How did it get this close to the Trials Fusion release date without me realising this edition is set in the future? That’ll teach me not to pay enough attention to things. Luckily, this beta made matters very clear by opening with an anthemic “Welcome to the Future” tune and a splash screen of a biker posing on some Anno 2070 style skyscrapers. The very first training mission introduces an AI helper called Cindy who totally wanted to hold my hand and go steady. It’s not quite turning into a Spike Jonze film, but things are definitely a bit odd.

Cindy also teaches you the basics of Trials Fusion which, if you’ve not played any Trials game before, are these: accelerate, break, and lean forward or back to not fall off. You will fall off anyway. That’s fine though, it’s usually funny. On rare occasions you’ll actually want to bail off your bike on purpose in order to catapult yourself closer to out of the way secrets. Or just to look stupid.

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I could bail off the bike right now, just for the thrill of it.

The current beta version of Trials Fusion is accessible to anybody who pre-orders the full game, and is slowly expanding to encompass additional tracks and techniques all the way up to the 16 April release date. Right now, you only get 15 tracks or so (and that’s including tutorials) in the “beginner” and “easy” categories. If you’re a Trials pro, you’ll probably have clinched gold on all of those in less than an hour. There are a couple of skill games included too, although as far as I can tell one of them is borderline impossible without some currently inaccessible upgrades.

There’s also no opportunity to try out the new FMX trick system, as none of those stages are in yet. A selection of tracks pegged for a 5 April release date are being promoted as “be a stunt rider,” so perhaps the mysteries of FMX posing will be introduced at that time.

Not a vast amount to see at present, then, but enough to answer one of the burning questions a lot of people who bought the PC version of Trials Evolution Gold probably have: does the port run like crap? That title had a rough transition to the PC, complete with bizarre stuttering problems on machines that should’ve eaten it for lunch. I’m a pretty small sample size (of one person,) but my i3-2100 / 8GB RAM / HD 7870 system was running Trials Fusion on its highest settings with no hiccups at all. It was a smooth (though locked, if that’s a concern) 60fps all the way.

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Yes, that seems worthy of a bronze medal.

The next question people burned by Trials Evolution Gold will probably have is this one: is multiplayer all kinds of messed up? Again, the PC port was rather notorious for having connection problems. It’s tougher to provide an answer to that, because the beta doesn’t currently offer much in the way of multiplayer and appears to have no plans to do so. Trials Fusion will be at the mercy of Uplay’s servers again though, which I’m going to blame for some ponderous loading times.

As is the modern Ubisoft way, the whole thing is online; so I suppose you could say that by virtue of actually being able to play it this weekend the server part is working alright. The beta does allow you to download and challenge various ghost runs from the absurdly skilled people who’ve completed courses in times so fast you need to record them on a quantum level, and that part works fine too. This Trials Fusion news piece kind of implies that head-to-head racing against ghosts won’t be in the final game, but it’s already in the beta so perhaps I’m misinterpreting what’s being said.

There was apparently a bug relating to viewed replays where the control inputs being shown on-screen (a really handy feature that lets you see precisely when and where people are using the gas/brake/leans etc) going out of sync, but that appears to be fixed at the moment.

The courses on offer in the beta may be the easiest ones, but they have pretty spectacular range. It’s the same old Trials formula of course, but already in this limited selection of tracks I’ve catapulted across vast canyons, dashed out from beneath tumbling wind turbines, raced through an astronomy observatory at night and messed up the pure white snow of some treacherous ski slopes. As well as providing an eerily amorous AI, the future setting means the traditional factory based levels can be jazzed up with moving, neon-lit floor parts that crank into place at the last possible moment.

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Despite how it looks, I actually made that landing.

As ever, there are checkpoints galore. Falling off will only ever put you back an obstacle or two, so making it to the finish is a matter of mere persistence. Of course, you probably won’t want to settle for that. Silver and Gold medals come only to those who can make it through a course fast enough and safely enough. The urge to replay and replay and replay yet again is a familiar Trials tug.

Trials Fusion also doesn’t let up on the secret areas. Many of the stage-specific challenges (which can be along the lines of “complete the stage with no leaning” or “do ten perfect flips”) involve going out of your way, or even intentionally launching your rider into the great beyond, in order to find something. And speaking of launching hapless bikers into the ether, the creative ways in which your rider meets his doom at the end of every single stage still manage to make me laugh. Even though I know it’s coming. Even though by now I’ve seen Trials guys crash in almost every possible way known to mankind.

Limited customisation is here too. Whether this is limited by design or just by the beta (which prevents you from unlocking all that much for obvious reasons) isn’t clear. I’ve been able to change the colour of my bike and the wheel rims but … that’s about it. Rider-wise, there’s a dashing Evel Knievel-style outfit that I’m eying up as soon as it becomes available.

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A ‘Dashing Hero’ indeed.

The relatively sparse selection of tracks means this Trials Fusion beta isn’t really worth a pre-order in and of itself, as it’ll only expand to cover more stages when the game is already getting pretty close to release. But though it’s inessential from a customer’s point of view, it’s instructive of the title’s quality in the same manner as a demo. The performance (at least on my own system) bodes well in comparison to Trials Evolution Gold’s problems, though questions will have to remain about whether RedLynx and Ubisoft learned their multiplayer lessons from that release. Crucially, the series’ simple, tight mechanics are present and correct, meaning the full release should be as bombastic, daft and joyous as ever.

Except this time, in the future. Where even the tutorial AI wants to kiss you on the mouth.

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