The Trials series hasn’t typically gone down the numbered entry route, at least not since 2007’s Trials 2, so it makes you wonder where they find these taglines and what they really mean. Trials Rising is the latest series, and at a glance, you’d wonder why Ubisoft decided on that particular name because, at its core, it’s just another Trials game. But after a weekend of smashing through literally hundreds of races and challenges, I know why.
Trials Rising I think is named as such because it’s about to see the series rising from the ashes (as it were) of its previous entry which, for some, wasn’t the best Trials game. For me, Trials Rising has managed to capture that “just one more try” feeling from iconic series’ such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater where you’d be spending hours on a single map or line trying to improve your score just a little bit more in order to secure that coveted gold medal. It feels nostalgic, but not in the sense of an old game being given a new lease of life.
Trials Rising is one of those games where you could kill an entire day and make little to no progress, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because you’re likely loving every second of it. At times the game can be punishing, but you’re not flinging your controller at the screen with frustration. It’s a bizarre phenomenon, Ubisoft has somehow managed to find the secret formula for challenging gameplay which doesn’t make you tear your hair out.
The game, at its heart, is a Trials game, there are no real bells and whistles – it just does what it does well. You begin the game, learn the mechanics, and away you go. You’re instantly thrust into the addicting gameplay with no overtly complex or intrusive tutorials. For those looking to perfect their skills, there is a training school which attempts to teach you some of the finer skills in the game, but where’s the fun in learning? You want to smash your face into the same plank 200 times before finding a better way to tackle the obstacle. Trials Rising adopts the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to video games which seems to have worked well for the series’ previous five entries.
In terms of gameplay, Trials Rising has players traveling the world, completing tracks and sponsored challenges in order to become the highest scoring player in the world. Beginning in North America, players will eventually cross the pond to Europe, Russia, Asia, and beyond with each track reflecting its location. In Serbia, you’ll find snow-covered maps, in Asia, you’ll be riding around the Great Wall. There’s even a level where you’re being fired through the Eiffel Tower.
Speaking of locations, Trials Rising is a truly beautiful game, especially when you hit the more tropical locations that have you speeding through mountainsides overlooking stunning bays. There’s even a level where you find yourself in amongst a cloud of hot air balloons each of which is being lit stunning burnt orange and reds as the sun sets. The sheer attention to detail some levels receive is insane, from the little things like delicate pillars crumbling slightly as you bounce across them, or the way levels react to weight and physics.
The physics within Trials Rising are phenomenal too. From the way each bike reacts differently to its environment and player’s play style, to how certain level mechanics rely on physics for players to progress, whether it’s a precariously-balanced rock, a giant snowball, or a huge column of marble just waiting to tip. Throughout the game, this never ceased to amaze me. Some truly exceptional work has gone into making every aspect of this game react a certain way, and you can tell.
Adding to this, you can tell the developers had no-end of fun creating this game, and I have to commend the team behind some of the absolutely bonkers tracks that see you completing some insanely impossible feats of acrobatics but for some reason, they just work. What’s more, this isn’t just a game which takes a location and slaps a track within it, the game manages to blend the tracks within the worlds themselves, and while it is a platform racer, the tracks twist and turn in such a way that brings each and every environment to life. This isn’t just a basic side-scrolling racer anymore. This is a racer with rich worlds that you experience while hurtling through the air after being flung by a giant tomato catapult.
There’s an element of “what will they think of next” throughout the entirety of Trials Rising, which, when you do see what’s next, is never what you thought it would be. More than once I was left gobsmacked by something that happened within a level, whether it’s being clotheslined by a power cable support as I’m trying to navigate ramps on a moving train, or trying to master a loop after being thrust into orbit by a mechanical ramp. It’s sometimes so stupid, but that’s half the enjoyment.
Trials Rising does, however, offer some deep trials-biking mechanics which, for more skilled players, will be very welcomed. For the most part, I just slammed the throttle and hoped for the best, but players can adjust how much they trigger the throttle to really fine-tune their race and shave off a few precious seconds. Though I felt the game didn’t punish you too much for going down the hell-for-leather route.
Trials Rising keeps gameplay fresh by not only offering different tracks but also challenges from sponsors which make things a little more tricky. These usually involve coming in a certain place, finishing the level without failing a certain number of times, or finishing a level within a certain amount of time. Outside of this, there are also different game types such as Skill Challenges which are more or less dumb challenges such as bailing as far as you possibly can, or flinging yourself off your bike to catch a ball and dunk it in a basket.
The game also periodically refreshes with new high scores achieved by other players which adds a level of replayability on tracks you thought you’d never tackle again. This is a fantastic feature as, more often than not, if you get gold you’ll likely never go back. Adding this challenging aspect gives you a reason to revisit and try again, what’s more, by that point you’ve probably unlocked a new bike which may make things a little easier, and quicker.
With a pretty robust Race mode, you’d be hard-pushed to want to head into the global multiplayer mode, but for those who want to show off their skills to the rest of the world (outside of setting incredibly high scores for others to beat) it’s there, and as you’d expect, the mode has players racing against each other. It works well enough and is definitely a break from the campaign, but isn’t really somewhere I’d spend most of my time.
There were a few areas in which Trials Rising hiccuped a bit. First, throughout the game, it’d occasionally stutter, which you really don’t want during a game where fine controls and well-timed movements are needed. There was no real rime or reason for this either, it’d just happen and break your concentration, which was probably the only annoying aspect to the game.
Another thing which we found during our time with the game was that the more tracks you unlocked the more cluttered the world map became. This made it hard to find which tracks we’d yet to complete as the more sponsors you unlocked, the more their faces would litter the world with only a very, very small icon showing you if you’d completed it or not. While this isn’t as frustrating as the stuttering, it did become a little annoying when all we wanted to do was find a new track to play.
Ultimately, Trials Rising is an incredibly fun, challenging, and entertaining title that’ll have you blowing hours without even realizing, and it’s self-aware too. One of the game’s loading screen hints literally has “just one more try” – a Trials player at 2 a.m. as a quote. While I can’t say if this is the best game in the series, it’s definitely the best Trials game I’ve ever played, and there are so many aspects to it that are exceptional.