If you own an Xbox 360, odds are you’ve heard of a little game called Trials, the critically acclaimed and best-selling Xbox LIVE arcade title. However, if you’re a PS3 owner longing for the day you too can enjoy off-the-wall motocross physics action, you may think Urban Trial Freestyle for the PSN is the next best thing. Sadly the only trial I would recommend you download is the demo.
Taking notes from the wildly popular Trials HD games, Urban Trial Freestyle attempts to bring the high-octane psychics challenge to the PlayStation Network. It appears almost as a cut and paste job; the game shares similarities with the Trials series right down to the menu styles and generic music.
The game presents itself as a hardcore and extreme motocross game, taking your dirt bike from the sands and muds, to the asphalts and rooftops. That being said, the city must be about five blocks wide because the game only hosts around twenty different tracks that get re-hashed and re-hashed so many times that I would welcome some sand and mud just to keep me interested.
Graphically the game looks acceptable. The various explosions look nice, along with the fire and sparks, which you’ll be seeing a lot of. The backdrop city comes across to be a bit dull and muddy overall. With very little variety in areas, mixed with the small number of tracks, it’s easy to feel each level blend into one another.
Hoping this could be remedied with some user created maps, I was sadly brought back to earth upon learning there is no such thing in the world of Urban Trials. In fact, there are no online modes included whatsoever. You do get a leaderboard and ghosts to race against, but that’s about as interactive as you can expect to get.
The sound quality is decent, flaunting smooth bass lines and hard guitar riffs you would expect to hear coming from a high-schooler’s garage; the soundtrack isn’t memorable, but doesn’t cause bleeding ears either. The sound effects are on spot as well, with revs of the engine and the screech of the tires fitting with what you would expect from a motocross game.
Level design is what you would expect, with industrial and urban environments laced with cops, random exploding cars, and hundreds of piles of boxes tumbling over. Lacking any over-the-top flips or jaw dropping moments, it all begins to feel like a less carefully crafted level from Trials, with some moments attempting to strike a nerve such as trains passing within inches of you, planes landing overhead, and many other scripted moments. The problem though, is that they never affect gameplay and are set up as mostly a distraction rather than a challenge. The levels just lack the ambitions and excitement that we are used to.
The game does feature rider and bike customization, offering a few different styles of shirts, pants, and helmets, all of which can be colour edited. This makes for a decent amount of options for your rider, although the different styles that are featured are all a bit too similar to give any real sense of personal touch. Bike customization is shallow to say the least, offering only the ability to edit different parts rather than the entire bike; each upgrade hardly impacts the feel of the bike.
The physics are also a tad wonky, with jitters here and there; it feels that the bike will handle jumps differently each time, leaving more obstacles to luck rather than skill. This shows most when the game throws blocks or crates in your way, leaving you to scramble over them with each time being different than the last. Crates will wedge under your bike or stick to your tires for the remainder of the track like some sort of crazy glue demonstration.
With a fairly short campaign mode, you will find yourself trying the challenges mode. This is the run-of-the-mill such as launch the rider this far, or don’t run out of gas, and ride without faulting that we’ve all seen before. However, with no new additions or innovations, it’s hard to play any challenge more than once.
You may think this is beginning to sound like a gimped versions of our beloved Trials, and you’d be right. Feeling flat and uninspired, it seems like the folks at Tate Interactive were simply trying to bring a whiff of the Trials gameplay to PlayStation owners. Sadly, what they received was a gutted version that lacks the fundamentals, and fails to add anything new. While it is playable and even enjoyable at times, you will still find yourself asking ‘Why am I not playing Trials?’ But if you don’t own an Xbox, sadly this may be your best bet.
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