Urban Trial Freestyle

Ever Try To Bunny-Hop Off A Moving Subway Car?

Urban Trial Freestyle is coming, and bringing with it a kind of skill-based gauntlet PlayStation platforms haven't yet seen.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: January 22, 2013
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Around here, we have nothing but good things to say about Hello Games' cartoony, amazing bike-driven stunt game, Joe Danger (to say nothing of the even bigger sequel we reviewed a few months back). Created by just a handful of serious development talent across the pond in Guildford, Joe Danger filled a niche that was lacking on the PlayStation Network, combining bright, colorful visuals with a bouncy, challenging set of stunts.

While the game would eventually get ported to a handful of platforms, including iOS, it actually took a while to make it over to Xbox Live Arcade. Thing is, Xbox 360 owners probably weren't too broken up about it, seeing as they had Trials HD and Trials Evolution, two games that offered a more realistic, heavily physics-based set of motorcycle challenges than Joe Danger was going for.

Which means, at present, 360 owners are rather well served, getting both ends of the arcadey, motorcycle-driven spectrum at once. We PlayStation folk, however, aren't nearly as lucky -- at least not for a few more weeks. When February rolls around, we'll be creeping up on the simultaneous PS3/Vita PSN release of Urban Trial Freestyle (previously known as just Urban Trials when it was an early-ish announcement for Vita. Already tantalizing thanks to the apparent similarity to those other motorcycle challengers, the actual gameplay was still something of a mystery until were finally allowed to go hands-on with the PS3 and Vita versions of the game last week.

If you're looking for plenty of hypberbolic praise, feel free to skip ahead, but the short version is that the game felt absolutely fantastic on both systems, and it's no exaggeration to say that we're now champing at the bit to play through more.

For those that aren't lucky enough to have played games like this, the idea is simple: with just throttle and brake, combined with the ability to pitch the bike and rider to maintain balance and tire contact, you must make it from the start of a course to the end, navigating all manner of jumps, berms, inclines and declines along the way. It's deceptively simple stuff, but careful management of acceleration, balance and momentum is key to finding a proper rhythm and line that will most efficiently take you through the course, and it's here that Urban Trials Freestyle has the chops to become an incredibly addictive experience.

It's pretty obvious that developer Tate Interactive knows what they've got on their hands. In proper "just one more try" fashion, they've mapped a warp back to the last checkpoint to the Triangle Button, meaning it's always there to allow for a second (or thirty-fourth, or thirty-fifth, or thirty-sixth) attempt at nailing that small section of the course. Those courses are subdivided into 20 time attack runs and 20 stunt-driven challenges spread across five distinct environments, all of which are surprisingly detailed, but more on that in a second.

Much like Joe Danger, progress is gated off by way of star totals. Do well, and you can earn up to five stars for each course, which in turn unlocks more involved challenges. Along the way, you'll also earn up to $2500 per track depending on progress that can be used to buy upgrades to a bike's wheels, chassis and engine, but those upgrades aren't just blanket stat boosts to speed, acceleration and handling, they're often balancing acts. A new engine might offer more torque, but that could lead to a heavier bike and lessen handling response. Likewise, a new set of tires might offer more grip, but they could lower overall speed. In this way, every course offers a different set of criteria that have to be figured out with practice and more than a few errors along the way.
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