Version tested: Xbox 360
Apparently the release of Trials Evolution's latest DLC pack has been timed to coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar. Hence "Riders of Doom". All of which points to Ubisoft having supreme confidence in developer RedLynx's production scheduling, if you ask me. After all, you couldn't exactly say "it's not the end of the world" if they missed the release date.
Then again, while there are a few levels with an apocalyptic tinge to them - including one set under a starry sky full of marauding UFOs - there are just as many that seem to have nothing to do with the alleged theme. Among the tracks that make up the DLC's new Big Sands region you will find a race through a sawmill, a series of ascents through ancient Greek ruins, a strangely colourless tribute to BioShock Infinite's city in the clouds, and even a Halloween level. So you do get the impression that the whole Mayan calendar thing may have been a convenient retrofit rather than a guiding principle.
Still, who need a coherent theme when the levels are this good? Riders of Doom initially seems to offer slightly less bang for your buck than Origin of Pain, with just 20 regular tracks (four of which are impossibly difficult Extreme challenges), a handful of new supercross multiplayer courses, five tournaments (comprised of tracks from elsewhere in the DLC) and 10 new Skill Games. But the quality of the track design is typically fantastic, many of the new Skill Games are actually really good, and it's all yours for just 400 Microsoft Points (around £3.40).
Those hoping for a return to the tight, technical riding of Trials HD will have to keep waiting for now (or try some of the many brilliant custom tracks available for free), but to me this does feel like a small and positive step back in that direction. Tracks like Anno Domini and Pump It Up are typical of the designers' approach this time, focusing on precise, medium-speed climbs, jumps and shortcuts as opposed to the soaring, front-flipping mayhem of Evolution's Elevation or the obsession with matching your bike to undulations that reached its peak in Gigatrack. Whatever you enjoy about Trials, though, you will probably find at least some of it in the varied playgrounds of Riders of Doom.
There's a new bike, too. The Banshee 350CC doesn't sound as exciting as Origin of Pain's BMX on paper, but the middle ground it creates between the fragility of the Phoenix 250CC and the safety of the heavier Scorpion 450CC is a fun place to be. It gives you a bit of extra acceleration over the Scorpion at the expense of some of its stability, but it doesn't throw you to your death with as much relish as the Phoenix. It's less of a novelty than the BMX, then, but it's a useful new tool for players of moderate skill and above. As with the BMX, you can't put it to use in the original Evolution tracks (presumably to preserve the sanctity of the leaderboards), but there's still plenty to do with it.
The Skill Games are perhaps the most welcome surprise though. There were only two new ones in Origin of Pain but this time we get 10. I always think the best measure of a Skill Game's quality is whether your first instinct upon completing it is to try it again immediately, and on this occasion it's true of the majority, while some - like the bike with the super-boost and another with a bunny-hop - feel like they could be stretched out even further. Elsewhere, the availability of all the new track components for use in the level editor will be welcomed by the talented amateurs who continue to pump fantastic free content into the UGC catalogue, and if you are one of those people then I love you and hope you receive whatever you wanted for Christmas.
In any event, assuming the Mayans weren't onto something after all, Riders of Doom should be more than capable of ransacking your spare time over the Christmas period, and the generous complement of new Skill Games means it would even work well as a multiplayer distraction when everyone in your family is drunk, ratty and hyper-competitive on Boxing Day afternoon.
If you're remotely fond of Trials, then, this feels like very little money extremely well spent.
9 / 10