The problem with making something pure is that changing it makes people nervous. That’s something of which RedLynx became intensely aware after announcing at E3 2013 that one of the additions to Trials Fusion would be a trick system. The uproar was immediate: this exacting game of balance, control and exquisite physics was doomed to become a showy, score-chasing motocross romp. But as creative director Antti Ilvessuo explains, that was never going to be the case.
“People were worried that we were ruining Trials,” he tells us. “But we’re the developer; we know how to make this game. People should rest assured that we know what Trials is. We’re not breaking anything.”
On the evidence of this first look at Fusion, he’s right. Trials is, first and foremost, a remarkable physics model from which game design spills out, and the freestyle motocross (FMX) system is grounded in real-world physics. As before, you use the left stick to shift your balance and, with it, the position of the bike. Now you can use the other stick to move a rider’s legs. Keep the bike level, push your legs out behind it and you’re Superman.
“Tricks in other games are about button combinations,” Ilvessuo says. “I haven’t seen this done in any other game, and I think this is the right way to do it. Everything’s done by physics, not by animation [cycles]. It’s all unlocked, and it’s only your own skill that defines what you do.” For the most part, FMX is hived off from the core game in bespoke events and skill games, but you can do tricks at any time, though the need for higher jumps will adversely impact racing times.
Elsewhere, we find more new uses for old physics. The addition of all-terrain vehicles whiffs of gimmickry at first, but poses a stern challenge to honed Trials muscle memory. While traditional Trials bikes are, naturally, rear-wheel drive, the 4×4 nature of these ATVs means you lose speed if you land jumps on your back wheels. It’s a subtle yet fundamental change to the way you play.
As is a new focus on replayability that fleshes out each of the career mode’s 40 races with a set of three challenges. Some are skill based, perhaps asking you to complete a number of flips. Others involve finding secrets squirrelled about levels. Others still trigger minigames that mimic the leftfield player creations made in Trials Evolution’s level editor (in Fusion, that editor is refined and expanded, containing over 5,000 objects). We have a game of tennis against a grumpy penguin, for instance. But it’s not all played for laughs: finishing some challenges shuffles the level furniture to pose a sterner test.
The singleplayer career follows the standard Trials template, and late-game levels put its simple mechanics to taxing use, with the latest iteration of RedLynx’s Inferno track proving every bit as tough as you’d hope. There’s further challenge in Infinite mode, which spits out short, procedurally generated lengths of neon track, the player given three lives to survive as many sections as possible.
Much attention is being paid to how this sprawling package is presented, too. The game is, like Evolution, split into three strands – singleplayer, multiplayer, and UGC in Track Central – but a new XP system powers a levelling path for each of them, with the sum giving your overall rank. A notification centre tells you if a friend has set a new course record or created a new track, as well as tracking any of the new time-limited tournaments in which you’re involved.
RedLynx has been busy, then – and its workload has only been added to by this being the first Trials game to be multiplatform on day one. It has led to the studio thinking outwards, devising new ways to use its physics model. RedLynx is enthralled by its player community, which created some 700,000 tracks in Evolution, but it isn’t in its thrall. To be so would mean no FMX tricks, no ATVs, or any of the other little additions that make this the most ambitious Trials yet.