I wanted to avoid mentioning Trials HD and/or Trials Evolution at all in this review of Urban Trial Freestyle, because I felt like it’s a bit unfair that UTF is seen as a ‘copycat’ game. Trials are actually a thing that people do, much like racing or trick events. Is Jeremy McGrath Offroad a copycat of MX vs ATV? Was NFL 2K a copy of Madden? Well, you can see my point, I’m sure, but it would be a disservice to potential buyers not to compare it to the best in show – so, alas, let’s just get that out of the way.
Urban Trial Freestyle is a better and more varied game than Trials HD, but falls short of the lofty perch that Trials Evolution sits on with its level editor and online multiplayer. The handling is slightly different, but neither goes far enough in any direction to call one “sim” or “arcade.” They are merely different. In fact there are handling differences that exist between the PS3 and Vita versions, as the Vita does not have analog triggers. But it’s safe to say that if you are a fan of Trials HD and Evolution, you will be right at home with Urban Trial Freestyle. It’s a worthy contender.
UTF does take some chances that for the most part add to the experience. The tracks, especially on the ps3, are very interactive in that things happening in the background will become part of the track right before your eyes. You see that cop car out of control heading towards the camera? Yeah, you’re gonna have to navigate over that after it crashes about 10 feet in front of you. The tracks always play out the same way, so once you’ve seen it you can predict what’s going to happen (which is very important for leaderboard jockeying), but it does create a feeling of randomness on your first playthrough – something this genre isn’t entirely known for. Like I said earlier, this happens far more on the PS3 than the Vita, which is a bummer to be sure, but is understandable considering that while the Vita is powerful, it isn’t quite the same beast the PS3 is. The Vita tracks are a bit more static than the PS3 version, like you are seeing the aftermath of the PS3 tracks. This may sound disappointing but once you’ve seen the aforementioned police car crash once, it doesn’t really add much on repeated playthroughs.
Another place where Urban Trial Freestyle breaks from the pack is in taking the normal tracks (wherein getting from point A to point B the fastest is the *only* goal) and adding a bit of, well, freestyle to them. There are jumps designated to track how high you jump, how far you jump and how many flips you can do. On the PS3, before you get to each it will show the leader (which you can set to global or friends) by their PS3 avatar. On the Vita you can take a picture of yourself (or of your cat) and that will be shown to everyone. This is a very cool feature as there was one guy in particular with his big dumb face who had almost all the records. I couldn’t beat them and I hated his stupid face! I also, possibly, look like a serial killer in my picture for the few records I hold. Once this game gets out in the wild I expect to see some funny stuff.
Otherwise, UTF is exactly what you would expect from a Trials style game. The physics are solid, the sense of speed can be intense, the track design goes from tame to HOLY CRAP HOW AM I NOT DYING? The music and dialogue are predictably lame, but easily dealt with. There is a decent amount of content. It took me a week of playing it nonstop to make it through all the tracks and I’m probably looking at double that time to 5 star every event. I do hope that DLC in the form of more tracks is in the works, because this is honestly a game type that I’ll drop $5 a month on for the rest of time if they keep pumping out tracks.
In the end it comes down to which version makes more sense for you. If you want the best version – that’s easy, go with the PS3. I do assume at some point that someone will make a YouTube video showing the ps3 version and vita version side by side with some EXTREME GAMER OUTRAGE about how the Vita version got shafted, but I honestly don’t see it that way. I feel the benefits of the platform make up for where the game comes up a bit short of the PS3 version. The fact that the Vita version is $10 (compared to $15 on the PS3) also helps.
Both games are a ton of fun and will give you dozens of hours of enjoyment and competition amongst your friends list or the world at large. The PS3 version is superior with its more interactive (though it should be said that does happen on the vita as well, just not as often), it runs at 60fps (though there is screen tearing) and has triggers for the gas and brakes. These are all great. But the Vita version, while slimmed down, runs at a solid 30fps, the image quality is very, very clean and you can fudge the analog gas with a good deal of tapping.
The question is; do you want to take the game with you everywhere or not? Either way you should end up happy with your purchase. Games this fun don’t come along all that often. Personally, I would buy the Vita version now and then see it all blown out on the PS3 if/when it hits a sale.