Trials Evolution – Review

Platform | Release Date
360 | April 18, 2012
Developed by RedLynx
Published by Microsoft Studios

The Pitch:

It’s survival of the fastest with Trials Evolution! Your favorite physics-based motorcycle racer is back in a brilliant new outdoor setting. Ride in real-time multiplayer with 2-4 players, either locally or through Xbox LIVE. Enjoy a deep, rich single player career with 50 brilliant tracks, challenging unlocks, and tricky achievements. A massive, powerful track editor lets you build the track of your dreams and easily share it with the world. Or simply download top-rated tracks from around the world, using the all-new Track Central. Customize your bike and rider with awesome gear and unique parts, enjoy unique skill games, try ghost racing, beat your Friends’ scores, and more! Don’t miss the madness!

When creating the sequel to a masterpiece, developers need to use great care in their alterations. Change too little and you’re at risk of having your sequel labeled a cash-in; change too much and fans may revolt. Take StarCraft II for example. While the engine has updated and there have been tons of improvements throughout, at its core the game is still considered a benchmark by which all other RTS titles can be measured. Blizzard does it right, but they take their time in doing so.

Trials HD was considered a masterpiece for its technical proficiency, addictive qualities, and pick-up-and-play nature. But instead of changing much with Trials Evolution, RedLynx decided to play it safe. They released more of what their fans loved while not improving the periphery in any meaningful way.

This a fantastic but strange thing. You can’t really argue with the ‘more’ aspect, but a quick jaunt into Trials HD after playing a bit of Evolution will show just how little has been updated. While diverse, the visuals are essentially the same; controls are identical though they were perfect before. The most important trait to carry over though is that Trials is still hopelessly addicting and remains a blast to play.

But therein lies the issue: there’s nothing new to be found in the overall experience. The added synchronous multiplayer isn’t particularly interesting and often takes too long to join a match. Some of the new visual styles, while pretty, are downright distracting. In some cases this unwillingness to alter the game makes certain elements feel mildly archaic.

Compare how leaderboards are handled in Evolution to some other offerings in the marketplace. Besting your friends’ times is really the whole point of this game and it’s extremely satisfying to finally be the top of the heap. But when someone beats your times, there’s no indication. Instead you have to manually traverse layers of interface – individual tracks, within individual sections – just to find out where your ranking has changed. Even then you may not even remember who was ahead or behind. It would have been much more useful if an activity feed was immediately available with this information and provided a quick way to re-challenge your friends. Think SSX’s RiderNet.

Similarly, the user content section is full of incredible tracks including things not even related to racing. You can see what is rated the highest, sort by a bunch of different criteria, then play a foosball table or a first person shooter using the Trials engine. Once you find great content though, there’s no immediate, game-facilitated way to recommend a track directly to your friends. If you create your own track, you’ll be able to share through Xbox messaging, but that’s it.

When racing you’ll now see a dot indicative of a friend’s position in relation to your current time. It certainly helps gauge your performance more accurately than in Trials HD, but not in an organic way. Instead, it feels overly robotic and distant from the social nature the game is trying to achieve. These aspects combine into a strange feeling of isolation in what should be a community driven game.

In essence, RedLynx has created an expansion to Trials HD. The fifty new levels are certainly welcome and because the core hasn’t changed, Trials Evolution is still one hell of an addictive game that remains a blast to play. Fans of the original will settle in quickly while newcomers or novices can certainly take advantage of the more accessible learning curve. If RedLynx had dared to take a few more risks, Trials Evolution could have been truly exemplary.

About Jim Hunter

Jim Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Splitkick and host of the Rocket Jump podcast. He has three kids and is constantly cranky, but also highly awesome.
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