Six things you need to know about Trials Fusion

Penguin power.

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Trials is one of the few games that's pretty much universally adored for its "just one more go" feel. Indeed, I've ploughed many an hour into it, desperately attempting to beat my shockingly talented friends on the leaderboards. With such a big following behind the game, and an ever-growing pool of user generated content to pull from, it'd be easy for developer Red Lynx to knock out a few new tracks and bikes and call it a day. Fortunately, though, the studio--with a little help from its new owners Ubisoft--have done much, much more. And so, in the time-honoured tradition of listing things, here's six things you need to know about Trials Fusion.

It's oh so colourful

Much like how Killzone: Shadow Fall surprised people with its sudden love for all things colourful, so too does Trials Fusion. Gone are the overly brown areas of old, replaced instead with sharp, shiny surfaces, and heaps of bright colours. It's a far more joyful thing to look at, and indeed there's lots more going on in each level too. Where Trials Evolution began to take the series into some zany directions with its level design, Fusion totally goes for broke.

The early level Fusion Factory places you in is a shiny steel factory, complete with platforms that float in from a distance and light up as you drive over them. Turbine Terror takes place on a rapidly collapsing wind farm, Base Invader floats in the air on wind turbines, and Eco Park has you driving over exploding solar panels and through rings of fire. The end of each level is particularly ludicrous, with the poor Trials driver getting shot up into the air on a rocket, thrown through multiple glass panes, or zapped to death in the middle of an energy reactor. Suffice it to say, there's plenty going on with Fusion's visuals.

You can play tennis with a penguin

There's also plenty going on with Fusion's levels in terms of challenges, with three per track. The usual suspects are there, like completing a certain amount of flips during a level, or acing a particularly tricky jump. But there are some more, shall we say, cryptic challenges assigned to each level.

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In Eco Park, for instance, there's a challenge that involves purposefully reversing into a fiery pit. Stay there long enough without resetting the bike and the level starts again, only this time you're flying through the air on a rocket-powered bike trying to guide it through rings of fire. On the same level there's a hidden button you can reverse onto, which changes the level from daytime to nighttime, and increases the difficulty dramatically.

Other levels showcase Red Lynx's rather odd love for penguins. Yes, there are penguins everywhere in Trials Fusion, some in full view, others hidden behind challenges. On the snow-covered level Expedition, if you reverse into a certain cave you fall in a particularly painful-looking fashion into a penguin hideout. There, viewed from the first-person, you're treated to a humorous, if slightly terrifying gathering of penguins over your now deceased Trials rider.

My favourite moment has to go to the Park and Ride level, though, where you can stop your bike on a tennis court and play tennis against a penguin--and it's a penguin that's damn good at tennis too. The controls were a bit awkward, and the hit box for the rather odd-looking tennis racket was very forgiving, but that was all part of the charm. Besides, you get a bunch of XP for beating the penguin, not to mention the satisfaction of wiping the creepy smile off its face (you'll see what I mean when you get your hands on Fusion).

Quad bikes!

Two wheels? Pah! Real men only ride on four, with a beer in one hand, a freshly shot deer in the other, and a hulking great slab of beef drooping out their mouths--cooked rare, natch. Sadly, you'll have to provide your own beer, deer, and beef for Fusion, but you can at least roll around on four wheels thanks to the inclusion of quad bikes. It's not the first time quads have appeared in Trials game, thanks to some neat user generated content for Evolution, but they are the first to come from Red Lynx.

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There there are levels specifically designed for the increased speeds, weight, and slightly more forgiving handling of the quad, but once it's unlocked you can take it out on any of Fusion's tracks. It's good fun too, making some levels easier and others more difficult, particularly those with delicate jumps. I didn't find a level I couldn't complete with it, though, at least in my brief time with the game.

You can also take the quad out in multiplayer (once again featuring four players) against other motocross bikes and the always-hilarious pushbike, which makes for some wonderfully topsy-turvy races. Oh, and yes, you can still flip 'em like a pro if you want to.

Stunts!

Flipping a quad bike is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stunts in Fusion, though. For the first time you can perform actual, proper tricks on your bike. The tricks themselves are based on freestyle motorcross (FMX) and aren't, I'm told, just simple animations, but are instead hooked into the physics system. So, when you're hanging off the back of your bike performing a Superman, the extra weight means you've got to quickly adjust your angle so you don't spin out.

Tricks are performed by pushing the right analogue stick in different directions, which sounds easy enough, but when you've got to try and keep the bike balanced using the left stick at the same time, thinks get tricky. The angle of your bike also affects which tricks you perform, while doing spins at the same time nets you more points.

While you can perform tricks on any level you like, they're only score on specific levels designed just for them that feature big jumps and ramps, as well as FMX-specific challenges. There's also a new, very agile FMX bike to use, and a neat training simulator that floats your bike in midair. There you can try out tricks like Ruler, where you do a handstand on the bike; Underdog, where you hang off the handlebar one handed; and the always entertaining Proud Hero, where you stand on top of it and pose for the camera.

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There's a story (sort of)

No, I don't expect you wanted a narrative in a new Trials game either. But hey, we've got one! Fortunately, it isn't the heavy-handed CGI-fest the game's E3 trailer hinted at. Instead, there are subtle nods from a computerized AI voice that something's amiss with the world around you. After all, casually driving a motocross bike across exploding missile silos isn't your everyday occurrence.

The idea is that the world is coming to a rather gruesome end. The further you get into Fusion's levels, the more destructive (and of course more difficult) they become. The narrative is pretty loose, and to be honest, if it hadn't been pointed out to me that there was one, I wouldn't have noticed. For something like Trials, that can only be a good thing. After all, no one wants to be thrust into a cutscene while they're trying to shave precious seconds off a track time.

The main reason for Fusion's narrative leanings is the mobile spinoff Trials Frontier. Unfortunately, I didn't get to check out the game itself (although if you live in Canada or Finland you can download it now), but I was told that it's set after the events of Fusion in some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Oh, and it's free-to-play too, and--if early reports are anything to go by--not in the good way.

There's a season pass and DLC

Fortunately, Fusion hasn't gone down the free-to-play route. Instead, there's the promise of more content in the form of feature updates and content packs. While Red Lynx didn't go into too much detail on what's going to be in the updates, new outfits for your Trials rider, and new levels are on the way. Indeed, if you pick up a copy of Fusion for Xbox One or PlayStation 4 at retail it'll come bundled with a season pass, giving you access to future updates at no extra charge.

If you'd rather not pay for it, Fusion once again includes a full level editor, letting you create your own tracks or download the creations of others. Given that Evolution currently sports hundreds of thousands of bits of UGC, it's hopeful we'll see the same level of support for Fusion. Honestly, once the Trials bug has bitten you, it's hard to go back. And, judging by the stellar work Red Lynx has done so far, Trials Fusion is shaping up to be just as compulsive an experience as its predecessors.

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