…And Still Falling

HIGH Best Trials tutorial ever. Thanks, Fatshady!

LOW Having a perfect run on a balls-hard track ruined by a framerate hiccup.

WTF Grinding for experience???

I’m a Trials fan, and have been since 2009’s Trials HD.

For the uninitiated, it’s a hardcore series where each installment asks players to ride a high-powered dirtbike up slopes and ramps, resulting in big air and big thrills. It’s a bit like a modern-day Excitebike, except that it’s got teeth — by the time it hits the midpoint, friendly courses give way to vertical surfaces, near-impossible jumps, and physics-defying barriers that crush souls and leave people in tears. But for a certain stripe of player? It’s amazing stuff.

Me? I’m one of the crazies who can’t get enough of the sadism that Trials can deliver, and it’s generally been compelling enough to dedicate myself to. Until lately, anyway. After the dynamite first game and a stronger sequel, Evolution, the series just hasn’t managed to find its groove again. The disappointment continues with the latest, Trials Rising.   

Things start well enough. Just like every other Trials, the player takes a bike and hits the tracks, and the magic is present. The graphics are great, the controls are as tight as ever, and it’s always thrilling to launch into crazy hangtime before freefalling and landing at just the right angle to carry speed and momentum into the rest of the track. It’s thrilling.

For the next few hours things are still great and I thought that the series had regained its special sauce, but then I started noticing problems. The first was some weirdness with the cosmetic items – helmets, jackets, and the like. Things would get ‘frozen’ in the menu or duplicated as the game (I assume) was trying to verify with the Ubisoft servers. Annoying, but no big deal. Then, a bit of stuttering and lag started to crop up. In most titles, such a minor hiccup would be unnoticeable. But in this series? It’s unforgivable.

There are so many moments on every track when the player has to be absolutely focused and nail a high-finesse maneuver at just the right angle at precisely the right time, and often with a margin of error that’s a fraction of a fraction of a second. Lag and hiccups can’t happen here—but they do. When the difference between 1st place and 5th is less than a second, even a micro-hiccup is enough to ruin a run.

Loading time is also something that’s never been a problem for Trials, but this is another issue that Rising has to deal with. It’s unpredictable and inconsistent, but I’ve frequently seen loadtimes of over a minute when starting a track, and up to two minutes is common. It may not sound huge, but Trials is a series that’s built its identity upon getting players into the action and keeping them there – quick turnaround times are one of the tricks that mitigate the frustration found in the upper end of gameplay, so getting to the end of a run and having to sit and stew before getting another crack at it is a good way to get the blood boiling.

Both of those things are irritating, but they’re not serious as the grind that’s inexplicably appeared out of nowhere to absolutely ruin the experience.

Trials has generally been about getting to a new track, mastering its intricacies, getting a gold medal (eventually platinum, for those up to the challenge) and finishing strong before moving on to the next. This time, the developers have forgone that elegant structure in place of an absolutely wretched experience system.

In the opening hours, everything is fine. Plenty of EXP is dropped and progress comes as fast as the player wants it, but the first pause in progress comes when trying to unlock one of the later bikes – a strange and noticeable delay, but not too severe. Simply getting a few more golds got me there before I ran out of content, and the game kept rolling. The next progress wall came when finishing the Medium tracks and before getting into the Hard tracks.  

After getting a gold medal on every course in the game up until the end of the Medium rank, Trials Rising had nothing new to offer except for a series of challenges which ask players to replay old tracks with twists like beating a certain opponent’s time, pulling off a number of backflips or forward flips, asking them to finish the track with a bicycle instead of a dirtbike, and so on.

This pacing choice is utterly wrongheaded because not only does it take everyone but the top tier of Trials savants (at least) several tries on each track to get gold in the first place, to go back and replay them again with a series of arbitrary challenges for EXP comes off as a cheap way to pad out the length. I’d rather be spending time trying to perfect ruthless jumps and tackling ego-shattering verticalities than repeating tracks I’ve already mastered – and to be clear, it’s not just a matter of re-running a couple of courses. No, it’s hours of grind, and potentially more depending on how successful the player is.

Ultimately, the real problem is that the developers have gotten away from the core of what makes Trials great — ultra-tight gameplay, challenging tracks, and an elegant, streamlined experience that delivers several plates’ worth of steak with none of the fat, and that’s just not the case with Trials Rising. I’ve got the patience to attempt a tricky jump hundreds of times (more than 600 goes on an Extreme track is my personal record) but grinding for EXP in a series that’s always been about pulling off impossible stunts and ascending to dirtbike godhood? I’ve got no time for it.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Ubisoft Kiev and published by Ubisoft. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, Switch and PC.  This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. The game integrates multiplayer ghosts into all modes and online recordings of other players are accessible for viewing. No time was spent in global multiplayer. Private multiplayer is not currently available.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Suggestive Themes and Mild Violence. The official description is as follows: This is a stunt-racing game in which players ride motorcycles through obstacle courses around a variety of settings. Players jump over gaps, avoid hazards, and try to avoid crashing or “faulting.” Some levels contain explosions that can forcefully knock the rider to the ground or into objects. Other levels contain hazards or end sequences in which the rider can be flung into chasms, electrocuted, run over by a train, or crushed by cars or machinery. Riders are frequently heard screaming during these sequences. In one stage (“Bomb Bouncer”), players launch the rider as far as possible through the use of explosives; the explosives violently launch the Rider, who briefly catches fire and screams.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The majority of text is limited to menu screens. There is no in-game dialogue apart from whoops and shouting. No audio is necessary for successful play. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

Brad Gallaway
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3 years ago

yo dude have you noticed the stuttering and lag on a whole bunch of the tracks and even the world map screen? my stutters or lags on half the tracks it seems and sometimes stops as I play the track over and over but it’s unpredictable? is it the game itself or my game? if just the game can they patch that?