You’d be forgiven for thinking that, as a pasty British dude, I’d be the least qualified person to review a game like Monster Truck Championship, a game based on a pastime that’s about as American as apple pie, but you’re mistaken. My granddad took me to one event as a kid that featured a bunch of monster trucks doing tricks, so armed with that expert knowledge, I can conclude that Monster Truck Championship is a decent simulated racer. That’s it, it’s decent. Not much else to say about it.
Monster Truck Championship aims to simulate what it’s like to be a career monster truck driver as you compete in thirty events across three different championships. Along the way, you’ll upgrade and customise your truck with new performance parts, paint jobs, ridiculous toppers and chassises. If you ever wanted to drive a massive, four-wheeled toaster with a rocket strapped to its roof, then Monster Truck Championship will appeal to your fever dream.
In order to kickstart your career, you need to become accustomed to driving your monster truck, which is a bit more complicated than your more traditional racers. Players can move the front and back axle wheels independently using the left and right sticks. Throwing both axles behind a turn means your truck will sharply swerve, which can make for faster cornering on tight turns, but can take a bit of getting used to.
You’d expect a monster truck to be able to bulldoze its way through obstacles and around tracks, but operating the vehicle is a rather delicate experience, especially on harder difficulties when the ABS is turned off and you can’t reset your vehicle. Trucks are quite happy to drift around corners too, so that’s something else to manage.
Thankfully, you’re able to tune your monster truck (with separate loadouts for racing and stunt events) to properly take on the game’s career, and once you have a handle on things, Monster Truck Championship is rather enjoyable to play. You can even hire staff members to improve your truck’s various stats, or increase the amount of money at your disposal.
The career mode features four main event types, two involving racing and two focused on stunts. Race events are fairly self-explanatory, with yourself and 7 others competing for first place. They’re probably the least interesting event just because they are so standard, but the track designs are decent and serve their purpose well.
Drag races are a bit different from the standard, quarter mile sprint variant with 8 racers competing in a single elimination tournament. Two racers line-up on separate but symmetrical tracks, and the first to finish advances until a winner is declared. These races are short affairs, with track times clocking in between 10 and 30 seconds, and victory can be won or lost on one simple mistake. They’re tense, but engaging, and the short nature means even if you fail, you don’t mind quickly restarting.
As for the stunt section of the game, Freestyle events plonk racers into a small arena filled with ramps and destructible objects, tasking players with racking up a high score in a set amount of time. It’s basically Tony Hawk’s for those who consider The Dukes of Hazzard to be a masterpiece, with players building combos for linking together tricks.
Destruction events are similar in that you’re racing in the same arenas and building a high score, but more emphasis is placed on breaking objects. You earn time back for breaking whatever is on the course, along with bonus multipliers, so it’s an added option to consider while you try to attempt flips, barrel rolls and wheelies.
Hitting tricks in Monster Truck Championship can be a bit finicky. There’s a tutorial at the start of the game that teaches you how to handle your truck and perform certain maneuvers, but actually landing them in the middle of an event is another story. Half the time, it felt like the only real strategy was to get the truck on its side, hold down the throttle and the rear axle in a direction and earn massive points for a sidewall combo.
The only reason I could succeed was due to playing on medium difficulty, with 6 resets. I don’t envy anyone trying stunt events on the hardest setting – one bad flip and it’s game over. Stunt events are enjoyable once you finally get everything right and manage to snatch first place, but the hardcore simulation settings would likely make this mode too frustrating for many players.
While the gameplay is pretty decent, the career mode is fairly flimsy as there’s simply not enough in the way of unique tracks. Each of the game’s three championships has 10 events, with a number of stages for each event. By the time you reach the finals of the first championship, it feels like you’ve seen 90% of the tracks and courses on offer. By the end of the career, there’s nothing you haven’t already seen before multiple times.
The finals themselves don’t feel like a big deal, they just happen to have more stages than the rest. There’s no congratulatory cutscene or firework ceremony, or even a simple podium sequence. There’s a message saying “here’s your prize money” and that’s it. It just feels inconsequential.
For a career mode, there’s no real sense of career progression. You don’t move from small events to massive stadiums, nor do you purchase additional trucks. You’re just upgrading the one you have, meaning you’re racing the same vehicle throughout the entire career mode. The career simply feels like a series of random racing events, the only connection being you happen to be in them.
Visually, Monster Truck Championship isn’t great either. The mud covered trucks are a nice touch, but the game suffers a lot from graphical tearing and some object pop-in around the track. While it’s not enough to affect your gameplay (an obstacle isn’t going to suddenly appear and torpedo your race), they’re noticeable and make the game feel rougher around the edges.
While Monster Truck Championship has plenty going for it in terms of gameplay, the graphical and career mode flaws contribute to a game that’s not as good as it could have been. Perhaps these are issues that could be addressed in a sequel, if Monster Truck Championship does well enough for a follow-up anyway.
A code was provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Monster Truck Championship offers decent and enjoyable gameplay, but some overarching flaws muddy the overall experience.
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