Thursday, 5 November 2020

Monster Truck Championship ★★★★☆

It’s an undisputed fact that monster trucks are cool. Their sheer ludicrousness and size makes them a sight to behold, particularly when they fly off a ramp in apparent defiance of gravity. We used to love playing the Monster Jam games back in the day, smashing cars into oblivion with the likes of Bigfoot, Grave Digger among the other iconic trucks. But while these might’ve scratched the itch for mindless destruction, there’s never been a true monster truck simulator. That is until Monster Truck Championship, a title that promises all the carnage we’ve come to expect, with a more realistic approach. Will this more faithful take on the sport translate into video games? Read on to find out…

While we’ll admit we’ve never driven a real monster truck before, the realism on offer here is immediately evident. We first tried one of the 8 truck races, which feels a bit like a rally game, but with everything slowed down just a little. This is because much like the real thing, the suspension causes pretty floaty handling, which is where the real challenge comes in. For such a brutish sport, you need a surprising amount of finesse, and it’s very easy to spin out or land on your back if you’re not careful, especially if your truck has taken on damage during the race. But honestly, we found this more funny than frustrating, and just makes it all the more satisfying than it would’ve otherwise been. 

With that being said, it’s still fairly arcadey in spirit. It’s accessible enough for novices to pick up, and if you do spin out or flip over, it’s very easy to reset yourself and keep playing. But of the 5 game modes on offer, freestyle and destruction are the best. These see you in classic monster truck arenas, with the aim of smashing things, performing tricks and generally causing chaos. Yet much like the racing, there’s more nuanced than you might expect. It’s surprisingly technical, as you’ll have to control your speed and trajectory to pull off the best tricks and combos. As it leans more into the simulation mechanics, you won’t be able to correct yourself mid-flight, so perfecting your manoeuvres is essential. But once you do, it’s so much fun to string together moves like a gas-guzzling version of Tony Hawk. 

What’s more, there’s plenty of customisation options to make your truck your own. And things can get pretty whacky, given one of the base models is a giant toaster. This is incredibly welcome, particularly when the game is lacking the licenses for classic real-life trucks. You can also tune your ride to your liking too, including the suspension, torque distribution and other car terms we don’t understand. This comes in really handy, as you’ll want different settings for racing and destruction. 

It’s also worth noting just how good this game looks. With the action being contained in arenas, the developers have been able to put a huge amount of detail into the vehicles themselves. The lighting effects and cockpit detail are both super impressive. It might not be on the same level as a Forza or Gran Turismo, but it’s not far off.

To wrap up, Monster Truck Championship is a winner because there’s nothing quite like it. It evokes all the fun of the Monster Jam games of old, but with a mature twist that gives more meat for players looking for something more in-depth than just an arcade racer. But there’s plenty for casual players, who just want to dip in and out too. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have licensed monster trucks, but aside from that, it’s hard to fault.

Tom Baker

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