Platforms: PS3 | PS Vita
Developer: Tate Interactive
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Urban Trial Freestyle reminds me of a simpler time. A time where if you were lucky you and your friends had one console and a single controller between you, and you’d round-robin games like Mashed or SSX or even GTA, discovering new levels and weapons, seeing what kind of crazy moves you could pull off, or just going as far and as fast as you could before you ultimately died and passed the controller on.
Urban Trial is that kind of spirit captured, the epitome of “just one more go” gaming. Straightforward, physics based gameplay that shines when you’ve got a bunch of spectators laughing at your fifth pratfall in a row or ooh-ing and aah-ing at a particularly daring stunt. It helps that the tracks you’re going to be wheelie-ing along are reminiscent of spectacular movie scenes with explosions, cop cars, and giant clowns (obviously). The variety and audacity of the tracks, despite the expected linearity, all offer their own unique hazards and trials, and most of them offer a decent incentive to play and play again.
I’d be remiss not to mention the huge, Trials-shaped elephant in the proverbial room, though - Urban Trial is such an obvious clone with an ‘edgy’ twist that it’s almost impossible not to compare the two. But in the name of giving Freestyle a fair trial, so to speak, I’m going to leave the Microsoft exclusive series out of this review. Even if it is glaring at me from across the room.
What really restrains the game in terms of just fun is that the focus is so heavily on being instantly accessible that there’s no variety or depth to the stunts. Eventually, the exhilaration of doing a back flip over a row of burning trucks as police close in behind you turns to mere frustration, and the linearity begins to set in when you realise that most of the hazards that you think are going to trip you up are actually just background objects hanging around for decoration. It seems really intense and challenging but for the most part, you’re just watching a scripted series of events happen well out of reach whilst ramping up a few planks just off ground level. Most of the time, Urban Trial makes you feel like you’re a little kid with a dirt bike toy imagining his room to be much more than it actually is.
That’s not to say it isn’t fun. Whilst just out of what could be considered a ‘budget’ PSN title at £11.99, there’s a lot of tracks to run across five different worlds, and you’ll be replaying almost all of them to snag the money pick-ups you’ll need to upgrade your bike and customise your character.
The bike upgrades, like the rest of the game, are hardly complex but work well enough, affecting acceleration, speed, and handling as you swap out the wheels, chassis, and engine. Having to fine-tune and pick the right parts for the right track would be cumbersome in a game as straightforward as Urban Trial, but it would be nice to have as much of a say in the look of your bike as you do in your rider - and that’s not saying much. Customising your character is purely cosmetic and you’ve got a small set of definite outfits to choose from - you could mix and match, but then you’d end up looking like you’d just stumbled through a Harlem Shake covered in superglue. But for the money you’re parting with, there’s an adequate selection of upgrades and customisation to keep things fresh.
So what do you get for your money? A fun way to kill time, packed with some excellently decaying urban tracks and almost Hollywood-style hazards. Stunts are a little disappointing and the controls are often a little too imprecise to cope with the flips and jumps you want to do, even with upgrades maxed out. It might get a little unrewarding if you’re playing by yourself, but get a few friends over and this game comes alive with an audience - playing it socially adds tons more pressure and satisfaction to what is, otherwise, a rather average experience.
- Great tracks and gritty visuals
- Pick-up and play controls make it a great party game
- Great environments packed with detail...
- ...but it often gets too cluttered to discern between hazards and environment
- Controls are simple but imprecise
- Simple gameplay becomes less rewarding over time
The Short Version: Simple and addictive gameplay backed by some well designed environments. Actively suffers from a lack of multiplayer and bland stunts but you can make up for it with the persistent time attack and point scoreboards. Not nearly as good as its obvious competitor but fun enough for the price to kill some time.