The game, which will launch in North America on April 16 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, will offer players multiple challenges on each track. The nature of these challenges vary wildly, from performing a certain number of flips before the end of a track to playing a game of tennis.
"At first, we were like, 'Let's do simple things you can already do in levels, like do a flip,'" said Trials Fusion creative director Antti Ilvessuo. "Then we gave our developers total freedom to invent whatever they like and, if someone finds something good, then we can improve that."
This "total freedom" has led to some of the most varied game design seen in a Trials game.
Trials Fusion retains the core of the original platform racer and is as punishingly difficult as Trials Evolution. In a hands-on demo of the game we played, we experienced a series of futuristic environments where sterile, industrial spaces merged with rugged and mountainous environments. In one level, our driving line involved conquering staircases, smooth concrete surfaces, railings, jagged rocks and a snowy mountain. In another level set indoors, we raced through a factory where the ramps were mechanical and clicked into place as we approached them.
Ilvessuo told Polygon the futuristic aesthetic was intentional because the development team wanted players to know at a glance that this is a new game, set in new environments with new obstacles and new ways to play.
Trials Fusion also allows players to perform tricks while on their bike, and these tricks will tie into the game's challenges and scoring system. The tricks system is mapped to the controller's sticks, allowing players to control their character's legs with the right stick. Ilvessuo told Polygon that the tricks will be easy to perform but difficult to master. This was evidenced when we tried to get our player to do a "Superman" in mid-air (think: both hands on the bike's handles while body hovers parallel to bike itself), only to crash spectacularly into a ring of flames and set ourselves on fire.
When players have conquered the game's many levels or are simply looking for a different way to play, they can activate a challenge. Every level has three challenges, some of which are directly-related to the traditional Trials tracks, while others take a less conventional approach. In one challenge, we had to play through a standard level while controlling a ball that often rolled in front of or under our bike. Our goal was to both make all the jumps while also bringing the ball to the finish line.
In another challenge that Ilvessuo showed us, players have to jump off their bike while it is in motion and flap their arms as quickly as possible to see how far they can "fly." The further the player goes, the higher the score. There's also a night time level and more that Ilvessuo didn't want to spoil.
"I think people are surprised when they see it," he said. "It's different. It's different every time. The challenges are everywhere and I think that's good. Obviously there's a lot of racing things, but there's also a 3D maze where you find your way out, and I think that's good.
"People are surprised. They are positively surprised, more than expected."