Back in 2008 RedLynx released Trials 2 SE for PC to huge success. Since then PC gamers have been feeling left out and disappointed as the series made the switch to an Xbox 360 exclusive. Xbox gamers were treated to Trials HD in 2009 which was followed by Trials Evolution in 2012. Both games became a huge success for RedLynx and remain amongst the top sellers on XBLA. Now RedLynx have finally brought the game back to PC with the release of Trials Evolution Gold Edition.
In the Trials games you control a motorbike stunt rider who must traverse hazardous courses as fast and error free as possible. This is easier said than done will all but the most basic of courses requiring many restarts and a lot of trial and error. Even once you’ve beaten a course for the first time you can’t leave it alone as you instantly know where you can improve.
Trials Evolution: Gold Edition features all the content of last year’s Trials Evolution release as well as everything that PC gamers missed out on from Trials HD. In addition to the content from both games PC gamers also benefit from extra graphical fidelity only available on the PC release. PC users also benefit from new social media integration and the ability to save and upload replays direct to YouTube.
Initally only Evolution is unlocked as it was designed to be friendlier to new and casual players after the punishing courses of Trials HD. Before you can even start you must successfully pass a license test which introduces you to the basic skills needed. Obtaining your license unlocks the first group of courses and the better you do the more medals and unlocks you will gain. The difficulty rises gradually and most players will get through the first couple of course groups quickly. There are four license tests in all and each track initially has bronze, silver and gold medals up for grabs as well as cash prizes to blow on cosmetic upgrades.
The game can be played with a gamepad or the keyboard. Controls retain their simplicity with the ability to throttle and brake or lean left and right. Leaning allows you to shift the weight of your rider in order to maintain balance. Mastering the throttle control and weight distribution takes time but is essential to progressing in the game. Many obstacles can feel impossible at first but learning how to beat each one is very rewarding.
Courses have checkpoints every few metres after each obstacle allowing you to gradually progress and instantly restart at the last one without beginning the course again. You can take your time and be extra careful but you will likely only gain a bronze medal for your efforts. To really do well you need to stay on your bike whilst logging the fastest time possible. Silver medals are rewarded for better times with a few faults and gold medals usually require a faultless performance in a super quick time.
Trials HD courses are confined to a warehouse environment but Trials Evolution courses are set in a huge and varied outdoor environment that is a staggering 8km². The Evolution courses are all set on or above this new map and include grassy hills, rocky mountains, collapsing bridges, forests, ruins and even battlefields. There are even some courses that take inspiration from games and films such as Ico, Limbo and Inception.
Each course is littered with both natural and man-made obstacles including rocks, buildings, cars, streams, geysers, waterfalls, logs, barrels, bombs, land mines and a huge variety of ramps. The graphics are nice enough and the draw distance is set to around half a kilometre allowing you to see far into the distance. As you zoom along the courses one of your biggest challenges is keeping focused and not getting distracted by all the things going on around you. Wanting to see what the game will throw at you next is almost enough to keep you playing.
What really keeps you playing though are the leaderboards. As soon as you log a time you get to see where you rank in the world and against your friends. After every single run you know that there is room for improvement and shaving fractions of a second off your time becomes an obsession. When you play a track that you or your friends have completed you get to see those attempts racing alongside you. These ghosts are simply just named dots but they transform a solo run into a fierce competition. Knowing you’re behind a friend spurs you on and sometimes the pressure of knowing you’re only just ahead is enough for you to bottle it.
A quick glance at the clock at each checkpoint shows how far ahead or behind your personal best you are. Knowing you can try again almost instantly has you tapping the restart button after even the slightest of mistakes. A single track which takes 30 seconds to complete suddenly becomes your whole play session as you push yourself to improve. A failed attempt when you were ahead of your best time teases a new personal best and you just can’t stop playing when you know there’s another second to be had off your time.
Just when you’ve climbed to the top of the friends leaderboard you say to yourself ‘just one more go’ in the hope of going just a tiny bit further ahead. Then after your run you realise they’ve just done the same and you’re at the bottom again. Trials Evolution: Gold Edition is pure addiction. The later courses really ramp up the difficulty and only the most dedicated players will pass them. For players prepared to put the effort in there’s plenty of challenges to be had such as earning Platinum medals.
As well as the main courses the game features Tournaments and Skill Games. Tournaments group tracks together and the aim is again to get through them as fast and safely as possible. These really start to show the better players as it’s tougher to consistently put in good performances.
The Skill Games feature a variety of crazy modes such as getting as far as you can with limited fuel, staying upright with the throttle jammed on and tackling a course without shifting your weight. There’s also a hilarious mode called Icarus Factor where you must launch off a ramp and then hammer the X and Y buttons to flap your arms to travel the greatest distance. Other modes show off what is capable with the editor including a Marble Madness and ‘Splosion Man inspired minigames. While fun in short bursts they don’t seem as good as those in Trials HD and you’ll probably only return to them to keep ahead of friends on the leaderboards.
In addition to the single player mode there is also a big focus on community, user generated content and multiplayer. If you want to improve a good way of doing so is to check out the best players on the leaderboards. For every single player you can choose to race against their ghost or to watch a replay of their attempt. Replays also show a real-time graphical representation of what buttons they were pressing so you can literally watch and learn. Realising that you were taking a jump too fast or that you were simply leaning the wrong way can really help you out.
The multiplayer offering has two modes Trials and Supercross. In Trials you race against live ghost images of up to three friends. Supercross puts up to four players in their own lanes and you get to see each other instead of ghosts. These races are fun but quite short and if you’re drawn in the furthest away lanes it can be a bit tricky to see at times. The online matchmaking seems rather slow but matches seem to work very well. Despite the inclusion of multiplayer I still much prefer the quick addictive gameplay of single player and leaderboard chasing.
The game also comes with the same editor that RedLynx used to create the levels in the game and here PC gamers have the option of using the mouse and keyboard instead of a gamepad if they wish. There’s a basic and advanced version and both seem quite overwhelming to begin with. With a little practice it’s actually surprisingly easy to put together something playable. You must choose a start point from the huge map and then place waypoints until you place a finish point. Unlike the first game courses can be curved so you can pretty much go where you like. Once the basic route is down you can test the track or start adding detail like ramps, obstacles, checkpoints and effects. I knocked a rather basic track together in just a few minutes and then found myself still playing it an hour later.
Once you’ve mastered the basics the advanced editor allows you to go even further by adding even more to your courses. To really master it and produce tracks of the quality that come with the game will take a lot of effort. A nice way to learn is to load in the included tracks. Even if you have no interest in creating your own tracks or time to learn the editor properly you still have the option of downloading custom tracks made by other players. This should keep the game feeling fresh for a long time to come.
Trials Evolution: Gold Edition is fiendishly difficult, dangerously addictive and insane amounts of fun. It’s a title that gets better the more you play and you can really feel yourself getting better at it. It’s the biggest and best Trials release ever and will please all the PC fans that have been waiting so long to play the games. Fans of the original and players who love chasing leaderboards should definitely pick this up.