Trials Rising Review (PlayStation 4)

- Gaming

Trials is one of my favorite game franchises, and I’ve sunk many hours into Trials HD, Trials Evolution, and Trials Fusion. They’re a fun set of motorcycle racing games and aren’t realistic at all, but knowing how to control your bike is essential to clearing tracks beyond the initial beginner selection in each game.

I anticipated Trials Rising so much that I actually bought it at full price when it came out. I’ve put it through its paces, and it’s… interesting… yeah, we’ll go with that.

My rider in Trials Rising is stuck in the ground.

Gameplay

Trials Rising, the latest game in the series, is a ‘return to roots’ in some ways. The two most recent Trials games added new features with fairly poor results. Trials Fusion introduced a buggy trick system that made it difficult to actually perform tricks, and Trials of the Blood Dragon was introduced platforming segments. Yes, platforming in a Trials game. Trials of the Blood Dragon was insane! I’m glad that Trials Rising discards both of these: the gameplay is mostly pure racing and is excellent. Controlling your bike feels easier than it did in Trials Fusion, and I like the amount of control that it gives you.

The track selection is great. There’s a large number of easier tracks (possibly more than previous titles, but I’m not sure), but they’re fun to blast through and eventually give way to more difficult areas. Like Trials HD and Trials Evolution, The tracks mostly take place in exaggerated real-world environments. While I preferred the sci-fi, “anything goes” style of Trials Fusion, the levels in Trials Rising are still entertaining to play and look at.

Tutorial levels are a staple of Trials games (at least all the way back to Trials HD), but I felt like they never really served a purpose until Trials Rising: this game gets it right by having topic-specific tutorials and voice-over narration from FatShady (known for the University of Trials YouTube channel). The videos that play before each tutorial level are very helpful, and explained a thing or two that I didn’t know about even after playing these games for years. (No, I didn’t know about FatShady’s channel prior to Trials Rising. It probably would have helped me while playing previous games.)

Everything Else

I like everything about Trials Rising’s core gameplay. I just wish that there was more polish in everything surrounding it.

In a first for the franchise, Trials has loot boxes for cosmetics. And the implementation is disappointing. The basic crates that you get for leveling up are quick to give duplicate items. The superior crates that you get for beating contracts isn’t much better, and the first one gave me common items that I already had, and I had to pay in-game currency to re-roll it to get something remotely interesting. Fun!

Tying into these loot box cosmetics is a new ‘inventory’ system that holds all of your cosmetic items. The idea is that you can have multiple, duplicate items that have different stickers or colors. It’s a great idea that’s executed poorly by Trials Rising. Items are sorted by type with no way to quickly see which ones you’ve modified. My account was glitched with a bug where items would be duplicated multiple times, but this seems like it was fixed.

Trials Rising has an in-game store where you can buy community-submitted items. I’ve seen a few cool items for sale, but, yet again, the implementation is rather weak. Sometimes, the store won’t load any items. I’ve also seen objectionable items being shown under the Highlights section, but I think that the developers are at least making an effort to curate content. When I went to the in-game one day, I saw more than a few items resembling a certain political red cap (you know the one) in the Highlights section. But those specific items seem to be deleted now - I searched for them while writing this review - so they seem to respond to user reports.

Speaking of curation, Trials Rising features a selection of licensed music. The soundtrack itself is a mix of rock, metal, and rap - sort of like the music featured in Tony Hawk games from THPS4 to THUG2. But I found that repeated often, and the game provides no way to disable individual tracks, shuffle, or even skip the current song.

While I’m complaining, my access to Track Central has been odd. When the game first came out, Track Central was completely blank for me. After the most recent patch (1.03), it was still broken for me. But then I refreshed multiple times and did some odd menu manipulation (on a hunch), and it started working!

So far, these problems have workarounds. You can ignore rider customization, avoid the rider shop, turn off the music, and randomly hit buttons until Track Central appears. But the game’s biggest fault game can’t be avoided: unlocking tracks in Trials Rising requires you to grind experience points.

In previous games, you unlocked tracks by getting a certain number of medals (just beating them was enough in Trials of the Blood Dragon). But Trials Rising requires you to go through this loop:

  1. Play tracks (preferably ones with open contracts) until you earn enough experience to reach a required level
  2. Beat the three ‘Stadium Finals’ tracks by placing 4th, 2nd, then 1st on each successive track
  3. Unlock the next set division of tracks along with a “all three tracks” version of the Stadium Finals
  4. Repeat

If you don’t get enough points from beating the new levels to unlock the next set (and you probably won’t), you will have to replay tracks that you’ve previously beaten to grind experience. It’s essential to play tracks with seemingly optional contracts as they greatly boost the amount of experience that you get from playing. This contract system initially added a bit of variety, but then I realized that they often involve doing backflips and frontflips, getting a medal, or using a specific bike. Few of them are memorable, and most felt like a chore to get through.

Most of the descriptions for these contracts seem to be computer-generated, repeat a lot, were occasionally buggy during my initial playthrough:

Screenshot of a challenge in Trials Rising that uses placeholder text.

These contracts are associated with a difficulty ranking, but I found that the difficulty assigned had nearly nothing to do with how hard they actually are. I quickly beat one Extreme-level contract but found another Extreme-level contract that was appropriately difficult.

In the current version of the game, players can short-circuit this loop of progression. If you get a A+ on league’s training track, you unlock the Stadium Finals. This is a great addition to the game, and something that would have been fantastic during my initial playthrough of Trials Rising.

However, some of these training levels are very difficulty, and I expect that most players will quickly fall back into the ‘grind loop’ that I’ve been complaining about.

Stadium Finals tracks close out each division. These seem to be levels that were built with multiplayer in mind but are included in the single-player. For the most part, these are a whole lot easier than the proceeding tracks, and I had little trouble with beating each track.

Recent changes seemed to fix an issue where the “all three tracks” versions of Stadium Finals was extremely difficult; they’re more fair than they used to be.

Initially, the “all three tracks” thing seems like a bonus challenge. But I found out that you have to beat all of them to unlock the final “Grand Finale” level. As far as I know, the game gives no initial indication that you need to do this, but shows a prompt indicating this after you beat one of these “all three tracks” tournaments.

The good news is that you can sometimes unlock tracks for no known reason. Recently, I looked at the track selection screen and saw Extreme-level tracks. No notification, no fanfare, nothing.


My Trials Rising rider attempting to look cute despite the large helmet and full-face mask.

Trials Rising has become a better game since its rocky launch. The developers have fixed a few of the major issues. A hotfix release fixed a PS4-specific problem that I experienced where the game crashed on launch and corrupted my save. A later patch made it possible to skip replaying levels for experience if you ace the division’s training track. But there are plenty of problems lingering, and I’m hoping that Trials Rising eventually becomes a great game that’s easy to recommend. But right now, you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Trials Rising.

Score: 3/5


This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of Trials Rising. At the time of this review, only one update has been released for the game. I intend to revise this review with future updates.

Updates:

  • 3-30 - As it turns out, you have to get a certain number of bronze/silver/gold medals in previous Trials games to unlock levels. So I corrected that and add an image that sites such as Twitter should be able to use.
  • 5-25 - Updated the article to reflect the new patch (1.03). Also changed “challenge” to “contract” in multiple places because that’s what they’re actually called in the game.