I had every intention of writing a fully fleshed-out opening paragraph that tried to pinpoint exactly what about Trials Evolution makes it as appealing and stimulating as it is. Then, my roommate walked into my room and told me that he beat my time on the track “Roller Coaster”. That seemingly minor announcement launched me into a completely unexpected two-hour play session as I cleaned up my time on that track, as well as any others that I had fallen behind on.
That is exactly what makes Trials Evolution as appealing and stimulating as it is.
While I certainly don’t proclaim to be a psychologist, my armchair analysis tells me that competitiveness is a huge component of the human psyche. Trials Evolution, exactly like its predecessor Trials HD, plays perfectly into our need to be the best. In all facets of the game, bragging rights are on the line — whether it be on the global leaderboards, your Xbox Live friends list, or even the people in the very same room as you.
Games don’t just automatically inspire intense competitive rivalries amongst friends. If that were true, every video game with a leaderboard would invoke the same feeling. Trials Evolution manages to because every feature is incredibly nuanced and detailed. On the surface, many of the tracks would lead you to believe that the game is about over-the-top set pieces and adrenaline. However, the true spirit of Trials Evolution lies within the technicalities. Mastering the incline patterns of rolling hills and the precise acceleration up a series of ramps will reward the player, whereas big air jumps with a “full speed ahead” attitude will likely result in being bound back to the last checkpoint.
Contributing to the necessity of precision is the impressive physics engine that RedLynx has improved upon. At all times, the most minute of details, such as the angle of the bike, the rider’s weight shift, and the amount of acceleration make the difference between cruising right along or losing momentum altogether. On the more difficult tracks, these factors will dictate whether you reach your next checkpoint or commit a fault and have to retry that small section again.
The most stunning improvement upon Trials HD lies within the scenery that permeates each track. A defining characteristic of the original, every track was set in a warehouse and the entire focus was on the rider and the obstacles. Trials Evolution has made vast improvements in this area. This time around, each track has a theme. Some notable examples are a baseball field, a suspension bridge during an earthquake, and even the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. Besides providing a gorgeous backdrop for each race, the environments almost always provide a challenge that’s unique to the course. Because the backdrops are much more busy than in Trials HD, it’s easy to occasionally commit faults because the scenery misled you into thinking that the course went in another direction. However, given that Trials Evolution is a title that relies heavily on repetition, these situations become non-existent once you become more familiar with the track.
While the single-player modes are an exercise in securing bragging rights, the multiplayer is for those looking for instant gratification. Featuring four player online and local matches, multiplayer is a way to put your honed skills to the test. Supercross mode presents all players’ bikes on the screen at once, while Trials mode has you racing against live competition on tracks from the single-player campaign. The multiplayer does a good job of balancing points for winning the race while penalizing crashes to ensure that a combination of skill and speed come out on top.
Arguably, one of the most popular aspects of Trials HD was the skill games — a side show of mini-games that assigned the player with performing some unusual task, usually associated with skills learned from the game. Skill games are back, and, fortunately, they’re just as addicting as ever. RedLynx has done well to create new games that don’t feel like re-creations of the old skill games, yet recapture the essence of them.
Trials Evolution is a game that, and I don’t say this often, does pretty much everything right. From the approachable, yet highly addicting gameplay, to the beautiful visuals and backdrops, RedLynx stuck the landing in every aspect of Trials Evolution. It’s highly unlikely that we’re going to see a game in the near future that is as technically perfect and appeal to as broad of an audience as Trials Evolution, so we need to cherish it in the meantime. That is, if your cramped hands will allow it.