A pre-presentation video isn't usually the most exciting part of a game preview, but after that achingly brief teaser from E3 that offered only a sun-blushed glance at the new Trials, all eyes were on the big-screen.
After a dizzying blast through landscapes of giant stone hands, canyon dashes, lunges through exploding buildings, and death-defying leaps through lumber-mill saw blades, there was no shortage of grins around the table.
Trials HD's greatest achievement and refinement over previous editions was in placing complete and utter control in the hands of the player. Prior to travelling to see RedLynx in Finland, I spent several evenings focusing more on the handling of the vehicles, rather than any serious attempt to compete on individual tracks. I wanted to commit the subtle nuances of the game to absolute muscle-memory so that when I got my hands on the new game, I would instantly feel any gremlins in the machine.
And the good news is that Trials HD's precision has been preserved perfectly in Trials Evolution. Every nudge, each yelp of delight as you psychokinetically force a shift in your centre of gravity to see you over the next checkpoint - they're all here.
Given Trials' hardcore nature, it would be understandable to fear that core credibility might be sacrificed at the altar of commercial accessibility for the follow-up. Instead, the checkpoints are now far more unforgiving, with re-starts planted less generously than in the previous game.
There's no more blindly stumbling your way through the more stubbornly fractious challenges. The intent isn't simply to add a further layer of frustration to the proceedings; rather that Red Lynx want you to understand how you achieved the impossible, so that you might use the skill in later levels.
Courses are now segregated into Events. Rather than bluffing your way through a few tracks to open up the next tier of difficulty, this new approach requires players to improve on their medal success so that they learn and are suitably prepared for greater challenges. Weighting is given to the relative worth of your achievements so that a Platinum medal will be worth more towards your unlock progress than a Silver, for example.
And to aid players on their way to the pinnacle of their ability, every player will now have basic data about each and every one of their best times uploaded to the servers. Denoted by unobtrusive, floating arrows that represent the height and positioning of each of your friends you'll learn to adopt their speed and height in order to master the track. While the traditional replays will still be available, the aim is to bring everyone to a higher level of competition at every moment of play.
The purpose of this refinement is of course to bring you to the online and local multiplayer components of the game. The four-deep racer revealed in that E3 trailer is available for both local play on one screen and across Xbox Live. Falling off the far side of the screen sees the player respawn at the next checkpoint passed by the forward pack. Playable as multiple heats, points are deducted from your final position to punish any mishaps.
While the local play tracks are, by necessity, of a simpler Supercross nature compared to the more complex obstacle courses of the game, more challenging tracks are available over the Live service, where competitors can be represented as ghosts.
With typical RedLynx humour, hosts can also choose whether to enable bailouts during the race – something that occasionally provides a finishing line advantage, but more often than not leads to hilarious blind panic as everyone follows suit in pursuit of a perceived advantage.
Your competitive nature can also be laid out in raw vindictiveness. Via the Stats screen, you can set a friend as a rival, making it easier to compare your achievements. Pressing A brings up a whole raft of stats comparing your times played, rider deaths, distances driven, and squirrels collected. Yes, squirrels.
The cash earned from both single-player and multiplayers games is used to customise your ride and racer. While improvements to this area have evolved less than in other areas of the game, it goes deeper than mere palette swaps. There should be enough distinct items in the wardrobe to give your rider a flavour of uniqueness - at least on your Friends leaderboard.
It's far too tempting to rush headlong into a spoiler account of every track - but you would hate me for it, and I'd feel terrible doing so. Suffice to say that as well as a wide range of unique and compelling courses (around 60 at launch), the game also features recognizable nods to RedLynx's indie-done-good contemporaries. Each one will delight you.
A personal highlight of the day - and a firm favourite amongst the attendant press -was Mindbender, a track crafted from pure wickedness. In the vein of the more experimental tracks from Trials HD such as Space Station, camera trickery is combined with delicate tinkering of platform physics to switch up with down, along with the suspension or reversal of gravity. It's an audacious addition to the game - a visual tongue-twister that invokes a bewildering sensation.
Way of the Ninja will likely be the track that tests the mettle of the most accomplished players. A figure-of-eight course littered with explosives, wheel-width platforms and troublesome checkpoints, it's not just the largest but also the trickiest course to date. Undoubtedly, it's the track that will sort the men from the boys in the battle for control of the leaderboards.
This addition of circular depth to the game is put to breathtaking use throughout Trials Evolution, whether you've just barreled down the drop of a rollercoaster course before gently curving around a perpendicular hillside, or simply circling an oilrig. It's an open, unobtrusive addition to the purity of the series and beautiful to boot, opening up the world from a cherished - but rather stuffily dry - warehouse to a complete 3D space.
It's put to mischievous use in one track that winds ever tighter around itself. With no opportunity to reach maximum speed, it's all about nudging yourself into the next obstacle. Rest assured that the camera takes on all of the work for this new depth, rather than adding to the fiddly manoeuvring.
Despite the demanding expanse of this new exterior playground, the visual effects have also been cranked up to a significant degree. Landmines detonate in the water with particulate splendor, and smoke effects are equally impressive.
The exterior environments also allow for a refreshing change of ambience. There are dark, foggy, forest crawls where a blood-red sun sets in the distance and wolves howl mournfully, along with breathtaking downhill rushes past rolling fields that culminate in a refreshing splash of river water.
These water physics provide an additional challenge to the game. As you land from a dramatic cliff edge onto half-submerged logs, they lurch in the water as you frantically bob and weave in an attempt to maintain balance, while trying to execute the most economic transition to the next devilishly placed water feature.
A library of editing tools taken straight from the design process and thrust into the players' hands has made all of this possible. All of the track content in Trials Evolution has been created with the same plastic controller that sits underneath your television – and it's the same one you'll use in Trials Evolution to create your own.
The Pro Editor mode features a bewildering array of options, from the modification of physical properties, to a sculpting mode that allows you to terraforming the pre-existing playground. For those new to the experience, and who might prefer a somewhat tamer tinker, the simpler Track Editor offers all of the fun with less of the fuss, placing a greater focus on the placement of objects and the setting of ambience.
User-created tracks will be shared through the Track Central Hub. It's a powerful tool that's presented with simplicity – at a glance, you'll see new tracks, the top-rated, the most-downloaded, along with a selection of favourites hand-picked by RedLynx.
As well as leaderboard functionality for each user-created course, personal favourites can also be sorted into feeds - whether you wish to organise your play session through Skill games, new courses or even themed courses.
While they sadly won't make it into the final release, we even saw hints of the creative freedom embraced by the StarCraft II community to create games unrecognisable from the parent title. Takes on Breakout and PacMan have been faithfully recreated internally, only hinting at the potential once the community gleefully takes control of the game.
The Skill games in particular have benefited from this LittleBigPlanet mentality. Whether free of bikes, or indeed traditional tracks, S.P.H.E.R.E. is one example that sees you guiding a steel ball across a Marble Madness landscape, set 500m above the canyon.
Other skill games put you in the role of a high-wire trapeze act, flung from beam to beam in a game of last-minute timing. In the Icarus Factor, players take control of a frantically unwieldy UFO. Balls of Steel places an arched frame over the bike, one that contains a giant steel ball-bearing that rocks ever more precariously out of control as you navigate the course.
Rather than the simple, often rather unsatisfying diversions of the previous games, the developer has remodeled these Skill scenarios into a fun but crucial method of teaching players how to master the finer arts of precision control.
There's simply so much to this true evolution of a treasured gaming franchise for its devotees to be excited about: the euphoric, post-claustrophobia burst through sun-drenched landscapes, the near infinite potential for user-driven longevity, and a fully evolved competitive design.
The newcomer will be encouraged and guided into the subtler demands of advanced techniques, while players who currently sit somewhere in the middle ground - content to simply enjoy the tracks less egregious than the Extreme class - will be inspired to dig deeper. Hardcore players can be assured of a high-end level of difficulty that led us to witness some of the world's finest Trials players struggle with hill-climbs.
Have no doubt, Trials is still as hard as coffin nails - but your success or failure remains squarely in your own hands.