Trials Rising Delivers the Goofy Thrills You’d Expect from the Series with a Few New Twists
With plenty of wacky new stages and a few new tricks, Trials Rising so far seems like it will deliver what the series' fans love in our hands-on preview.
When it comes to most racing games or simulations, you typically end up falling into the camp of striving for either realism and a more “serious” take on the sport, or aim for a more arcade-style experience that highlights fun and accessibility over making pixel-perfect recreations. With the Trials series from RedLynx and Ubisoft, however, there’s been somewhat of a middle-ground between crafting realistic-feeling physics systems and giving players the chance to wipe out spectacularly. With the series’ next mainline entry, Trials Rising, that line between realism and absurdity gets fused even more with that same focus on nailing tricky obstacle courses combined with some wild and spectacular new stages, and from what we’ve played so far, it looks like a whole lot of fun.
In a preview event with Ubisoft, we got to check out Trials Rising ahead of its release later next month, with our demo being split between the Nintendo Switch and PS4 versions of the game. Over the course of about 30 minutes with each of these versions of the game, we were able to get a good feel for what to expect from the next entry in the Trials series on each platform, while also getting hands-on time with several of the new features making their way into Trials Rising.
If you haven’t played a Trials game before, you won’t need to worry too much about missing out on anything from the previous games as, by and large, Trials Rising follows pretty closely to past entries in gameplay and execution. Like before, Trials Rising has players taking on a variety of increasingly challenging obstacle courses on a dirtbike, all while carefully balancing and adjusting the bike’s angle to avoid wiping out.
That basic premise has pretty much stayed in the same in Trials Rising, and it’s still just as fun as it was with the more recent games in the series. However, while the core gameplay in Trials Rising is what fans will come to expect, everything else around the game has been adjusted to increase its replayability, providing deeper levels of customization and progression, and, of course, upping the ante when it comes to the crazy levels and obstacle courses you’ll be able to complete.
The levels in particular are wildly diverse and filled with creative twists and turns as Trials Rising takes the series to new globe-trotting settings. During our time with the demo, this included one course set in an American lumberyard where players had to overcome obstacles like logs and construction equipment, giving a setting that is a bit more traditional to the Trials series. However, one of my absolute favorite stages in the demo was a Hollywood-themed level that took place between a variety of movie studios, where the player would shift in and out of different movie themes and obstacles like alien invasions, explosions, and more. While Trials has always been best when it’s kept things grounded, Trials Rising already feels like it’s found a great balance of delivering stages that can give players a challenge, while also embracing its own wackiness with really fun and creative new stages.
Outside of the new levels, our demo with Trials Rising also gave us a look at some of the other new features making their way into this iteration of the series. The most notable of these is the implementation of an improved Ghosts system that let players see realtime shadows of their friends’ playthroughs on courses to see how they did on the course. Given the competitive nature of Trials, the refined Ghosts seem like they will feed well into making players strive to best their friends on the leaderboards, give a nice sense of replayability to going back and perfecting your time on tricky courses.
Likewise, cosmetics and unlockables also seem to be getting a big boost with Trials Rising, as our demo gave us a deeper look at the character customization system and numerous ways that players will be able to make their character unique. Right from the very beginning, players have the ability to create their character from their hairstyle and skin color (like even green or purple), down to the pitch and tone of their voice. Outside of the basics that you’ll get to equip your character with when you start out, down the line you’ll get to expand on your character’s outfits and gear, the bikes they ride, and more. Given how much of the series relies on replayability and besting your previous scores, the expanded range of customization options in Trials Rising should give a nice incentive for players to work towards outside of shaving seconds off their best times.
But from what I played of Trials Rising on Switch and PS4, by far the best experience that I got out from the demo was the new Tandem Mode, which puts two players simultaneously in charge of both the acceleration and angle of the bike throughout the course. While this mode is limited to local co-op due to the precision and timing required just to make it to the end of the course, I already could tell that Tandem Mode seems like it might be the breakout feature of Trials Rising, if only for the fact that is is unabashedly fun. Nailing a lot of the game’s trickier courses on your own can be challenging in itself, but adding the challenge of coordinating all that with a co-op partner bumps up the fun significantly.
As far as the differences we saw between the PS4 and Switch versions of Trials Rising, the biggest comparisons will seem to be drawn from their technical/visual performance. Starting out with the Nintendo Switch version of the game on a big-screen TV, Trials Rising played and felt smooth at 60fps, but seemed to take a bit of a notable visual hit in comparison to what I played of the game on a PS4 Pro unit. Naturally, the Switch’s visuals felt far more jagged and with more noticeable low-res textures compared to the crisp, more detailed visuals of the PS4 Pro.
That being said, I can imagine Trials Rising may benefit more from being played handheld on the Nintendo Switch not only for the smaller display factor (though I didn’t get actual hands-on time with the game handheld), but because Trials as a whole seems so well-suited to being played on-the-go. With its bite-sized style play sessions, I imagine that Trials Rising will give ample opportunity to players to perfect their scores during a commute or while traveling, though the PS4 version, from what we played, felt just as good with the opportunity to see its wild stages in finer detail.
All in all, Trials Rising will certainly feel like more Trials to series fans, but from what we played of the game it definitely has enough zaniness and creative new additions to help make it feel fresh. From a slate of wild new stages to improved and expanded new systems like Ghosts, a deeper sense of customization, and some creative new features like the Tandem Mode, Trials Rising is sure to bring a smile to your face each and every time you wipe out on a track. Which is going to be hundreds of times.
Trials Rising will release for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on February 26, 2019. For more on the game, stay tuned for our upcoming gameplay videos from both the PS4 and Nintendo Switch versions.