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Urban Trial Freestyle Review

By Jeff Buckland, 10/6/2013

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Developer RedLynx came up with a huge hit once their Trials games went big, and for a good few years, they managed to basically run unopposed with multiple games on consoles and PC in the same style. And what's that style? It was a simple, but effective formula with side-scrolling course navigation in a dirt bike, with worldwide leaderboards lording over your performance. The early fun came from crashing with hilarious physics, and eventually the Trials games would challenge advanced players with some nefarious courses that wouldn't just ask them to fly off of a jump, but to basically do a jump all on their own by elegantly shifting bike weight with the game's simple, but elegant controls.

And now we've finally gotten to the point that someone else has made a clone. Now, I don't intend to use that word with a negative connotation, as there have been many great "clone" games over the years, and this is how new genres are born in the first place: someone tries a new thing, others try similar stuff with a few twists on the formula, and all of a sudden there's a market for more of these games. Tate Multimedia's Urban Trial Freestyle has come out with a few innovations on the Trials formula, but on the PC, the game has a mildly serious frame rate problem that make me very hesitant to recommend it except to those with dedicated gaming PCs.

First, though, let's go through UTF's basic feature set. As with Trials, you use four basic directions on a keyboard or a simple mapping on a gamepad to control gas, brake, and lean forwards or backwards to navigate a 2D course. The game itself is rendered in full 3D, though, so things will come from the foreground or background that you'll have to avoid or smash through - it's all part of each level's entirely-scripted set of events that depicts your rebellious young bike rider's desire to traverse various scenes of chaos in cities, out on highways, through office buildings, in the wilderness, and more. Some of these scenes are reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic environment, like Trials meets Motorstorm Apocalypse or something, while others have more people out there that you'll actually run into - literally, in some cases.

The developers seem to have put these more up-close encounters with the scenery to make the game more dynamic, and overall it works to make things more interesting. The downside, however - or at least, on PC - is that for a side-scrolling (but fully 3D-rendered, admittedly) motorbike trials game, the system requirements are very high. You'll need a pretty solid gaming PC to get anywhere near a solid 60fps at 1080p, and anything less is going to do quite a bit worse. On my gaming laptop with a 660M video card, 8GB of RAM and a quad-core I7 CPU, I dropped the resolution down to 720p and still got massive frame drops and sluggishness - on a PC that has run many more advanced games at higher resolutions and frame rates. And this was after the developers had already put out an initial patch to speed things up. On my desktop gaming PC with a 660Ti video card, the game did better once I reversed the dubious default setting of VSyncing to 30Hz rather than 60, and was getting 60fps at 1080p once that was done.

Otherwise, I do generally enjoy the game other than the fact that it's got such high system requirements. We've got world leaderboards for each track like you probably expect, along with additional in-track goals to achieve like high jumps, flip rotations, precise landings, and more, and all of those come with leaderboards as well. You can chase the ghosts of the world record holders, too. As you find cash pickups on levels, you'll also get to upgrade your bike, which is kind of fun since you can configure the stats how you want. The only downside I can think of - other than performance - is that the developers had to re-use some of the same environments for multiple tracks, sort of re-fitting them each time with different things to change up how it's played.

Is it worth the $15 asking price to jump into Urban Trial Freestyle? Well, that's what the latest Trials game costs, but I think it might be worth getting into this one instead if you have a fast PC to handle the game's sluggish performance at 60fps. The additions that Tate Multimedia have added are interesting and the chaotic scenes you traverse are entertaining - or at least they are the first few times - but I have to keep coming back to those frame rate issues. Jump in if you've got a powerful video card, but if not, just hold off, watch the UTF page on Steam, and see if any improvements come along.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy provided over Steam by the publisher.

Overall: 6 out of 10



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