Despite all the imitators that popped up in the past decade, Trials has always been the premier trials game. No other title could match its slapstick humor, track selection, and, most importantly, its pitch perfect, controls that rely heavily on physics. Starting from the top doesn’t give much room for TRIALS RISING to grow over its predecessors but it is the biggest and most expansive version of that formula.
It’s a formula that should be immediately familiar to anyone who has seen a Trials game in action. Players must overcome obstacles on a bike by correctly leaning and accelerating at the most opportune times. Making it to the finish line in one piece is often challenging, but held up by its responsive controls. This simple yet beautiful gameplay loop that pushes players to improve by doing is mostly how the series has always squeezed out its competition for almost a decade.
Sublime controls still are a huge part of and essential to Rising’s success but it’s also the surrounding parts that give it that extra flair that keeps it being just a game about bikes. Track design is chief among the game’s second greatest asset as the courses often complement the great core gameplay.
Trials Rising Review | A good track record
Whereas HD relied on a grungy warehouse aesthetic, Evolution had a scattershot bunch of stages, and Fusion doubled down on a boring, sterile futuristic theme, Rising commits to grounding all of its levels into real-world locations. Against all odds, it never gives in to the blandness that reality might be prone to. Instead, it uses actual locations but gussies them up with enough fantastical elements to keep them exciting. Essentially, it’s the best of both worlds since the levels, despite their differences, abide to a consistent, realistic motif yet always use ludicrous set pieces and comically large ramps to liven things up.
Tracks also keeps up with their appearances too through their design in a few different ways. Levels are often filled with alternate routes that reward skilled players, which gives the title the franchise’s signature replayability. Newer riders may slum it on the lower paths until they learn how to bunny hop and do wheelies well enough to gain enough speed to take the higher routes to get better times. Regardless of what route you take, however, stages are often dynamic enough and embrace their specific themes to keep them from being a static gauntlets meant to only test the reflexes of its players.
This means the medieval level is filled with catapults and arrow volleys while the Alcatraz course has electric fencing that players must avoid to survive. There’s almost always a gimmick that has either a gameplay or visual impact; an impressive feat for a game with this many unique stages. And this transcends difficulty too as the simpler tracks have almost as much going on as the most punishing races.
Rising goes one step beyond in helping players work up to those sadistic courses through its new training mode. Rather than throwing in an unintuitive text dump at those still on their training wheels, Rising has compiled multiple voiced tutorials for each aspect of the game that break down its most basic features to its most complicated techniques.
Although it doesn’t tell players exactly what they’re doing wrong, it does give players a safe environment to practice in and learn the title’s many specific intricacies. Helpful voiceovers and AI ghosts are the most useful since they show players what they should be doing and when they should lean, accelerate, or brake. Given the brutality of the game, these guides are a useful learning tool for nailing the later stages that ask for nearly perfect runs.
Trials Rising Review | Trials and error
Although some of these lessons will be locked off for quite some time, which is indicative of the game’s bigger issue of aggressive level gating. While past titles may have marked progression via medals, Rising opts to lock off sections of the game until you’ve hit a specific level. No matter if you’ve been getting bronzes or golds, you’ll eventually hit a wall and have to continually grind stages to get to the next set.
And since replaying courses nets you minimal experience, you’ll have to seek out specific levels with challenges, which is awfully limiting. Like the two most recent Assassin’s Creed games, it’s a cheap way to artificially inflate its runtime; a puzzling decision given how it already has enough content to naturally keep players busy.
Along with its lengthy campaign and extensive tutorials, Rising also comes with the series’ expected suite of multiplayer modes. There’s the standard synchronous multiplayer as well as the asynchronous ghosts that fill the tracks in the campaign portion. Party Mode, its updated take on local competitive play, is novel even if it’s only meant for people of a similar skill level given how the best players can speed ahead as the others constantly teleport from one checkpoint to the next. Along with the functional and understandably complicated track editor, nothing particularly stands out but each plays its role well in giving Trials Rising plenty of different ways to play with others.
Trials Rising Review | Double trouble
Rising has a multiplayer mode for most people, especially those who have wanted saddle up on the same bike as someone else and attempt to control it like some sort of two-wheeled Jaeger from Pacific Rim. The Tandem Bike is not quite as graceful as those hulking robots but it makes up for it in sheer uniqueness. Faceplanting together is hilarious but effectively synchronizing and getting to the finish line with someone else is also satisfying, making it the best new addition to the series Rising has to offer.
However, it is slightly disappointing that some of the tracks don’t quite seem to facilitate its bigger frame, making some jumps nearly — if not entirely — impossible. While cramming it into the existing tracks works well enough for the simpler courses, it would perhaps be better if the Tandem Bike had its own separate tracks.
Trials Rising Review | Pathetic cosmetics
The game’s customization goes hand in hand with its heavy emphasis on multiplayer. Cosmetics rain down upon you as you level up and complete certain challenges and let you customize your rider and bike. And while decking out your dead-eyed, soulless rider is harmless and gives you something to work toward, it gets dampened by the game’s glut of worthless loot.
All the typical, run of the mill articles of clothing and bike parts get put into the same pool as the ridiculous amount of stickers. Given the sheer number of them, loot crates will often be crammed with these unimportant JPEGs over gear you actually want to achieve. Crates don’t usually yield great clothing either, meaning you’ll likely have to trade in the multiple denim jackets in order to get enough coins to buy the one horse mask that you want. Cosmetic gear is, of course, just cosmetic, but these hiccups make it all the progression a bit hollow since you’ll hardly be getting meaningful items.
While the gear system is full of unwanted fluff, Trials Rising is not. Its collection of well-designed tracks are wonderful playgrounds for its familiar yet still addictive physics-heavy biking gameplay. Familiarity in this case is not a bad thing because of how satisfying it is to improve your technique and overcome new challenges throughout its bevvy of additional modes. Crashing and burning serves as the building blocks of getting better as flying ass over handlebars is hilarious but also doubles as a quality learning experience. Rising itself, however, does not crash and burn and while it adheres to a proven formula, it pulls off that formula better than those that came before it.
GameRevolution reviewed Trials Rising on PS4 via a digital copy provided by the publisher.