Welcome to Urban Trial Freestyle. Gamers are introduced to Urban Trial Freestyle with a Police transponder reporting that a “rad dude” is doing some sick skills on his scrambly bike. That dude, of course, is you (the gamer). The game’s intro is full of slowed down smash cuts of the avatar performing cool stunts. Fans of Monster and Red Bull should be stoked as the whole introduction to Urban Trial Freestyle on PS3 feels like a relentless energy drink ad. The effect is much the same, as the game feels that it is desperately reaching for all the ‘cool’ bull yet still remains bland, boring and uninspired. This generic lazy intro video sets the tone of the game incredibly well and like an extreme energy drink, Urban Trial Freestyle can, at times, quicken your heart rate in its finer moments. Nevetheless, unlike an extreme energy drink it won’t give you Type-2 Diabetes after too much of it, but chances are gamers won’t want too much of it.
The graphics serve the game well and so do the visual environments. Things do start a little rough as training zones and early stages will occur in rundown generic stank holes and warehouses that look like a miserable unfunny version of the ‘derelict’ fashion show from Zoolander and come across as a waste of 1080p HD resolution. Later on in the game, eyes will feel less depressed looking at the diffused sun flares on shanty rooftops, crumbling fairgrounds, sprawling national parks, and exploding blue glass cityscapes
A simple fixed camera follows the action and frames the game nicely. Jumps, climbs and obstacles are approached in good time as a result and don’t feel like cheap surprises. If gamers fail to perform well it’s because of a lacking execution on the player’s part rather than the game cheating a gamer due to a limitation.
The audio is, hands down, the worst part of Urban Trial Freestyle and takes “boring” to a new level. Given the choice, gamers will most likely choose to hear nothing but the monotone buzzing mosquito swarm of a scrambler engine than the dire music included in the game. Frankly speaking, gamers will probably rather hear nothing at all as opposed to the the soundtrack. Flat ten second loops of keyboard demos and catalog ‘pro wrestler entering the ring in 1995′ mood rock. The rest is basic drum and bass samples and mid 90′s euro industrial trance blurg, outdated and mind-numbing.
Thankfully the music can be switched off, but then what’s left? The game’s companion biker can’t keep his mouth shut with constant “SA-weeeeet”, “Epic!”, “Whaat-evur!” and “Heyalyer!” coming out his gob every two fricking seconds. The only thing more nerve-grinding is all the cops and onlookers spluttering “Look out!” in the exact same voice whenever they appear – which is constant throughout the game. Switching off the ear-bleeding scrambler noise results in the surreal experience of grinding out enjoyment in a game played in pure silence. Just picture that scene… it’s pure madness.
The aim of Urban Trial Freestyle is to complete a timed run on a short course (or stage) and gain as many points doing it. This is done by making careful use of acceleration to time and land jumps and tackle obstacles without wiping out. Mistakes drop 50 points from scores and send the player back to the last checkpoint passed along the course. Approaching everything at the right angle and pace is essential to racking up a worthwhile score.
Players are graded in stars out of five after each run. The number of stars are determined by how many points you’ve gained for your tricks and time along the way. A set number of stars are needed to unlock later worlds and stages. Urban Freestyle’s main game consists of five worlds consisting of eight stages each (the first world has an additional two training stages). In most stages, you’ll be graded for how well you perform track and field style long and high jumps on your bike and for doing the odd flip. In others, the emphasis is solely on completing the course as fast as possible. Dying and getting sent back a checkpoint in this ‘time attack’ mode takes a heavier toll restarting the whole stage if this happens is the best way to go.
In terms of customization, players are limited to four engine and bike body upgrades each, which don’t impact your performance in the game drastically enough. You can customize your biker in a few generic flavors such as Rock, Military, Sport and Rasta. All these upgrades are paid for with money bags you find scattered within the stages, but the items offered are so asinine, the bags are barely worth striving for.
Outside of the main game are the lukewarm challenges. There are five challenges total and each one is unlocked by completing all the stages in each of the five worlds. They vary from seeing how far a player can fling an exploded character, to seeing how far one can get on a small tank of fuel and momentum alone. There’s just not much going on in this section of the game, the real challenge is to really invest in the challenges Urban Trial Freestyle offers.
If a gamer is anticipating the kind of thrills and spills of pulling off barely possible ‘Red Bull X / X games’ style tricks, then prepare for disappointment. If experiencing ‘Mid air triple somersaults over school buses while slam-dunking a flaming bowling ball’ levels of excitement is the ride you’re after (the kind of excitement that only a computer game can really deliver) then this is also not the game for you. In fact, Urban Trial Freestyle doesn’t really do enough or much within the medium of a computer game. At its best, the game installs the sort of simple satisfaction you get when accomplishing the more minor tricks from a Tony Hawk title. The other problem with the game is that it’s uncomfortably unoriginal. Urban Trial Freestyle feels like a ‘me too’ effort (and not just in name) for the sake of having an imitation of other (more popular) titles on PlayStation 3, Vita and 3DS. Not all imitations are bad of course but this one doesn’t offer anything new or different to win you over.
Urban Trial Freestyle’s simple controls and floaty physics-based trick riding makes it feel like a fairly good mobile game that accidentally found its way on to the PS3. While the overall score of this game might be on the less favorable side of average, Urban Trial Freestyle does have the redeeming value of being surprisingly addictive. The game isn’t addictive because it’s especially original or good (or even fun), but it’s addictive because each trial run is frustratingly short and encourages you to better your last score. Urban Trial Freestyle is an uninspired and dull title and doesn’t represent a ton of good gaming value.