All right bike
Do not adjust your computer or phone screen. The game you are looking at is from 2017 and not, as its outward appearance would indicate, from 1998. Urban Trial Freestyle 2 not only has the graphic fidelity of a game from 20 years ago, but it feels like one from back then as well, like a lost artifact from the era that brought us Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Jeremy McGrath Super Cross 98, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, and Gerry Lopez Surf Riders.
Urban Trial Freestyle 2 (3DS)
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Released: April 20, 2017 (US), March 30, 2017 (EU)
Urban Trial Freestyle 2 challenges you to master a multitude of courses in either stunt mode or time attack. Tracks are treacherous with a variety of jumps, obstacles, and barely noticeable bumps that aim to trip you up. It took me a while to really get into the groove of everything. The key to doing well was not only track memory, but my ability to adjust on the fly. Speeding through a track isn’t necessarily the best way forward as I discovered it was much more important to make sure my bike was well balanced on the ground, going into a jump or coming in for a landing.
In stunt mode, there are a few pre-determined spots where you’ll need to complete the required “stunt.” I put that in quotes because three of the four “stunts” are not stunts at all. You either jump high, jump far, jump a certain distance, or do a flip. At first, I found the scoring for these tricks to be wildly inconsistent but I eventually learned the quirks of the system. For instance, when doing a flip I found that nailing a perfect 360 wasn’t nearly as well received as slightly going over.
Tracks aren’t necessarily built to make performing these “stunts” easy. In fact, many of them seemed to be actively working against me and nailing a four or five-star run required multiple attempts. Branching pathways made replaying the tracks enjoyable, but the poor placement of checkpoints hurt the experience. They almost feel like they’re inserted at random and several tracks could be greatly improved with some checkpoint adjustments. One I remember had a series of difficult sections with a small break in between the two most difficult jumps. Clearing this part of the track took roughly 20 tries, a number that could have been cut in half had the checkpoint been moved from the end of this section to the middle. I know that sounds like a you-need-to-get-gud complaint, but many other tracks where I didn’t face any troublesome jumps also had checkpoints that made little sense in their location.
I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to a game’s menus in any of my previous reviews, but I need to take a moment to tell you how awful they are here. Tracks are grouped together in several different locations, such as highways and suburbs. When you select a location, you can choose the track you want to play, but after you are done with it, you can either go to the next track in the group or exit back out and repeat the selection process. The rest of the menus look straight out of the '90s and feel like a first draft.
Nowhere is the poor menu system more evident than in the track builder. You can build and upload your own uniquely designed tracks as well as download those designed by others. The options are extensive for building your ultimate track, but there’s no smart or simple way to navigate its available elements. When placing pieces on your track, you can’t easily snap them together to make an easier ride. Creating a quality track took a lot, a lot, of trial and error as I had to learn the jump angles possible from each individual jump. Having more options would have kept me in the mode for longer, or even just the option to move where the finish line is.
As for unlockables, there is new gear you can purchase - all of which is just as ugly as the rest of the game - as well as upgrades for your bikes. There are four bikes to unlock that each handle in their own unique way and upgrades you can purchase for those bikes.
I’m sure there is a demographic out there that Urban Trial Freestyle 2 will appeal to, but it is clear to me now that I am not a part of that key demo. While I can appreciate what they were going for here and I found myself really getting into the challenge, any feeling of joy I experience doesn’t last for long when I’m faced with so many bewildering design choices.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Urban Trial Freestyle 2 reviewed by CJ Andriessen
Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy this game, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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