The biggest change here, is how the game progresses, in past entries, the levels were presented in a linear manner, letting you move through them, like a checklist, but here, you are given free rein to approach them as you see fit, as they now are presented on a map. While the earlier time with the game limits you to America, as you level up and unlock more courses, you will soon venture to Western Europe, South-East Asia and beyond. The places on the map are not just random, as each of the levels are themed to their approximate location, one that is placed where New York would be, has you racing across roof’s and construction sights in New York, where as one based on a portion of the Great Wall of China, has you bunny hopping across that very same piece of history.
The tracks start out easy, as indicated by the chevron next to the location, a single one means easy, two and up add difficulty to them and while you can still gun your way through them, it is with finesse that you will succeed more often. The usual tricks are in use here, slow acceleration up a hill while leaning forward, short and quick hops to clear gaps and more, but with some of the most inventive tracks in series history, require a lot more patience than in the past. As the tracks adhere to a theme, based on the location, at least for the most part, some still go crazy for no apparent reason, it is easy to predict the sort of environments and more importantly, hazards that you will find in them. Completing a track will usually net you a bronze medal but doing it with as few faults as possible and as fast as possible will get you gold.
Achieving gold is something you really need to do as it levels you up faster, as when you level up, you will get loot crates, which have decals and gear you can use to customise your rider and bikes. Speaking of bikes, the usual options are there, your basic all-rounder, the powerhouse, the super nimble and such, and while it is an easy mistake to take the one with the power onto each track, learning to pick a bike that suits the track is something you need to spend a bit of time understanding. If tracks are a challenge for you, there are always the skill games, which require less bike skill, at least for some of them and more luck, which is always fun, some of them are so easy to win on, it takes little effort, others though require some advanced skills. But worry not though, if all this sounds hard, as the game actually has a series of instructional lessons with the very Australian, Professor Fatshady, a man that understands Trials like no-one else, except the developers, however there is a problem with this course.
The game forces all players into the first lesson, which is only available after you complete your first track, no addition tracks will unlock, until you complete the first lesson. Now that is not a bad thing, especially for newcomers to the series, but as someone who has played all the games in the series, this was quite annoying, with three games on the console, four counting Rising, you would think the game would see that I have played a lot and not forced me there. Worse still, is that the game does it after the first track and the first lesson is on acceleration, the thing you need to use in order to pass the first track. Once you complete the first few lessons, which cover things like leaning and such, the game will not open more lessons, until you level up more. The issue I have with this, is the game has tracks that make use of some more advanced lessons, but you unless you know what you are looking for, they demand your attention later, if you want the gold.
Replaying tracks is possible, as doing so will still net you some experience and such, but unless you need to get the gold, or care about someone getting a faster time than you, there is very little reason to do so. Though, perhaps the only valid reason to do so, is to get that final piece of xp you need, which unlocks the stadium events, essentially the bosses of the game, here you compete against a series of riders, in a number of races, requiring to meet a goal in each one, a set place or higher, in order to unlock the next area. These events are nothing like the regular tracks, they require a lot more precision and control than you may have used up until that point, but unlocking a heap more tracks is very rewarding, however it is not all smooth sailing. I encountered an instance, twice actually, where the racer who made the finals against me, was swapped out by another character, and both times it happened when the track was being loaded.
This is actually where the game starts to lose grip, the load times are way too long, and the game is still suffering from that same issue that has been around since Trials HD. One of the best elements of the game is that should you make a mistake, or I should say when, you can hit a button and restart from the last checkpoint or restart the track, and at near instant speed. The only issue with that, is that if you restart the track, the further away from the start you are, the longer it takes assets to load back in properly and it is very noticeable. I also encountered a lot of lag with objects load in, in some levels, and eve moments when the bike would hang in the air, as if the game was unsure what was going to happen next. Characters that you were racing against would also take a moment to load, even if the game was not connected to servers and loading up cpu based characters, they would take a bit to load on the loading screen. Outside of that, any animations that were not related to the bike or rider, were clunky and bland, with spectators looking like they were stuck in the same dozen or so frames of animation.
The look to the game is one I enjoyed though, rough animations aside, the levels have a lot of detail, from mountains in the background, to the track ahead of you. Explosions from the still as yet unexplained red barrels that litter the courses are a bit meh, but as you are not meant to hit them, it is not a bad thing. The bike physics still look a treat in motion, seeing your rider pull off 5 consecutive backflips and then land it, is something I never tire of seeing, though I did wish that when you fail at that move and your rider disconnects from the bike, the reaction was more than just canned ragdoll physics in motion. Thankfully, a clear redeeming feature is the games soundtrack and while millage will vary, depending on the type of music you prefer, the overall collection was quite a treat, with some of the songs already making their way onto my Spotify playlist.
Trials Rising is a very excellent entry in the long running series, but sadly its age is showing a lot. The track design is flawless here, with a lot more variety than past games have had on their own, thanks to the global adventure that we get to experience with the game. Whatever engine they are using to power the game needs to be retired and fast as what was acceptable a decade ago, is no longer the case now, as it can clearly no longer maintain the level of detail they are seeking. Fans of the series will find exactly what they are after here, more Trials and for those new to the series, it will be a perfect time to jump in and with Trials University, there has never been a better way to learn.