“Can you handle the ultimate race?” demands the track description, despite the fact that the Gigatrack appears just 3/4s of the way into Trials Evolution’s single player campaign, at most.
The answer is a resounding: “No, we absolutely cannot handle it.”
At least, it is if you’re friends with me on Xbox Live. Of the 18 people on my friends list to have completed Gigatrack – the longest and most arduous trial in the game – nobody has managed it with fewer than 15 faults.
Top of the winner’s list is Develop editor and 2D shoot ’em up aficionado Will “OTAspadgy” Freeman, who completed the course in 10:53 with 14 faults. Next, Dracula AD 1972 (Ian Cook, ex-guitarist from the band Aereogramme) who managed it in 11 minutes 19 seconds with a cool 15 restarts. Good work Scotsman.
Tom “Brrrammers” Bramwell, Eurogamer overlord was faster than both Will and Ian at 10:47, but with 20 faults finds himself placed at 75,130 (at time of writing) on the leaderboards while Game City organiser extraordinaire Chris “Romeros Soldier” White has 22 faults at 12:35.
If it appears like I am being ungenerous with my ‘calling out’ here, know that I’ve done worse than the lot of them, with a staggering 45 restarts and a completion time of 15:44 (although Gamasutra’s Simon “simoniker” Carless wins ‘most proficient loser’ with an eye-watering 77 restarts and 27:36 on the clock – (sorry Simon! (Still , at least Carless made it this far into the game. Neither Hookshot Inc.’s Donlan nor Porter made it this far yet, while Stuart is yet to even kickstart his first bike))).
The interesting thing is that none of this matters when it comes to the majestic Gigatrack.
Trials Evolution is a physics puzzler but its heart is one of pure black competition. As you race to the finish line, it baits you with your friends’ floating names of inching ahead of you, representing their ‘best run’. “Not good enough,” the game implies through its passive aggressive real-time leaderboard read-outs.
“How embarrassing for you,” it whispers, as you iterate on your failings till you find a spot on the leaderboards that is socially-acceptable enough to allow you to move on to the next stage.
But Gigatrack! Gigatrack breaks all of the game’s own rules. Where all of the game’s other levels take 3 minutes or less to complete, Gigatrack is a rambling trek over hill and dale.
It starts at sunrise and ends at sundown: that’s how long this course is. Its checkpoints are spread enormously far apart, so the muscle memory to tap the back button and try again must be held on a tight thumb leash.
At first you’re stressed about the clock, as always. Trials Evolution loves to make you stressed because it wants you to fail and hate yourself and, in the midst of those black feelings, find the strength and resolve to better yourself.
But 7 minutes into Gigatrack, 20 restarts down you realise that the rules have changed. It’s no long about how quickly you can get through this, but rather: can you even get through this? The field spreads out; the spectral names of your friends and competitors that have accompanied you throughout the game so far disappear – some in front, others behind – and you are alone.
And in this moment of lonesomeness a new realisation arrives: Trials Evolution is a beautiful game. This meandering course sprints along the crest of half-mountains, like a motorcross scramble across Devon’s Dartmoor or Scotland’s Highlands, the smell of peat and bog and skidded heather on the breeze.
Gigatrack isn’t really comic relief to the competitive tragedy of your performance throughout the rest of the game. It’s long, arduous and is basically intended to break your spirit. But it does offer something unique and, in breaking your spirit, it cleanses your palate, prepares you for the final, most stressful quarter of the game (A license onwards), and gives you the breathing space to admire the world that Red Lynx has built.
Gigatrack: we bloody love you. Restart.