There is no getting around the similarities between Urban Trial Freestyle and the Trials series. The former, being a brand new game coming after several Trials titles, including two extremely successful XBLA games, is invariably going to attract cries of copycat. Part of that might be due to ignorance over the fact that motorcycle trials are a real thing, albeit something that isn't especially popular in the U.S. Regardless, being based on the same sport or activity means sharing a lot in common. Beyond those basics Freestyle does make some effort at distinguishing itself, although it fails to do so in any way that truly makes it superior.
Just like Trials, Freestyle is a game all about balance. You race trials bikes through 2.5D environments while shifting your weight forward and backward and exercising control with the throttle in an effort to avoid falling off. Not every event is a race to the finish, as in Trials; those do exist, but you'll also spend time on each level completing objectives located at specific points like high jumps, long jumps, speed checks. You're never required to exceed a certain benchmark; you simply do the best you can on each stunt as you make your way to the finish, which has to be reached in less than five minutes. The sooner your make it to the finish the more bonus points you'll receive, but the allure of returning to a checkpoint and retrying a stunt can be hard to resist when each one has an accompanying leaderboard and an in-level indication of its top player. It's easy to blow several minutes trying to top yourself on a stunt, which is a calculated risk as returning to the most recent checkpoint means forsaking the score you've already set.
The variety of stunts initially seems great, though you soon realize there are only a handful that are repeated throughout. That's not necessarily a problem, and not just because the injection of race events keeps you from seeing the same stunt challenges as many times in a row as you otherwise would. The unexciting times where you're merely asked to execute a flip off a ramp are made up for by the more exciting stunts -- the ones were you're racing along the top of a moving train that sends your bike into a ramp, launching it high into the air to pull off a flip, or the one where you have to try climbing up a vertical shaft. It's these more creative challenges that make the stunt events preferable to the standard races.
The other big differentiating factor for Freestyle is the busyness of its levels, which are far more alive (in a way) than those in Trials. As you drive through a level, you might witness firefighters putting out a fire, a truck nearly rolling over as it breaks to avoid hitting you, a bridge collapsing to provide you with a new ramp, or a plane flying just overhead as it comes in for a landing. This all makes the levels more memorable than those in Trials, and there's often so much to look at that it's difficult to take in on your first go.
Fortunately, you'll have more than one opportunity to take it all in, as one of the drawbacks of these busier levels appears to be that it limited the number of them that could be created. You'll visit levels more than once as they are used for stunt and race events, and again and again should you fail to obtain enough stars (dictated by your times and scores) to unlock later levels. Replaying levels isn't such a terrible thing at first, but these repeats often don't come as far apart as I'd like. They do provide you with the opportunity to spend some time exploring the levels and experimenting with ways to collect the money scattered throughout (used to customize your bike by modifying its speed, acceleration, and handling with the installation of new parts), which I enjoyed doing.
However, the problem with this is it allows you to see how hokey the vast majority of the visual flare is. While there are occurrences which do provide some sort of obstacle for you -- a box being thrown in front of your bike, a car tumbling down a hill, a piece of machinery swinging in front of you -- the vast majority of what happens doesn't impact you or have any tangible effect. Go slowly or backtrack and you'll see the police who draw their weapons on you are aiming at a specific spot and aren't actually reacting to your presence. The plane that flies overhead and vehicle that almost runs you down can be triggered so that you miss them almost entirely. When any of this happens, much of the magic is lost -- and that's before accounting for the fact that most of this gets old after seeing it a few times. Cool as it is the first time around, I'd rather see more levels with less going on so that there is more to go back and replay afterward.
All that said, Freestyle is enjoyable to an extent in the absence of a Trials game on PS3, even if it does feel thoroughly outclassed by Trials Evolution and its more precise controls, breadth of content, and more interesting minigames. (Although I must say I was pleasantly surprised by one of Freestyle's minigames where the Sixaxis is used to alter gravity as you race through a course. Alas, it can be completed in a few minutes and provides little reason to play it again.) The game might appear to be preferable to people who are uninterested in mastering Trials' more advanced techniques -- Freestyle is comparatively easy -- and want something more exciting to look at, but when you see how few levels there are or when some of the environmental challenges (like being launched into the air by a beam after something falls on one end of it) fail to work properly because you were ever so slightly out of position, you'll question your desires pretty quickly. For anyone more interested in playing a better, more well-rounded game than one that is flashier, Trials remains the premiere trials bike game out there.