Trials Evolution Review (Xbox 360)
With new multiplayer modes and enhanced track-sharing capabilities, Trials Evolution will have racing fans trying to outdo each other's scores for months.
RedLynx's third Trials game is both an evolution for the series, and for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade platform.
Few changes have been made, gameplay-wise, since RedLynx released the platinum-selling Trials HD in 2009.
Each level tasks the player with guiding a motocross rider from left to right through a course of cleverly placed obstacles.
Riders must overcome physical objects like crates, tires or logs, as well as difficult terrain -- steep hills, loop-the-loops and huge jumps. Different surfaces, including dirt, gravel, wood, steel and concrete have unique effects on the bike's tires, making even simple terrain changes hazardous.
Perhaps the biggest threat to your rider's safety is the large number of explosions and physics events throughout each level. Most courses in Trials Evolution feel like a Hollywood action scene, with buildings collapsing, ramps breaking and bombs exploding everywhere.
The constant fireworks generate adrenaline, but also, confusion, often obscuring the riding path in puffs of smoke or piles of debris. Dimly lit or overly foggy levels can also cause visibility issues.
In an attempt to add more of a "3D" feel to the courses, RedLynx has introduced "curved" racing lines to many levels, which cause the camera to change angles on-the-fly. Going through "curves" can be disorienting, especially at high speed.
Trials Evolution bombards the player with environmental destruction and fancy camera work, more so than any previous Trials game. While these special effects look incredible during replays, they can also frustrate the player when they cause unnecessary crashes.
Trials Evolution sees the series leaving behind the industrial warehouse settings of previous games in favor of grassy hills, dirt roads and rocky cliffs. Impressive lighting effects brighten the outdoor worlds, with each course sporting unique cloud and fog conditions, plus specific day/night cycles. Long courses like the ten-minute "Giga Track" begin in daylight and end at dusk.
The enhanced graphics engine frees RedLynx's designers from having to build levels exclusively indoors, but it also introduces some new graphical glitches.
With the track "backgrounds" now consisting of one huge 3D world, full of mountains, forests, islands and all types of landscapes, texture pop-in occurs in just about every game mode.
Trials Evolution's graphics engine simply can't render all of the world's textures while keeping up with the speed of the game, thus, objects in Trials Evolution often appear without any texture whenever the textures are too slow to load.
Pop-in plagues all modes of play, but it is most frequent when restarting a level, moving around in the track editor or during Supercross races.
Each of Trials Evolution's 57 single player tracks is playable over Xbox Live with up to three other players. None of the 10 Skill Games, sadly, can be played online.
When taking the career mode levels online, other riders are displayed as a gray silhouette with a white name overhead. However, racing your friends' ghosts pales in comparison to actually having all four riders on the course at once in the new Supercross mode.
Supercross tracks are split into four identical lanes. Bikes are stuck on a set path and cannot collide with each other, preventing undisciplined players from wiping others out of the race.
The default number of Supercross tracks is slim (only 15 are included), but thanks to the new Track Central, downloading user-made tracks is simple. The host of a private multiplayer session is the only person who needs to have a custom track downloaded to play it in a room with friends.
While private online races run flawlessly, public ranked matches are, as of this writing, a complete mess. In theory, players are supposed to level up their ranking as they gain experience points from public matches. Currently, there are issues with players sometimes not receiving experience points after online races, or even losing experience points randomly. The public matchmaking system is also having issues, often taking several minutes just to fill a game with four people. An "Undefined Track" error will also occur randomly on the pre-race map vote screen, cancelling the match and forcing you to search for a new session.
Custom levels for every game mode can be downloaded in Track Central. Unlike previous Xbox Live Arcade games, Trials Evolution lets gamers download any track that's been uploaded to the server by the millions of Trials fans worldwide.
User-made levels are copied to your hard drive in just four or five seconds, taking up a mere 10 kilobytes per track. Even Xbox 360 owners stuck with a measly 4 gigabyte or 20 gigabyte hard drive will be able to build a large collection of custom courses thanks to the relatively small file size per track.
The track creator bundled with Trials Evolution may be the most-powerful editing tool ever included in a console game. RedLynx has given gamers access to the same tool set that the company's level designers used when making Evolution's levels. If you're the type of gamer who likes to think you can make better levels than the developers, Trials Evolution offers a chance to prove it.
Knowing that such a powerful editor will intimidate most gamers, RedLynx has posted a series of video tutorials on their Youtube page. To help beginners, RedLynx also included two versions of the track editor -- a stripped-down "lite" version and a fully featured "pro" version. All work done in the editor is transferable between the two versions.
After almost three years in development and numerous preview events, it's surprising to see Trials Evolution cross the finish line in such buggy condition.
Graphically, Trials Evolution is almost too ambitious, as moving the riding paths outside has introduced some glaring visual issues.
Online matchmaking problems and a faulty experience system make public multiplayer races a pain. Thankfully, Trials Evolution's single player experience is exceptional, and the private multiplayer races are fully functional.
With a patch or two, Trials Evolution could easily become a 9 or 9.5 game. For now, it must be evaluated as a "flawed masterpiece."
Visuals: Expansive outdoor environments tax the graphics engine, resulting in frequent texture errors and occasional screen tearing.
Audio: Recordings of real bike engines add to the immersion. The original pop rock soundtrack is forgettable at best and annoying at worst.
Control Scheme: For a game with only gas, brake and steering buttons, a surprising amount of technique and finesse is available to the player.
Learning Curve: New "license tests" provide tutorials for advanced riding techniques. Tracks come in a variety of difficulties, rated on a scale from "Beginner" to "Extreme."
Lasting Value: Gamers will not find a more fully featured title anywhere in the Xbox Live Arcade catalog.
Score -- 8.5 (Great)