Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trials Rising (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

Trials Rising or the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC is the next game receiving the SuperPhillip Central review treatment, so let's put on our helmets, hop on our bikes, and get ready to ride with the review! (Coincidentally, I always wear a helmet when writing reviews. Safety first!)

Rising to the challenge

Video games are a fantastic way of performing actions and doing things that you could only possibly dream of doing in real life. For instance, I don't think I'd really like to try riding a bike down a steep roller coaster track, but in Trials Rising from Ubisoft, I easily can and not be terrified by doing it. Of course, there is also the little matter that in real life I can't ride a bike to begin with, so that's another thing Trials Rising lets me do with ease! With over 100 tracks to take on and superb physics, Trials Rising is one heck of a ride, but does the inclusion of a new progression system and loot boxes result in some unnecessary and unwanted bumps in the road?

Trials Rising features over 100 unique courses to challenge yourself with, riding your bike along hills, valleys, over jumps, though loops, and other obstacles with the goal of reaching the end of each track. Depending on how fast you complete tracks, you're rewarded with a medal for completion. Every time you fault and restart from a checkpoint, of which they are generously sprinkled throughout each track, you get five seconds automatically added to your time.

Ridin' dirty. No, really. There's a lot of dirt here!
Now if that sounds easy, let me drop some truth onto you--it's not. Not at all. Starting out with Trials Rising, you'll crash, you'll bail, and you'll find yourself eating an unhealthy amount of dirt (then again, what IS a healthy amount of dirt?). Thankfully, Trials Rising features a training school that slowly teaches you all of the tricks of the trade that you'll need to survive and succeed in each of the tracks within Trials. From learning how to take inclines and declines and performing bunny hops to successfully landing on steep grades without falling off your bike, the lessons in Trials Rising grow more and more challenging, but each is explained well enough with helpful tutorials and visual examples as to not make for a frustrating experience. It's fortunate that you're not just thrust into playing the games and having to learn as you play, as that would make for an aggravating time.

Forgive me ahead of this pun, but this track is a "wheel-y" good time.
It's a literal balancing act in Trials Rising to succeed, and it's all about managing your speed and how you lean on your bike. Simply holding down the pedal will result in a lot of crashes, as it takes a lot of finesse to perform well. Starting off, the game introduces the concept of leaning back when heading downhill and leaning forward when moving uphill. Having your back tire always firmly planted on the ground will result in moving forward, but it can be all too easy to over-correct yourself and find your face planted firmly with the ground. It's a total boon that the physics system is as stellar as ever, so when you do crash, it's never due to wonky physics but instead user error.

Jumping off your back tire performs a bunny hop, perfect for reaching those higher places.
Trials Rising features an atypical progression system compared to past games. Rather than simply completing a series of tracks and moving on to the next more difficult set, you need to reach specific experience levels from finishing races, getting medals, and completing contracts.

Contracts are a new mechanic in the Trials series. These come in various difficulties and task you with completing an objective or series of objectives mid-race. These range from performing a specific number of flips, hitting a certain amount of airtime, performing a wheelie for a set distance, completing a track with minimal faults, using a certain bike with specific rules (like low gravity, your bike or ride being invisible, etc.), among others.

Not exactly my pick for a vacation spot, but it's one hell of an explosive track to race on all the same.
Fortunately, completing all of the contracts is by no means required. It's just that to make enough progress with your rider's level, you need to complete a good amount of them. What isn't so fortunate is that many times you'll find yourself locked out of the next set of tracks because your level isn't high enough to compete in and complete the stadium series of races required to unlock them. This results in some serious grinding at times.

My rider's racing career's so bright, he's gotta wear shades.
The actual tracks of Trials Rising are brilliantly designed and an absolute delight to race on. It's a globetrotting journey across landmarks and settings like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a Hollywood movie set with full digitally produced monsters, a trip through a Saudi war zone complete with minefields and explosives, a race through an amusement park, a break-in to Alcatraz which is complete with electrified fences to leap over or otherwise avoid, and even a race across the back of a moving train. The level of creativity in the tracks is off the charts, and I was always enthused and excited to see where the developers and designers were going to take my Trials journey next.

From the death-defying leaps of the Eiffel Tower...
Something I was less enthused about was the actual track select menu, which is a world map featuring a collection of sprinkled icons all over. Beginning with the game, it isn't too taxing to navigate and find which tracks are which, but as more and more tracks unlock for play, the map becomes all too cluttered and a bit confusing to find and discover what you want. This is even with the ability to press the left shoulder button and custom pick what level icons show up.

...to the steep inclines of the cliffs in Vietnam...
Multiplayer is supported in Trials Rising in both asynchronous and live play. The game pits you against a selection of ghosts from other players in the Trials Rising community. These can be turned off by completing raising the opacity of the ghosts, but it's usually beneficial to leave them on. I saw new ways to tackle tracks that I hadn't thought about--such as being able to chain multiple jumps together in order to have a way to have enough speed to reach a high-up shortcut. Multiplayer is also available for online play where you all race on the same track, attempting to reach the goal first. The first season of Trials Rising is currently going on, offering ranks and unique rewards for stellar performance. It's been fun to rise in the ranks and compete against live players--though this usually results in me being more focused on my competitors' real-time ghosts instead of the actual oncoming obstacles, resulting in some great choke jobs from yours truly!

A cool feature that I enjoyed spending a good deal of time with is the ability to customize your rider's gear with stickers. 200 total can be placed on each piece of your rider's gear to really make your riders yours. I liked seeing the creativity on display with the Rising community--seeing folks dressed up as Spider-Man, Deadpool, Goku, Naruto, and other heroes from comics and anime. I went for more of a preppy approach with mine. You can even put your custom creations on the in-game shop where they can be purchased with Trials Rising currency earned from completing races and contracts. New rider clothing and gear can be bought either from the shop or discovered in randomized loot crates, which you're given each time your rider levels up. Everything in these loot crates is wholly cosmetic to outfit your rider and ride with, so if you don't care about that sort of thing, there's nothing too foul here practice-wise.

...Trials Rising's tour will take you across the globe and to some truly spectacular locations!
While Trials Rising controls superbly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One due to the analog triggers, allowing you to press down just enough to get the right amount of force to apply to the pedal to gain speed, the Switch version is a little trickier in this regard as the controllers--whether the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller--do not have analog inputs to them. This means your stuck either gunning down on the pedal or applying no force to the pedal at all. There is no in-between. While this isn't too much of an issue with the first 3/4ths of tracks in the game, the latter tracks of Trials Rising do not lend well to this control issue. Though you can use a GameCube controller if you have the adapter available to you, or you can opt to use the right analog stick of the base Switch controllers for the gas--though this latter option is still not optimal.

No bikes were harmed in the making of these screenshots... (Just the rider.)
Trials Rising is a ridiculously fun riding romp that gives the player enough tutorials and tools to succeed, rather than being thrown into the deep end of the proverbial pool. The track design being the absolute best the Trials franchise has ever seen almost makes the obnoxious world map and level progression system that are necessary to reach all of them bearable. The inclusion of loot crates may put some potential players off, but they're placed in the game in a way that is hardly vindictive or malicious. As is, Trials Rising delivers one heck of a ride that rises to both the challenge and the occasion of a wildly enjoyable game.

[SPC Says: B]

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