Honestly, they’re superhuman.
I’m talking about monster truck drivers, of course. Even climbing into the driver’s seat of one of these behemoths would be enough to cripple the average person, let alone doing 360s and wheelies. And let’s not forget the bloody back and front flips. I’m no scientist, but I’m fairly confident most vehicles of this size aren’t supposed to do full front or back rotations while in the air.
Of course, that’s simply my stance on the realities of the sport and spectacle. It’s the latter component there that has me in both awe and adoration of what is, for all intents and purposes, a seemingly impossible activity. The sport side I get, because the racing side of it is at least understandable, but the skills and freestyle stuff… that’s just insane.
But I’ll watch it day and night given half the chance.
Over many years the sheer idea of watching a monster truck exhibition has had “red neck”, “bogan” and “hillbilly” tags unfairly attached to it. There’s a huge amount of skill and ‘ovariesticles
’ on display here -- all of which should appeal to anyone with a sense of wonder and respect for activities they simply couldn’t perform themselves. Which is the camp in which I sit. And so it was with gusto I took on the opportunity to crank up my big-person points by reviewing Monster Truck Championship
from developer Teyon
and publishers BIGBEN INTERACTIVE
"I have, of course, also seen plenty of monster truck action both IRL and on a passive screen. But it’s the videogame version that brings all of the above together in both a fun and frustrating way...”
Out of the gate, while not a series expert, I’ve run my fair share of racing games and extreme and action sports oriented titles, as well as games of a simulation nature. I have, of course, also seen plenty of monster truck action both IRL and on a passive screen. But it’s the videogame version that brings all of the above together in both a fun and frustrating way. However, like that first time experiencing the literal stadium seat vibration of multiplied horsepower on display out in the muddy playground in front of you, in a real life setting, you’re more easily grabbed with the fun and aforementioned spectacle than by its linear nuance that borders on repetition and trolling.
So let’s deal with the stick in the mud stuff first.
Well, the game certainly can give you the impression it’s cheating. And at first you could be forgiven for chalking up the wide turns, shallow corners, barrier and wheel clips, collisions and rear-end spinouts up to inexperience, but the truth is, the game is just far less forgiving for the player than it is the AI you’re usually racing.
This happens almost exclusively, however, in actual Race mode inside Events (which we’ll get to more shortly). The other events tend to either be solo or against another vehicle that won’t ever be in your way, and they rely specifically on individual skill in driving and track awareness. The problem in Race events though, is being caught behind a few other trucks, or very basic human error, which sounds like complaining… Git Gud and all that, but the truth is the game is super-unforgiving.
"Have you ever tried to do a three-point turn in a monster truck on gravel, on a race track, in a race with the timer ticking? One of these can take you from as high as third or fourth in a field of eight, back to eighth in what feels like the blink of an eye...”
One clip of another racer’s wheel can send you sideways. Have you ever tried to do a three-point turn in a monster truck on gravel, on a race track, in a race with the timer ticking? One of these can take you from as high as third or fourth in a field of eight, back to eighth in what feels like the blink of an eye. And you better forget about catching that pack and breaking your way back in. In fact, the best success I had in most races was if another collision happened and I avoided it, breaking into the top three and just maintained a conservative and super-careful clean race line.
Additionally though, you might get transmission and engine damage where no real bump even happened, which can truly hamper your ability to be aggressive or maintain any sort of lead. I’ve kissed the rear end of another truck and had half of mine go to yellow in one instance, or landed on top of another with two others smashing me on either side, while not at all picking up any sort of performance-hindering damage. This system almost seems randomised, or super-specific, but either way, it’s just not consistent.
Monster Truck Championship has been out since late last year, but we reviewed the game on its Series X|S
updated self, which means it’s closest to the PC
version of the game. And honestly, it’s more than serviceable from a visual perspective. Physics aren’t perfect, but the vehicles feel like they have weight which makes the freestyle component impactful. The destruction model could have been better given the nature of the game, but again any lack of dynamism here doesn’t break the experience, and Teyon should be given a pat on the back given this is the studio’s first real foray into any sort of racing or vehicular representation.
Inside Career you have Events, a Training option and then logistics management by way of tuning and customisation in the Garage, or through handling your Team and Sponsors. In the latter, more engaging part outside of the Events themselves, you’re forced to make decisions that affect things like income, tuning and more. Some sponsors, for example, give only moderate rewards for performance, but consistently. Others, however, offer larger rewards, but the stakes are higher, and harder. Unfortunately while fun and interesting, it’s pretty barebones, which is a real shame, because coupling this side of career with actual driving is a fun and engaging distraction.
"And Quickplay doesn’t offer anything other than an untracked version of what you’re able to play across your career...”
There’s Multiplayer of course, though like much of the full product here, it’s a little lite-on. And Quickplay doesn’t offer anything other than an untracked version of what you’re able to play across your career. And while mode variety comes into play and repetition is seemingly avoided in Event engagement by way of different options featuring maybe just two events, or others up to five, and each a different collection, that you’re more often than not on the same courses state to state breaks that illusion pretty quickly.
The sim side of MTC just never reaches the heights you’d expect, and that can likely be chalked up to trying to not just keep the game fun, but to emulate the spectacle side as well as the more serious side. Unfortunately, they just don’t marry, and both come in as lesser versions of what they could be if embraced wholly. Comparatively, while playing this I’ve also been dabbling in Monster Jam Steel Titans 2
which is a game that takes hold of the fun and spectacle side of the sport and runs wholly with that.
Though both game are different, they both represent ways in which games of this nature should be considered. If you look at Forza Motorsport versus Forza Horizon, you get an idea of what I’m talking about -- each represents what can be a shared experience, in disparate form, which is what I feel MTC should have done from the outset -- full simulation, or arcade fun in line with a monster truck exhibition. By not settling on one design directive, the game delivers a bit of a two-faced experience not entirely expansive on either side.
Monster Truck Championship is fun and challenging, but frustration, a one-note near linear course masquerading as variety, and not nearly enough in terms of options and engagement leave this a bogged experience.