Trials Fusion Review
Review By Gameboffin @ 10:10am 16/04/14
Who exactly is this game for? I ask this as the credits roll on Trials Fusion. Behind me, a jumbled mess of fleeting tracks. I am confused because the first two-thirds of the game feels aimed at new players, full of tutorials and skill games, and populated with tracks that rarely take longer than half a minute to complete. Then it all switches and we are exposed to a dozen or so tracks designed for hardcore players who will no doubt be playing them for months. It’s in the dying moments of Fusion that the Trials of old starts to shine through at last, but it’s never really there at all.
Let’s consider what Fusion is trying to do. It’s aiming to become the definitive Trials platform. Expansions are already being worked on and, if you like what you play in Fusion, you can invest in a (one year) season pass so that new tracks, rider gear and build elements become available to you as they are released. Online track sharing is streamlined, with a section devoted to browsing through the latest player-created tracks, filtered via a thumbs-up/down rating system. You can favourite tracks after you’ve tried them out and they gather in a folder for you to return to. Downloading of tracks is quick and effortless. It’s all great in theory. However, this arm of Fusion is going to depend entirely on the output quality from the community in the coming months. We can likely expect a few drip-fed creations from RedLynx, to help incite creativity, but it’s still going to hinge on as yet unrealised experiences.
The main portion of Trials Fusion – the official tracks – are okay, and that’s about as enthusiastic as I can get. Most are far too brief and there’s a weird fixation with its sci-fi setting, where an annoying AI speaks to you as you race in an attempt to inject a storyline into a game that has no need for one. Evolution’s tracks were memorable because they would unfurl upon repeated plays. Even after playing Fusion through to the credits and returning to earlier tracks to explore the challenges, the whole thing still feels messy and unrefined, designed from a point of view that is more focused on showing off a particular camera move, complete with annoying lens flair, than considering how each track flows. As mentioned, there’s no middle ground with track difficulty – they’re either Sunday rides or impossible gauntlets.
Perhaps this was intentional. Maybe the soft start (and middle) is a joke. After all, slapstick humour is rife throughout the game, especially for the track endings, which always end with your rider meeting a grisly end at the hands of futuristic machinery or a very long fall (slightly amusing the first few times, uncomfortably lame the rest). Trials Fusion is a product that generally feels underdone. This extends to the new ingredients: tricks and track challenges. Here are two elements that perhaps were meant to be at the forefront of Fusion’s design but seem to have gotten lost in the mix.
The trick system is simple but imprecise. Using a combination of right-stick motions, your rider can strike a pose and gain points for specific tricks. Strangely, this system is completely arbitrary except when used during designated skill challenges, which are reserved for the final tracks in each tier. Otherwise, you’ll hardly remember to pull tricks off. Most of the time, your gyrating rider mucks up the bike’s momentum so much that it’s a struggle to land, so the risk versus reward is all out of whack. There’s also too large a window between doing a trick and having it register for points. Even if you do manage to pull off the required thumbstick motions, the game is too sluggish to respond and assign points while you’re in the air, so your best bet is to just hold the one trick and try to land it safely.
Track challenges and secrets are similarly disappointing. Whether or not you bother to go back through tracks, ticking off each challenge, depends on how much of a completionist you are. Quite a few of the challenges seem almost impossible, such as completing a no-fault run without leaning, or doing a specific number of flips, again with a no-fault run. Given the aforementioned unreliability of the trick system, it’s just not worth engaging with such tight restrictions. Almost all of the challenges feel too prescribed, less about skill and more about which players can be bothered to wrestle with the disappointing tracks in the hope that they gain some deeper appreciation. The idea of track-specific challenges is decent and might have shaped a far more rewarding game if it were further integrated into the game, rather than floating as a periphery option.
Track secrets are cryptic Easter Eggs that exist only as novelties. Some of them bring about simple changes, such as turning the level from night to day or rearranging the terrain to make the track more of a challenge, while other discoveries change the game entirely, such as playing out a tennis mini-game or allowing you to race through a track from a third-person perspective. These offer light distractions that do little harm, but they hardly encourage deep experimentation. If anything, their buried nature means that most players will never get to experience them.
With so many competing goals, progress through the career section becomes almost meaningless. Not only do you have medals to unlock on each track, but various leaderboards to chase and an XP levelling system, which is linked to a nebulous ranking. Although you earn medals and XP across both career tracks and online ones, it’s never made clear why this kind of overarching progress is even a benefit. This variegated design makes Fusion feel like a bundle of short and long straws tied together. The game’s not actually finished, either. Free updates are coming, which RedLynx promises will push multiplayer beyond just the local realm, plus added tweaks and social features. I wouldn’t be putting any money down for the season pass until it becomes clear just how all the jumbled parts are going to come together.
If you want to focus just on the racing itself, there is always the challenge of chasing your online friends’ times, but with such uninspired tracks I doubt we’ll see quite the same buzz around Fusion as there was for Evolution. What we’re left with is a product that relies more on promises and potential than what is actually playable. The tracks are boring, the tricks not worth bothering with, the attempt at storytelling laughable and far too much expectation rests in the audience to shape Fusion’s potential. Perhaps this will be a different story in a few months.
Max Payne 3, Resident Evil 4 and Alan Wake in particular), adventure titles and anything with a strong narrative focus. Exploration in games is important to him, but he's not too worried if the action is heavily directed; it's important that a story gets told. Dylan loves all gaming platforms but is in love with the Vita of late, both for replaying recent classics (The Walking Dead, Hotline Miami) and the exciting possibilities of PS4 link support. When not writing about games, he is focused on writing fiction. Dylan has completed two novel manuscripts in the last two years and is partway through a third, with hopes of securing a publisher soon.
Recent articles by Dylan:@d_p_burns and PSN - GameboffinAU.