When you borrow as liberally from one of your peers as developer Tate Interactive has with Urban Trial Freestyle, you should at least ensure that your creation is fit to lick the boots of its source of inspiration. Unfortunately, that is not the case here, as Urban Trial Freestyle is a pale imitation of RedLynx’s mighty motocross series.
Freestyle takes the gameplay of Trials Evolution and its predecessor Trials HD, tweaks it slightly, makes it far less challenging, and hopes that that’s enough to warrant it becoming successful. But while Trials’ simplistic formula shouldn’t have been too difficult to emulate, Freestyle has taken a number of wrong turns and winds up crashing and burning.
The pitch is a familiar one: You shift your biker’s weight using the left and right arrow keys/thumbstick, you press up/A to accelerate and down/X to brake. There are two types of objectives for each stage, the first being your standard time trial, where you’ll be tasked with making your way to the finish line in the shortest time possible, while the second requires you to do tricks within the stage to achieve a high score. Doing well will earn you stars, which can then be used to unlock more stages.
However, the biggest problem with Urban Trial Freestyle is the considerable lack of challenge. There are only 20 stages in total, and you’ll be asked to repeat each of these stages two or three times. Unlike the Trials series, where the stages slowly but surely became torturous exercises in perseverance, you can breeze through Freestyle in a couple of hours. Every obstacle in your path is easily traversable thanks to the game’s far more forgiving physics, and while you may have some difficulty in some sections of a stage, after a few attempts you’re guaranteed to overcome them. It is clear that Tate Interactive has gone for a more accessible approach than that of the Trials series, but it’s ultimately a far less rewarding game.
On the plus side, the stages look great. The ground will crumble beneath you, bystanders will dive out of the way when you veer too close to them, and you’ll find yourself racing along the top of a moving train. The majority of the stages are planned out like a chase scene from an action movie, which conjures up a welcome comparison to MotorStorm: Apocalypse, but as you’re on-rails you barely interact with all the mayhem around you, instead spending most of your time whizzing past it like all of the best action heroes do.
You can also upgrade your bike and customise your driver with money you collect whilst racing, which will be helpful if you’re looking to scale the game’s leaderboards. The leaderboards offer a modicum of replayability, with Freestyle automatically downloading the ghost of each time trial stages’ leader for you to race against, which is a nice added touch and will likely inspire some racers to keep coming back for more to knock ‘Lee MC’, the current record holder on practically all of the stages, off the top spot. On top of this, the trick stages have boards in the background which display the names of the players who performed the best in each particular segment, which are accompanied by a photograph of their Steam display picture. Knowing that doing particularly well in a stage could lead to your name being forever imprinted in it is certainly a unique feature, but it’s a shame that the game it’s featured in is so derivative.
Urban Trial Freestyle steals the core gameplay of the Trials series but fails to do anything interesting with it. It’s a brief and utterly forgettable experience, one which only those who are willing to overlook its tedious gameplay in order to see their name in lights on its leaderboards will enjoy.