Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Monster Truck Championship is a surprisingly accessible game where it pays to smash into things as you zip around tracks and large arenas filled with obstacles. It has a strange mix of arcade action with simulator settings that allow you to start racing immediately or dig into the many different options you can use to tweak your experience. Monster Truck Championship may not be the deepest racing game out there, but fans of the genre should still find plenty to enjoy here.
Having already released on consoles and PC several months ago, Monster Truck Championship is now getting a nex-gen update. With it comes higher resolutions and smoother frames-per-second, though in terms of content you’re still getting the same options as you did on the prior platforms. To that end, there are quite a few different circuits (over two dozen), plenty of vehicles (over a dozen) and a handful of different events to take part in as well s both single player and online multiplayer modes. All of this variety is certainly welcome, as one of Monster Truck Championship’s greatest strengths is also one of its more notable weaknesses.
Many racing games can be difficult to get the hang of, and I honestly expected Monster Truck Championship to be among those. The very nature and shape of these tall vehicles makes them handle quite differently than sleeker, track-ready racing cars. The other huge difference is now the steering works, as most racing games only have you controlling your front wheels, but Monster Truck Championship sees you using the left stick for your front wheels and the right stick for your two back wheels. This makes for some interesting moments as you can turn sharply – perhaps too sharply at times – when you need to, and also can be used to help throw your truck’s substantial weight around in different ways.
This weight is actually quite important, especially in the Destruction and Freestyle events. These two events put your truck into an arena where you earn points by doing tricks and destroying smaller objects. As you might expect, in the Destruction mode, the focus is on breaking things. Running over cars, crashing through trailers, squashing traffic cones and more help you accumulate large scores while also doing tricks. Freestyle’s focus is more heavily centered on the tricks, and while you still have some objects like cars you can crush like grapes, the focus is more on getting big air with ramps and doing barrel rolls, flips and wheelies on your way to combining different tricks into high scores.
Race, time-trial and drag racing comprise the other three events, and those are pretty much exactly what you would expect. Go fast, go faster than your opponents. Unlike the prior two events, this is less about style and more about substance and finishing as quickly as possible. Here – especially in ‘Race’ mode, you have the AI directly obstructing you more, as opposed to the more arena-like first two modes I discussed, where you are solo and trying to simply get a higher score than everyone else. During the Race mode in particular, I found myself frequently smashing into my opponents, trying to get them out of my way, spinning them around, so I could take and keep my lead. Of course, it is very easy to find yourself spun out too – especially on turns. These are large vehicles and they lack precision turning and acceleration at times.
The career mode offers some RPG_like progression elements, from hiring members to your team to help with vehicle performance or making / saving money for events. Like many racing games, this mode allows you to earn money, which is later used to buy improved gear for your trucks or to put your own personal touches on how the vehicles look. For better and for worse, Monster Truck Championship actually feels very familiar on this front, as it is something most racing games provide. The various selections are neither the deepest nor the most shallow I have seen. For those who really do enjoy digging into the details however, there are numerous customizations you can put your truck through. These combined with the unique front / rear wheel steering give you a great deal of control over how your preferred truck handles.
In terms of the audio and video presentation, it’s all fine. I never felt particularly blown away by vehicle details nor environments, but I don’t recall ever thinking they were bad either. Probably my favorite visual flare is when trucks smash into one another and things start falling apart. There is an option to let this damage actually impact your truck’s performance, or you can just keep it cosmetic. Ditto the music and sound effects. I felt like the audio did its job, but never quite reached any sort of memorable status for me.
Given the somewhat unique nature of these hulking trucks, there was a bit of a learning curve as I figured out when to best barrel ahead full speed or when I needed to slow down for multiple colliding trucks or easing through turns. Most racing games just make you want to hold down the accelerator full-blast from start to finish, but that is simply not an option here as you will undoubtedly spin out of control if you follow that tactic.
Monster Truck Championship is pretty easy to pick up, despite its vehicles being quite different from most traditional racing games. The events and options are fun enough, and I thoroughly enjoyed the career mode as it provided me an opportunity to unlock more content. That being said, the production values are simply good, not great and the pacing of the larger trucks and slower events may not appeal to all fans of racing games, as some people simply want to go as fast as possible and not worry about things like tricks or damage bonuses. Monster Truck Championship is not going to be for every racing gamer out there, but I came away having enjoyed my time with it.Score: 7.5 / 10