Trials Evolution Review

By Mark Delaney, 4 years ago
In the spirit of full disclosure, I've never played Trials HD. Being a gamer who cares about story over gameplay, and retail games over arcade games, I just never felt it was worth my Microsoft Points. However, when I was asked to review the much-hyped sequel,, I hardly hesitated at all. I wanted to witness first hand just what the series was about. Could it really live up to the expectations? After some extensive playing time with the game, I can safely say this is one of the best games -- and values -- on the marketplace.


If you haven't played either of the Trials by now, that doesn't mean you aren't familiar with the gameplay. There are plenty of browser-based games just like it, though of course they lack the depth. The core gameplay is identical to the first game in the series. You take your nameless rider and his dirtbike and attempt to traverse side-scrolling, physics-based, and increasingly difficult obstacle courses that stress appropriate uses of momentum, speed, and balance. All the meanwhile you have to do so with few or no errors and as quickly as you can.

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The first thing you'll notice about this game compared to its predecessor is the varied and much-improved environments. While the last game confined you to a warehouse resembling a level right out of a Tony Hawk game, Evolution blows the doors right off and takes you into countless new landscapes on which you can test your skills. In the first bracket of Beginner levels, I sped around on a Moto-X circuit, stormed the beaches of Normandy, and relived the exploits of the Dukes of Hazard. Later in the game, I played out a homage to, rode a massive roller coaster, escaped a flooded dam, and explored a spooky castle. The environments are constantly shifting from map to map, and even though the backdrops are reused, the content of the course is consistently varied so that no two maps ever felt the same.

Many of the maps resembled, if only accidentally, areas from games like Battlefield and Call of Duty as well, and maybe it was just me, but one of them looked a lot like Bright Falls. There's also one awesome map in particular that takes roughly ten minutes to complete, depending on how good you are. If it weren't for the track editor (I'll get to that later) the diversity in the game's endless obstacle courses would be its best attribute.


The way you unlock these courses are by earning medals. Bronze, Silver, Gold, and upon obtaining 135 in total, Platinum medals, are all up for grabs, and as you struggle through early levels and unlock harder ones, you can later revisit them and literally see yourself getting better. After a few brackets of obstacle courses, you compete for a new license and with them, new, improved bikes. On my first run, I aced many of the early levels until I hit Medium difficulty, at which point I started seeing far fewer Gold medals, and many more Silver and even Bronze. After I went ahead and played some harder courses, I revisited the earlier ones with improved skills and a better ride and cleared them all with Gold. It is this attribute that makes Trials Evolution a hit.

While the first game's learning curve was too steep for many besides the very best, Evolution lures you in with a progression much more conducive to improving your game. While I still feel the Extreme levels are only appropriate for the most ardent masochists, the journey to your 135 medals (and beyond) isn't nearly as frustrating. Don't get me wrong, it's still a worthy challenge, but with frequent checkpoints along each course, and plenty of levels unlocked at a time, you can always hone your skills elsewhere and come back when you are truly ready. In my last TA review, I discussed how the difficulty of The War of the Worlds often felt unfair because it was inconsistent and often cheated the player. Evolution never does that. It challenges you to your limits but never unfairly, and when you finally beat that one section, or that one level, you feel accomplished.

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Along with the new environments, another huge addition is online and local multiplayer. The online portion offers three game modes: Supercross -- the only one unlocked at first -- plays out with you and up to three others sharing the screen in four identical tracks to the finish line. Get there first and you win points, get there later and you receive less points. On default settings you play two tracks and play each track twice for a total of four races. The person with the most points at the end of the four races wins, but be careful. Every time you fault (restart a checkpoint or crash your bike) you lose a point from your total. The maximum points you can get per race is only ten, too, so if you got to the finish quickly but crashed a lot on the way, you may not even get the top spot.

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The other two game modes are the standard Trials and Hardcore Trials. In these modes, you race real-time ghosts of your opponents, rather than having them all on screen like in Supercross. These are a fun take on the single player mode, which already taunts you with the ghosts of your friends' recorded times. Each version allows the lobby to vote on which course to play between two options, but the only difference between them is that Hardcore Trials only offers Hard and Extreme level tracks in the playlists.

There's an XP system for multiplayer, as well, but this actually represents one of the game's flaws. The only reward you get for leveling up through multiplayer is cash to spend on your bike and character. The new clothes and accessories are pretty bland and it was disappointing to see this part of the game get little attention when the rest of the game is so rich with content. Most of the helmets look the same and almost all of the shirts have skulls or some form of the RedLynx logo on them. The bike parts improved the look of the bike, but never the performance. The more you play (multiplayer and single player), the more money you'll get, but after a while, there's nothing to buy and you'll just have to sit on your cash.

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Another issue with the multiplayer is the rather slow matchmaking process. When I first dove into the multiplayer, it sometimes took a few minutes to find a game, and then, since they don't take very long, I'd have to do it all over again a few minutes later. Fortunately, the game does allow you to adjust your matchmaking settings. You can adjust sliders of two categories -- connection quality preference and opponent skill preference -- that, together, will substantially improve your ability to get into a match. It's just a shame the default settings are so bad.

Now for the crown jewel of Trials Evolution: the track editor. Though much of my review time was spent in single player and in the online modes, going forward with this game, I will definitely commit almost exclusively to the track editor. Just a week into the game's release, I've witnessed and played out a few dozen of the thousands of courses already created by the community. More so than even the main game, the community maps are ridiculously varied and remain fresh time after time. Downloading a user map takes all of a half-second and you can then export it to private online or couch mutliplayer games or, of course, play it solo. With the track editor, I flung a few "Angry Bikers" (yes, an Angry Birds clone), raced through Heaven, relived the first two chapters of Alan Wake, and played a game of dirt bike basketball -- and this is all just scratching the surface.

Though the editor is very complicated, you needn't feel discouraged. There is also a simple editor, or you can always sit back and play what everyone else creates. There are endless ideas being implemented in the track editor right now. Name something you like, and it's probably been made into a track. Some levels even change the perspective of the player. I saw more than a few first person shooters, and I even played through a reimagining of Amnesia: The Dark Descent. While the track editor doesn't offer all of the same tools as Playstation's LittleBigPlanet, it also offers some tools which that series does not. You can search a wide range of parameters like track type, track difficulty, gamertag and more. Sadly, you can't search by keyword, which is the only thing the editor is missing. I really wanted to keyword search "LOST".

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My final gripe with Evolution is that, while the graphics are great given the format, the sound is terribly lacking. The vroom-vroom of the dirt bikes were necessary, but the background music is always bland and uninteresting. The option to import custom soundtracks into the game seems like a huge missed opportunity. I played about 80% of the game muted with my iTunes or Pandora playing from my laptop, only because the first 20% I hadn't yet realized how shallow the sound for the game was. It's an entirely visual experience and I lost nothing from it when I turned down my television's volume and turned on my music.

Really though, there's little else to complain about. Like Trials HD and other similar games like, Evolution is easy to pick up and hard to master, but when you do finally get over that damned obstacle, the feeling is very rewarding. The way it lures you in with quickly accessible gameplay is akin to an iOS/Android game. It is due to that notion that I consider Trials Evolution a hardcore game for casual gamers... or maybe a casual game for hardcore gamers -- I still can't put my finger on it.

This game really has something for everyone. The achievement list is again difficult, though I managed to attain 13 out of 20 for 240 Gamerscore in my playing time. The achievements, as well as the in-game medals are a completionist's dream (or nightmare?) and even if you're not a completionist -- I'm not -- there is still a wealth of content available to merit a purchase. In every sense of the word Trials Evolution is exactly that -- an evolution of Gamerscore (it's the first XBLA game ever to offer a base 400G), an evolution of Xbox LIVE Arcade, and an evolution of its own series. If I didn't review this game, I probably never would have played it, and that would have been my loss. Don't make the same mistake I nearly did, go download this game.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a lifelong gamer and current Assistant (to the) News Manager on TA. When not playing games, he can be found cheering for a bad football team, playing Batman action figures with his son, or going to concerts with his lover. Days where he does all of those things are his favorite.