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Trials Rising Review (PlayStation 4)
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 when it was new, and it was a flawed experience. But its developers have worked hard to improve the game since then.
For example, this screenshot, taken using a previous version of the game, shows my rider giving the V sign. In the current version, my rider has rainbows and a pink aura when making this pose. But seriously, other improvements have made a serious difference in my enjoyment of the game.
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 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 selection of tracks 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.)
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 specific challenges isn’t much better, and the first superior crate that I opened 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 updating 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 songs, shuffle, or even skip the current song.
A gripe that I have with the game is with track selection. Tracks appear as points on a world map that you move a cursor to select. Previous games used a simple, easy-to-understand menu system for track selection, so this change is an odd one. And it looks like it’s here to stay for now - after numerous updates to the game, the track selection still uses this map-based interface.
At least the developers have apparently fixed how you unlock levels. When Trials Rising first came out, you had to grind experience points by replaying tracks in order to unlock new ones. I have yet to play through the game again to see for myself, but you can apparently skip ahead a bit by doing well on the aforementioned training tracks. This sounds like a major improvement to me.
Previously, you had to replay tracks multiple times with different contracts to get anywhere in the game after a certain point. Contracts represent optional goals that, when completed, 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 first playthrough all the way back when the game was initially released:
(This seems to have been fixed as I no longer see anything like this.)
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.
Tracks are divided by difficulty in divisions, and 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.
Trials Rising gives you the option to race all three tracks in a row (similar to Tournaments from previous games). Previous versions of Trials Rising made the “all three tracks” versions of Stadium Finals extremely difficult, but 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.
Sometimes, tracks unlock in other ways. One time, I looked at the track selection screen and saw Extreme-level tracks. No notification, no fanfare, nothing. Not sure if that bug has been fixed, but it was funny to see them appear out of nowhere.
Trials Rising has become a better game since its rocky launch. The developers have fixed many of the major issues that I had with it. Bugfix releases resolved several problems bugs in the game, including a PS4-specific problem that I experienced where the game crashed on launch and corrupted my save.
Other than how the lootbox stuff works, I can’t think of any major issues with the current version of Trials Rising. A few minor problems still linger. The track selection UI is still odd, but the developers seem committed to keeping it in the game. I encounter regular, minor performance issues when playing on my PlayStation 4. It’s a base (non-Pro, non-Slim) model that I’ve encountered odd issues with. I had to send it back to Sony once when the disc drive stopped working. And I’ve had performance issues in many other games (including Trackmania Turbo) that I’ve ran with no issues on my circa-2016 gaming PC. And the demo for Trials Rising ran wonderfully on my PC, which leads me to believe that the performance issues are specific to the online integration, the PS4 in general, or my specific PS4.
Also, the bike can still do stuff like this:
This screenshot was taken on an earlier version of the game, but I’ve seen it happen in version 1.08 of the game. I laugh when it happens, but I don’t remember it being a major issue in up-to-date versions of other Trials games.
I need to play through the game again to see if you don’t have to grind for experience, but for now, I feel comfortable with giving Trials Rising:
It’s bad that the game was released in such an unfinished state, but it seems to be in good shape now.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of Trials Rising. At the time of this review, the current version of Trials Rising is 1.08. I intend to revise this review with future updates.
Here’s my review for the first expansion for Trials Rising: Trials Rising - Sixty Six Expansion Review (PlayStation 4).
Here’s my review for the second expansion for Trials Rising: Trials Rising - Crash & Burn Expansion Review (PlayStation 4).
- 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.
- 12-15: Updated article to reflect the latest patch. Also updated its score from 3/5 to 4/5 due to improvements made to the game since launch. Also added links to reviews for the expansions.
Sentenced to Smooth Jazz
Smooth jazz is a genre that is disliked for a number of different reasons. But I think that the big one that tends to come up is that “it’s boring”. And sure, the smooth variety of jazz tends to be less lively and more predictable than the non-smooth kind (at least to my novice-level jazz listener sensibilities).
But sometimes, the situation calls for something a lot more chill than the norm.
I’ve been a metalhead for 15 years, but I don’t like driving while listening to anything that’s loud and aggressive. It tends to rub off on me a little bit, making me just the tiniest bit on-edge. I first found out about that quirk of my personality as I listened to Propagandhi’s How to Clean Everything during a morning drive to my day job. The music, combined with having to deal with traffic on my route, made me white-hot with rage. My car has been a Propagandhi-free zone ever since that day.
In recent years, I discovered that listening to soothing, calming music made me calm down just a tiny little bit. I didn’t think that it would “move the needle” for me, but it has! I don’t usually listen to anything that I’ve been known to like when I’m in the car. Goodbye, Slayer! Hello… Kenny G!?
My source for relaxing music is an FM radio station: 106.3 WSBZ The Seabreeze. Smooth jazz. It’s not bad! They play a wider selection of music than you might expect. Sure, there’s plenty of smooth jazz, but they toss-in in some classic jazz, adult contemporary, and even new age music every now and then. And none of it grates on me. It’s soft, low-tempo, calming music that helps me stay calm when someone passes me going 90+mph on a 60mph, two-lane road!
Metroid: Samus Returns - Review
Metroid: Samus Returns is Nintendo’s newest Metroid game! It’s really good to have a new 2D Metroid game because it’s been a while since Nintendo released the excellent Metroid: Zero Mission. But while Metroid: Samus Returns is enjoyable, it has plenty of faults that detracted from my enjoyment of it.
My biggest beef with the game is that it strongly emphasizes the new melee counter. It’s fun to swat bugs out of the sky with Samus’s Hand of Doom, but it leads to some non-fun situations. The Metroid encounters (which there are plenty of) are designed around parrying their close-range attacks and hitting their weak spot. However, they rarely use close-range attacks that you can counter. This means that these miniboss fights either go by really quickly (when the Metroid randomly decides to be dumb and use an attack that leaves them open) or excruciatingly slow (which is typically the case).
You can use the melee counter to stun many enemies. And, sure, the enemies with melee attacks moves tend to them as frequently as the Metroids don’t. But if you wait to shoot a stunned enemy, Samus’s blaster reverts back to normal damage, so you’re stuck shooting an immobile enemy for far longer than it should take.
So, in addition to this cool, but kinda busted, mechanic you also get:
- Chase segments featuring an instant death wall
- Hitscan enemies
- Boss fights that go on forever
- Gimmick enemies that drain power-up juice (Aeion gauge) that you need to defeat them
- A scanning feature that tells you where power-ups are
I’m serious all of those; even the last one! But at least most of the upgrades are in cool spots that require backtracking and puzzle-solving to get to. And there’s a whole lot of game to explore - my first playthrough took around 10 hours and 40 minutes of in-game time to get 54% completion. So there’s obviously a lot of stuff to do in Metroid: Samus Returns.
But I didn’t really enjoy myself while playing the game. The boss fights, in particular, were quite a chore to get through. I’m glad that I beat it, but I’m not going to get 100% any time soon.
But perhaps I expected too much. It has favorable reviews on Metacritic, so someone out there likes it! It’s a new Metroid game from Nintendo, so you do you!