As apologies go, Trials Evolution: Gold Edition is one hell of an olive branch. Not only does Gold offer up an optimised PC port of XBLA's Trials Evolution (we'll get to exactly what's been tweaked in just a minute), but also the entirety of Trials HD - that's 129 tracks, not including skill games and the inevitable torrent of user created efforts - rebuilt in the Evolution engine. Xbox owners can't lay claim to that.
HD, of course, marked the moment that the series left its PC roots and found stratospheric success on Microsoft's fledging Xbox Live service, embracing the control pad and abandoning cursor keys in the process. Here its tracks are presented with the sequel's superior graphics and physics, and better still, free from it's less charitable dangers: misaligned level furniture and other lumps and bumps that occasionally caused unfair faults have been smoothed out, presumably with some kind of planing tool in Maya.
Evolution, released last year, took the trial-biking out of HD's dowdy warehouse to more expansive landscapes, bringing with it a level editor capable of bending Trials' 2.5D riding into any shape players could imagine. Arcade games like Pong and firstperson shooters are possible, or even exactly the same game from a different angle .
But while the 270,000 user-generated tracks and mini-games sitting on Xbox servers won't be available to Gold owners, using the game's powerful editor is made easy thanks to mouse control, and so it's unlikely to take PC players long to tally up a similar number.
And talking of controls, RedLynx has ensured hardcore Trials 2 SE players will feel immediately at home by providing the option to play using the keyboard (left and right cursor to shift your rider's weight, up and down to accelerate and brake). But if you've got a pad to hand, that'll work too, of course – in fact, you can switch between either control method at whim, as both are always on. That gives you two chances to rage quit before you're out of interfaces, and if you're a good shot, only one broken window.
But if do you manage to set a good time, Gold lets you share that run to YouTube for instant, convenient bragging rights, with just a couple of clicks. You can even export the raw and edit it yourself. Not only is this good news for PC players, but also the YouTube community at large, who will no longer have to suffer shaky camera phone footage of Platinum medal runs accompanied by the sound of screaming children in the background.
RedLynx has had help from Ubisoft Shanghai to build a new server infrastructure, which has given the studio greater control and provided the opportunity to streamline Track Central, Trials Evolution's hub for handling UGC. PC players will be treated to more dynamic Track Central feeds, led by larger images, that can point you to skill games, mini-games, themed collections or even simply highlight one particularly notable track – Xbox players can only see lists of recent or popular tracks.
Trials' brilliantly conceived asymmetric multiplayer – which pits you against ghost versions of your friends' best runs - is present and correct, as is Evolution's four-player local racing on specialised tracks. You can even mix pads with keyboards and add fuel to post-race disputes.
However you want to play it, though, Gold will be available in boxed and downloadable versions from this Thursday, and looks to be the definitive version of both Trials HD and Trials Evolution. It may have been just over five years since the last PC Trials game, but Gold Edition was certainly worth the wait.