sports by numbers formula for level design), Fusion serves up its doses of creativity in the track designs themselves, not that backdrops they are set against. Incorporating visually dynamic track elements, often unexpected, the rideable track design frequently misleads and confuses the player. As the difficulty curve nears the ceiling, Fusion becomes a full-fledged puzzler, countless retries needed to discover the ‘golden line’ through the levels.
Red Lynx have stayed true to their web-game heritage, preserving the humorous idiosyncrasies and outrageously exaggerated ragdoll physics that always made Trials so memorable and here continue to offer light relief after incessant failure to meet the game’s, at times, soul-destroying demands. Each track concludes with its own slapstick swansong, waiting just beyond the finish line, and as the tracks are so petite these comedy elements serve to keep Fusion refreshing, despite its many maddening, white-knuckle moments.
The soundtrack is abysmal: some tasteless EDM trash with cringeworthy vocals to boot. So vexing and invasive that it detracts from the experience and if playing locally with friends it’s only decent to kill it and kill it quick in the menus. Adding to our aural woes is the ‘announcer’, Cindy. This whiny, quasi-erotic strumpet is more than slightly reminiscent of Portal’s GLaDOS, though far less witty. She should be switched off at the first opportunity, lest your madness deepen. Nonsensical banter is all that’s on offer and it gets stale fast with the amount of repetition the perfect run demands; leaving her chirps to continue over and over is nothing short of a death wish. Mercifully the option to excise her from the experience is there. Use it.
The online nexus of community-created tracks is the crux of Fusion. Nothing sells a game better than an infinite lifespan, and the user-created tracks will keep the challenges revving far into the future. When all secrets are found and all medals have been awarded, there will still be some lunatic, lurking online, creating tracks with the sole intent of making you weep. Even with the community track library it’s debatable whether Fusion can justify its chunky price tag.
The track creator itself is fiddly but comprehensive, though to have your track featured amongst the best will take time and hard work. The same goes for finding a good track, as for every gem there are countless poorly conceived and terribly executed train wrecks just waiting to waste your time and raise your ire.
Players can customise their bikes and their riders, though the customisation of the bikes feels limited, only extending as far as colour, wheel type and body kit. A separate mode that permitted more customisation into the bikes’ mechanics would’ve proved interesting and provided a different way for people to attack particularly challenging tracks. Player customisation goes as far as a range of silly outfits and accoutrements unlocked with level ups and cold, hard cash, stockpiled in abundance after running through the single player track list. Further unlocks are available via Ubisoft’s multiplayer service, Uplay, which is foisted upon the player from the off.
Trials Fusion begins as an unassuming romp but quickly becomes an addiction; maddeningly challenging tracks forcing the player to either accept the shame of defeat or hone their skills to perfection. Improvement comes fast, but the road to mastery is long and arduous. Fusion is at its best with a bunch of friends and a few bottles of suds, soundtracked with oohs and ahs and countless expletives. A greater selection of bikes and quads would have been great but what’s here will give hours of misery and jubilation in equal measure as ‘one more go’ becomes a hundred.
Thanks to Xbox for supplying this game for review.